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CIOs Put Digital Transformation ‘Rush’ in Perspective

There is no doubt that the pace of digital transformation has accelerated in response to COVID-19, but just how much so? Five CIOs from diverse industries addressed just this question in a panel discussion last week at Zoom’s user and partner conference, Zoomtopia.
 
But have we seen 10 years of digital transformation compressed into a matter of months? Perhaps, indicated Megan Crespi, chief operations and technology officer at Comerica Bank. Certainly, Comerica has had to adjust quickly to allow employees to work remotely, and it has had to rethink its customer services, Crespi said.
 
And for professional services firm Deloitte, compressed digital transformation really wasn’t a necessity, Larry Quinlan, global CIO for the company, said. That’s because Deloitte has been making incremental investments in cloud, Zoom, collaboration tools, and software-defined networking over years.
 
Similarly, The New York Times (NYT) was "well-poised" for the transition to WFH, as the company’s global journalism team mostly operates remotely, said Cindy Taibi, CIO for the organization. Plus, over the last two years, NYT had moved 90-95% of its technology assets and workflows to the cloud, she added.
 
Barry Shurkey, CIO of NTT Data Services, a global IT services provider, inferred that the rate of digital transformation change during this crisis really isn’t the point. Rather, with so much attention on IT now, CIOs have the opportunity to harness that and get projects completed. For those projects around security and digital workplace, which might have not been a priority last year, now is the perfect time to rally behind a strategy and implement them, Shurkey said.
 
Besides digital transformation, the CIOs addressed business continuity and strategizing for the future. Taibi, for example, stressed the importance of continual fail-over testing and thinking in terms of network resilience as opposed to disaster recovery. Additionally, since covering the U.S. election is a mission-critical task for NYT, her team has developed a back-up plan in case Slack, which the coverage team uses for team collaboration, goes down during election night.
 
In scenario planning, Crespi agreed, it’s crucial to understand what the secondary tools are and have them ready when needed. For instance, if a WFH employee loses an Internet connection, the user should have the tools and knowledge to reestablish a connection from either a personal or employee-provisioned device, she said.
 
While Crespi and Taibi focused on scenario planning and disaster recovery, Quinlan noted how enterprises need “to figure out the hybrid situation,” because everything from watercooler talk to innovation is waiting back in the office. That said, once office re-occupancy begins at scale, we have to remember that remote workers are no less important than people working from the office, he added.
 
Picking up on that point, Graham Billsborough, group CIO of EG Group, a British retailer, spoke to the importance of workplace culture, noting how workers only realize what they’ve been missing once they’ve returned to the office. With WFH, part of workplace culture is finding new ways to connect in safe ways, leveraging technology from Zoom and others. Articulating what the other panelists were most likely thinking, Billsborough concluded: “As a CIO it's important to listen to what the organization needs, and what [user] suggestions are, and adopt them and embrace them.”

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