In response to health and safety risks prompted by the COVID-19 outbreak, many organizations have encouraged or required employees to work from home. The scene here in Canada is no different. Our federal, provincial and local governments have been encouraging physical distancing for several weeks, leading to several societal changes that were previously unfathomable.
One of IBM’s top priority during the COVID-19 crisis is the health and safety of its employees, partners and clients. This belief is reflected in many ways, but above all else, it means taking care of one another when we are most vulnerable. Every decision needs to focus on the common welfare of people – doing otherwise can cause irreparable harm to your organization’s reputation and brand.
A New Stage for CIOs in Canada
This year, at IBM’s THINK signature conference – IBM went 100% digital. One of IBM’s main announcements included a broad range of new AI-powered capabilities and services that are designed to help CIOs automate their IT infrastructures to be more resilient to future disruptions and to help reduce costs.
Here is a great example, illustrated by Lufthansa Group’s CIO:
“Our industry was hit hard by the pandemic. Our work in AI over the past several years helped and will continue to help the organization to mitigate some of risks and future challenges,” said Roland Schuetz, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer of the Lufthansa Group. “Working with IBM and its partners to apply its Watson AI technologies has helped us accelerate how we modernize our Data Science Tool Landscape. Today, we use AI to automate processes that result in benefits such as highly responsive customer care and operational topics. In this way, we are making an important contribution to a solid start after the crisis.”
While CIOs routinely plan in advance for disruptions that are anticipated in their industry, even the most risk-averse planners could not have prepared for this improbable and profoundly unique situation. Businesses relocating their workforce to remote offices and telework solutions need to continue to find new ways to quickly and effectively respond to the current workforce disruption without losing ground on their digital transformation agendas.
Despite this challenging environment, we’re experiencing how businesses and communities can continue to function when employees, communications networks and the ability to work together in person can take advantage of technology. When business continuity is threatened, all attention tends to shift to the CIO. We encourage you and your team to be as resilient as you can right now. CIOs have the opportunity to keep their organizations moving forward, navigate current stresses and help employees, customers and partners come out the other side stronger and more resilient.
To help balance all of these important priorities, here are some steps your business can take to enable a successful work environment:
Fully commit to Cloud-based flexibility
- Make sure you understand the new possibilities that brings the Cloud to your business. Get your team to evaluate and test different solution scenarios. Take advantage of the current period to perform proof of concept (POC) projects. Know your cloud provider’s service priorities. It’s true that Cloud providers serve thousands of other clients. Make sure you work with an engaged partner like IBM, who’s going to assist and be there for you in peak times.
- Embrace open technology. If you want your Cloud strategy to be able to connect to your current environnement and integrate with other Cloud providers, open technologies and common standards are business requirements. When it comes to differentiating your cloud strategy, open tech is essential to helping companies move workloads around more easily to where capacity exists and is needed. IBM Cloud is built on open technology principles, so companies using our platform can easily benefit from containerized, cloud native and next-generation services.
Enhance Workforce Resiliency and Collaboration
- Train your teams and leaders in advance. Everyone should know how things will work in an emergency. Run simulations, conduct operations drills, allow teams to practice and model behaviors they should imitate.
- Employ agile methods. Apply the underlying principles of agile methodology, not just in software development or to application design projects, but across the workforce and at leadership levels. Make the needed investments in a productive, modern environment for your workforce. As we prepare for the next stage of doing business during this disruption, we also want you to emerge stronger and better prepared to work through the unexpected battles of tomorrow.
- Remote work is no longer a trend, it’s a requirement. We often say employees are your most important assets, so activate them to effectively work and collaborate remotely to ensure business continuity.
- Empower senior leaders to lead from anywhere. Tools, such as video-conferencing technology is a must for leadership teams and boards of directors. While senior leaders may not think of themselves as “work from home” employees, events such as the COVID-19 pandemic can suddenly transform everyone into a remote worker.
Address new cybersecurity threats
- Be dynamic. The sudden shift towards remote business will require you to protect your employees, your clients and your business. Be on the lookout for solutions that offer secure endpoint management, identity and access management and threat defense.
- Bring in experts when needed. The security landscape changes every second, remote users and their associated devices and infrastructure add an exponential level of complexity and exposure. This is an area where you can’t be too careful, don’t be afraid to ask for help from specialized subject matter experts.
Above all else, remember this is a strange time for all of us and remote work can be isolating and lonely. We are not working from home, we are working at home during a time of crisis. All businesses need to make sure leaders are listening and looking after their teams with empathy. If we do so, we will come out of this stronger and more resilient than before.
Disruptions come in many forms, and all bring an element of the unknown. We can’t plan for every contingency, but we can try. With calm, compassionate and consistent leadership, companies can do more than just weather this storm, I truly believe that they, and we, can emerge stronger.
General Manager – Global Technology Services, IBM Canada