Leadership Strategies

Enterprise IT: An IT Leadership Guide Post-Pandemic and Beyond

Now is the time for CIOs to build the next set of capabilities for their organization
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“Our strategy is the total integration between technology and the business,” notes Talvis Love, SVP and CIO at Baxter International, a global supplier of critical care, nutrition, renal, hospital, and surgical products. “Not just in a functional way,” he adds; at Baxter, IT and the business work side-by-side delivering value back to the business — together as one.

As we have moved through the pandemic, organizations that invested and deployed next-generation digital capabilities were able to react more quickly, pivot more effectively, and generally outperform others who had not. The CIOs of these organizations were ascendant – their counsel was sought as many pivoted to new hybrid work models for their employees, rapidly implemented new operational capabilities to cope, and fought to realign as supply chain volatility became a daily challenge.

In June, IDC’s global survey data found many companies are now climbing out of the economic doldrum sparked by the pandemic, with 54% of respondents reporting they had either “Returned to Growth” or were in their “Next Normal.” Now, just sixty days later, another wave of disruption, volatility, and rising infection rates appears poised to challenge us yet again.

Amidst these challenges, CIOs and senior IT leaders rightly ask, ‘What’s next?” Of course, the problems de jour must be rapidly addressed and resolved, but how do we position our IT organization for 2022 and beyond as we strive to sustain our companies as they compete for market position?

In summary, IDC sees most organizations continuing to cope with a devil’s brew of short, intermediate, and longer-term challenges, in a volatile and unpredictable environment. The issue is not one of understanding what to do, it is a matter of focus, prioritization, and an intense need for leadership. Do we invest in “hardening IT” to better cope with the waves of volatility and disruption, accelerate cloud implementations, support yet another acquisition, or partner with Operations to add new capabilities and capture market share?

Back to Love and his team: They are working with a model of IT-business alignment that has been a much-discussed yet elusive target over the past twenty years. IT and business stakeholders know the merit in aligning toward shared objectives, but they see this process through different lenses. At IDC, we are observing that IT-business alignment is iterative and dynamic, driven by collaboration and co-creation. To be successful, both IT and business teams have to concern themselves with technology, processes, and business. But our data shows that IT-business alignment varies significantly depending on the mission and accountability of each stakeholder. So, organizations face a real risk of failure at a time when a concerted effort from IT and the business has never been more critical.  

IDC surveys also show that an awful lot of what IT does has become more difficult. A late-June IDC survey of CIOs and senior IT leaders found that over 50% of respondents ranked ten fundamental IT capabilities and tasks — hiring and retaining skilled IT leaders and IT staff, shipping and logistics, sourcing products and supplies for operations, sourcing hardware, software, and supplies — as much more difficult now than they were a year ago. But, beyond the obvious observation, we think that IT teams and their leaders are deeply stressed as they report “everything is more difficult.” It will be up to CIOs to lead their teams through what looks to be a year of destiny for IT; in other words, the only thing harder than responding to a global pandemic is guiding your organization to respond as we come out of the global pandemic.

During the post-pandemic recovery, every organization will face its own set of challenges. And make no mistake, every company will be challenged in one or more ways:

  • Business acceleration and operational efficiency
  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Customer experience enhancement
  • Product innovation
  • Supply chain innovation

We are looking at a new agenda of rising IT opportunities – in the face of significant challenges – to add business value to capitalize on whatever digital foundation was laid during the pandemic. This once-in-a-lifetime imperative has emerged for organizations that have built out a digital foundation: Now is the time for them to build the next set of capabilities. 

Every organization continues to face enormous pressures, a full agenda, and a new imperative for innovation. CIOs must keep encouraging collaboration and engaging all stakeholders while creating the architectural and structural guardrails to enable success. In 2022, “future CIOs” will step up to a new, challenging, and game-changing set of responsibilities and lead their organizations into the future. The Future CIO must be grounded in today’s realities and tomorrow’s possibilities — leading IT and the enterprise into the future. We dive deeper into the tools, intelligence, and technologies every Future CIO needs in IDC’s new eBook, Future CIO: Leadership First For a Changed World.

“To unlock the true value of digital,” notes Talvis Love, “you have to see how the business and IT connect — and the opportunities between those connections.”

For more insights derived from survey data from world-class Future CIOs who are leading their IT organizations, join us for the webinar, “CIO Strategies and Findings: Outlook 2022 – Thriving as a Digital Enterprise“, live on September 9th at 11 AM/ET. This webinar guides IT executives to leverage their strengths while linking IT more closely with future enterprise business strategy. Click the button below to register.

Joseph C. Pucciarelli

Group Vice President & IT Executive Advisor