One of the roles of the CIO has long been to make executive decisions on anything related to the purchase or use of IT hardware, software, and services. They are responsible for more than just keeping an organization’s applications and infrastructure running; they also drive sound business decisions and appropriate ROI. Now, perhaps more than ever, the CIO’s abilities are critical to decipher which IT investments are necessary versus what can be put on hold.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a shift in how CIOs make those determinations. According to the ASUG Pulse Check Week 7 report, 47% of respondents said their organizations were not canceling any planned IT initiatives, while nearly half (45%) shared that they are postponing a few planned initiatives. The top reason respondents provided to explain these cancellations was that these initiatives were not considered “core” projects.

What is considered core can differ from one company to the next, depending on a number of variables, but the process used to make those decisions is pretty basic.

Where to Focus Both Short- and Long-Term IT Investments

As a CIO of a worldwide manufacturing company, I know my focus must be on the immediate, as well as on the forthcoming. I need to think about putting out fires as they come up, but also about how to safeguard against fires before they occur (reduce risk). That’s always been part of the job, but in the current business landscape, the immediate seems even more urgent. A practical way to approach this is to break down both short-term and long-term investment goals and understand the “why” and “how” of each.

For many companies, they do not think of most long-term IT investment beyond one to three years. Technology is changing at such a fast rate that any timelines beyond that don't make a lot of sense. That said, long-term IT investment initiatives are usually aligned with large-scale changes, such as an ERP upgrade, and require a lot of planning and incremental changes. For most companies, long-term IT investments did not just stop because of COVID-19. They may have been postponed, while others may have been accelerated. But few have been or should be cancelled. The focus on long-term investment should remain on moving your organization forward in its digital transformation.

Short-term investments, on the other hand, focus on getting through the current situation. They range from minor changes such as purchasing more network bandwidth to accommodate remote workers, to more major changes such as moving to a cloud-first strategy. Organizations are starting to look at COVID-19 and asking what this new normal means to them. Short-term focus now is on mobility and connectivity and thinking about the tools and resources needed to make that happen.

Digital Transformation: Put This on Hold or Accelerate?

When it comes to digital transformation, I’ve always said an organization needs to look at this through a long-term lens—first at its processes and then the enabling technology needed to support the business. With COVID-19 at our doorstep now, it’s even more important to examine those processes. Who is doing what where, how are they doing it, and how can you streamline these efforts? From there, you need to figure out how to digitize these processes, too.

What this pandemic has shown us is that you can’t rely on processes that are 100% manual to get through a crisis. If you’ve already taken the initial steps to understand how to streamline those processes and your organization is one of those that is running at full capacity and profitable, you may want to consider accelerating.

If you haven’t taken those steps, or if your company is one that has slowed down, it might be better to postpone. But remember, postpone doesn’t mean to cancel. It means to take the time and gain a comprehensive understanding of your processes, think about how you can streamline them, and come up with a plan to move forward when the time is right.

Building a Business Case for Tech Change During Uncertainty

There are two things that are likely front and center for most business operations right now. First is that a large portion of the workforce is being asked to work remotely. For those who still come in to work, there are social distancing and new cleaning requirements, as well as other changes in place to contend with. The second thing is a lot of pressure on global supply chains, both in meeting demand, as well as maintaining the health and safety of the workforce dedicated to keeping the supply chain moving.

As you start to think about digitalization through both of these lenses, you need to look at automation, as well as doing less with physical assets and more with intelligent assets. Your business case for any project right now should be about streamlining.

As you work to simplify your processes, you need to be careful not to start customizing them. As is evident at the moment, the world around us will continue to change and you need to be ready and agile enough to change with it. So, keep it simple, keep it streamlined, and keep it focused. Your ability to pivot with speed will determine whether you can withstand the current pandemic as well any other one that might occur in the future. Beyond that, focus on building into your business case the need for good analytics, a pulse on social sentiment, and an end-to-end solution to keep your business running smoothly. And above all, stay safe.

If you have a question or suggestions, please reach out to undercovercio@asug.com. If you’re an executive and an ASUG member, join us for our Executive Exchange Virtual Summit: Partners in Leadership on July 29, 2020.

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