Gartner: CIOs Should Focus on 3 Immediate Actions to Prepare for Coronavirus Disruptions
CIOs Must Have Large-Scale Business Plans and Preparations in Place
March 12, 2020
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With the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), CIOs should focus on three short-term actions to increase their organizations' resilience against disruptions and prepare for rebound and growth, according to Gartner, Inc.

"With such a dynamic situation like COVID-19, it has the potential to be as disruptive, or more, to an organization's continuity of operations as a cyber intrusion or natural disaster," said Sandy Shen, Senior Research Director at Gartner. "When traditional channels and operations are impacted by the outbreak, the value of digital channels, products and operations becomes immediately obvious. This is a wake-up call to organizations that focus on daily operational needs at the expense of investing in digital business and long-term resilience."

Gartner recommends that CIOs focus on three short-term actions to provide support to customers and employees and ensure continuity of operations.

1. Source Digital Collaboration Tools With Security Controls and Network Support

Various quarantine measures and travel restrictions undertaken by organizations, cities and countries have caused uncertainties and disruptions as business operations are either suspended or run in limited capacity.

In organizations where remote working capabilities have not yet been established, CIOs need to work out interim solutions in the short term, including identifying use case requirements such as instant messaging for general communication, file sharing/meeting solutions, and access to enterprise applications such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM), while reviewing all security arrangements to ensure secure access to applications and data.

Organizations also need to deal with staffing shortages to maintain basic operations. CIOs can work with business leaders to conduct workforce planning to assess risks and address staffing gaps, such as identifying mission-critical service areas. CIOs can see how digital technologies such as AI can be used to automate tasks, for example, candidate screening and customer service.

2. Engage Customers and Partners Through Digital Channels, and Maintain Sales Activities

Many organizations already engage customers over digital platforms, such as branded sites and apps, online marketplaces and social media. But offline face-to-face engagement still plays a big role. Workplace collaboration, video conferencing and livestreaming solutions can serve various customer engagement and selling scenarios. Organizations should also enable customers to use self-service via online, mobile, social, kiosk and interactive voice response (IVR) channels.

"The value of digital channels becomes obvious as market demand shrinks and as people rely more on online platforms for daily supplies. Organizations can leverage digital channels, such as online marketplaces and social platforms, to compensate for some of the demand loss." said Shen. "They can set up official pages/accounts and integrate commerce capabilities to enable online selling. They should also quickly adapt products to make them suited for selling through digital channels."

3. Establish a Single Source of Truth for Employees

Confusing data from unverified sources — or the sheer lack of data — can lead to ill-informed decisions being made, escalating employee anxiety and making organizations underprepared for returning to normal operations. Such anxiety can be somewhat relieved if organizations can leverage data to support better decision making and communicate progress more efficiently to employees.

"Organizations can offer curated content, drawn from internal and external sources, to provide actionable guidance to employees. These sources include local governments, healthcare authorities and international organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO). HR and corporate communications leaders may be involved to vet the content and interpret the company's policies," said Shen. "Organizations should set up a site, app or hotline to share this information on a regular basis. Employees can also use these platforms to notify the company about their health conditions and seek emergency support and care services."

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