Enable Business Resiliency and Emerge Stronger after COVID-19

An open letter to CIOs and IT professionals

By and Xerxes Cooper | 5 minute read | May 20, 2020

Man in business attire looking out to a city skyline

In response to health and safety risks prompted by the COVID-19 outbreak, many global 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 societal changes that were previously unfathomable.

IBM’s most important priority during the COVID-19 crisis is the health and safety of our 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 signature conference – THINK – we went digital.  One of our 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.

“Our industry was hit hard by the pandemic. Our work in AI over the past several years will help us to mitigate some of the future challenges,” said Roland Schuetz, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer of the Lufthansa Group. “Working with IBM to apply its Watson AI technologies has helped us accelerate how we modernize our Data Science Tool Landscape. 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, even the most risk-averse planners could not have prepared for this improbable and profoundly unique situation. Businesses relocating their workforce to remote offices 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.

In 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 are suddenly disrupted. When business continuity is threatened, all attention shifts to the CIO. I encourage you 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 you balance all of these important priorities, here are some steps you can take to enable your teams to be successful in this current work environment, as well as additional tips to emerge stronger. I hope you find it helpful.

Fully commit to cloud-based flexibility

  • Know your cloud provider’s service priorities. Cloud providers serve thousands of other clients. How will yours make its triage decisions for capacity in times of peak utilization? CIOs need to know and plan accordingly.
  • Embrace open technology. When it comes to differentiating your cloud strategy, open technology is essential to helping companies move workloads around more easily to where capacity exists and is needed. IBM Cloud is built on open technology, so companies using our platform can easily benefit from containerized and cloud native technology.

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.

Tips for Emerging Stronger

Empower a remote workforce

  • Remote work is no longer a trend. Your 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. Some tools, such as WebEx-enabled leadership teams or boards, can help. 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 risks

  • 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 many and remote work can be isolating and lonely. As many before me have said, we are not working from home, we are working at home during a crisis. Ensure your 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.

Portrait of Xerxes Cooper

Xerxes Cooper
General Manager –  Global Technology Services, IBM Canada


Additional Resources

See how clients are navigating the current business environment and the technology solutions that are enabling reliable business continuity while accelerating their technology transformation:

WebinarEnhance IT Resiliency and Business Continuity, IBM Think Digital, May 2020

Do you have specific issues you’re considering surrounding a piece of technology? Are you looking to explore the business value of adopting the tech or recommendations on the range of considerations in the decision-making process?

Thought LeadershipMitigating Risks in the Hybrid Multicloud Journey: Resilience Imperatives

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