Published 21. Jul. 2020

The Rising Concerns of CIOs Amid Pandemic

Discover key CIO challenges and priorities amid pandemic
Cyber Security
IT Management

Before the start of this decade, multiple studies and surveys predicted that CIOs will have a unique set of key concerns and priorities which they should prepare for. According to CIO Insider, the top focus areas for CIOs in 2020 would be talent, culture, and organizational challenges. Acuvate reported similar trends with the addition of IT-related initiatives, while Adobe highlighted customer experience amongst others.


Fast forward to the second quarter of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and unprecedented circumstances strike the world, which then begs for a question: do the predictions from these studies still stand true? Do  CIOs’ priorities remain unchanged or are CIOs pivoting to different initiatives to support their business continuity plan (BCP)?


Let’s take a look at what challenges and developments preoccupied CIOs over the past 4 months and the business areas and technologies that have proved vital for organizations’ business continuity planning.



Cloud Migration


The recent crisis saw remote working as the norm as employees were made to quarantine themselves during this pandemic. This transition caused businesses to face difficulties in communicating, accessing data, and business analysis. 

Henceforth, CIOs needed to change the legacy system and speed up cloud migrations to continue efficient operations and propel into an increasingly competitive business landscape. For a comprehensive BCP, CIOs also had to adopt cloud computing technology promptly to accommodate remote working and achieve better collaboration among stakeholders. Management Events’ latest Executive Trend (ET) Survey H2 2020* revealed that around 86% of businesses were looking to migrate their workload to the cloud as the rapid digital transformation was made prevalent, aligned with the current trend of modern technological advances.



Cybersecurity Risks


According to Entrepreneur, the FBI reported that the cybercrime rate in the United States has increased 300 percent since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Meantime, the U.N disarmament chief, Izumi Nakamatsu also said that cybercrime is on the rise “with a 600% increase in malicious emails during the current crisis”. 


The rise of cybercrime is attributed to several reasons including chaos around the pandemic, massive layoffs, and the increase of remote workers’ online activities with multiple networks that have either limited basic security measures or the lack of it. CIOs face challenges in educating employees about cyber threats and maintaining system security, primarily when it is accessed externally. Insights from our ET Survey 2020 revealed that 92% of businesses find cybersecurity awareness training for employees essential and deemed it to be a priority. 


Interpol reported that the focus shift to health crisis was a probable cause for the shortfall of cybersecurity which made it easier for cybercriminals to attack computer networks and systems of the users individually and even an organization as a whole. 


As business operations are forced to move to digital space and therefore exposed to online vulnerabilities, it is recommended that CIOs enhance their cybersecurity systems to minimize risks and incorporate them in their BCPs. The board of directors should always involve CIOs in decision making regarding security which includes policies, processes, people, as well as developing and innovating technology.



Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Machine Learning (ML)


According to Lomit Patel, vice president of growth at IMVU, from detecting the first coronavirus outbreak to reducing operational dependencies by the surge of automation in all industries, artificial intelligence plays a big part in driving growth during post-pandemic setting.


It is not a surprise for an organization to make sudden cuts in budgeting (with our own Executive Trend (ET) Survey* showing 48.1% of decision-makers focusing on cashflow preservation for business continuity) to survive financially during the pandemic which includes the unfortunate decisions of retrenchment that lead to an overload of work for remaining employees, but at the same time calls for more efficient management of certain tasks that can be automated. Subsequently, as a long-term BCP infrastructure, CIOs are looking into accelerating the adoption of AI and ML to boost process automation into their daily operations and to replace human labor. It is best to involve all areas for the automation strategy as an alternative solution to reduce operational costs and increase productivity. 


Organizations that already utilize AI and ML as part of their services and products have to retrain their models due to the unusual customer/user behavior during the pandemic. Incidentally, this creates an opportunity for CIOs to explore and establish better artificial empathy (AE).



Acute Innovation


The crisis is impacting multiple businesses across industries causing drastic changes in customer behavior, supply, and demand worldwide. As a matter of fact, it is eye-opening to witness how companies respond proactively to adapt to current situations. For some businesses, adjusting means investing in new products and solutions to support their revenues. Various innovations were produced after merely less than a month of product development, creating a new business paradigm. 

As an example, General Motors (GM) recently made a shift in its production line into manufacturing medical equipments such as breathing ventilators. This transformation allows GM to generate $489.4 million from only its production of ventilators even when shutting down car production. It is commendable that GM is taking advantage of its resources and technology as an alternative to a new stream of revenue, and at the same time, contributing to the cause of battling the current pandemic. Considering how digital the world today is, and how much industries depend on technologies, it is prevalent that CIOs play an essential role in accelerating new innovations to provide businesses with a competitive edge at high speed and low cost.



The Unforeseen Agent 


While the CIOs’ focus areas for the year 2020 have stayed relatively close to the predictions, COVID-19 has become the unforeseen agent that added urgency and criticality to digitalization and business transformation. The pandemic forced CIOs to accelerate their initiatives and take urgent actions to ensure competitiveness in their businesses. Organizations and workers that had been traditionally slow to adopt new technologies found themselves having to adapt quickly to the challenges of this operational paradigm or lag behind and close the shop.


CIOs are at the heart of every company’s business operation, but their role has evolved; from helping a company run better and faster to ultimately become an imperative figure that keeps a business resilient with changing times.


Management Events' latest Executive Trend Survey H2 2020 will be released in August. Fill in the form below and subscribe to our newsletter to get the report.