3 Ideas CIOs Can Use for Better Disruption Planning

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Few CIOs today can completely escape disruption, but focusing on critical issues can help them manage them better.

This was one of the takeaways shared during the “Planning for the Unknowns” panel at the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium in Cambridge, Massachusetts on May 23. Panelists saw opportunities for innovation at almost every level of their organizations. Their insights can provide insights that other IT managers can use to build a resilient framework and support rapid and unexpected changes.

Here are three ideas CIOs can use for better disruption planning.

1. Focus on creating stronger cybersecurity

The pandemic has highlighted the need to strengthen business security. CIOs are tackling problems they have had to think about for a long time as well as new problems resulting from the use of the latest technologies.

“When raising the water level around innovative technologies to help disrupt your business, provide security, controls and means around that technology,” said Adriana Karaboutis, chief information and digital officer at National. Grid, a British multinational utility company.

To that end, one aspect of the CIO’s role in better disruption planning is to strengthen cybersecurity. New technologies require IT managers to tackle new security challenges.

Cybersecurity is an ongoing priority because of the industries we serve and we are proactive in focusing on it, said Mona Bates, CIO of Collins Aerospace, aerospace and defense product providers. Compliance with the myriad of regulations is paramount.

Addressing weaknesses in the supply chain is also essential.

Part of the way McDermott International Ltd, a provider of engineering and construction services to the energy industry, is tackling these issues is by encouraging suppliers and vendors to modernize with the cloud and other technologies that enable faster information sharing and more agility, said Vagesh Dave, global vice president and CIO of the company.

2. Pay more attention to the employee experience

The management team of an organization should think about supporting the career progression of its staff. An employee’s perception of their well-being at work can affect their loyalty to an employer.

After more than two years of disruption, employees are making different decisions than they were before the pandemic, Bates said. Companies are now fighting for talent.

“As employers, we have to think about the whole image for the employee,” Bates said.

Employers cannot afford to ignore any aspect of the employee experience. An organization may consider laying the groundwork for stronger employee engagement. One technique is to work with the leadership team to create diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

“[Employees] want a full 360 [degrees] — this commitment to wellness, growth, learning, diversity and equity,” Dave said.

Investing in opportunities like DEI initiatives and talent development to keep pace with technology shows recognition of employee concerns, he said.

Creating an overall positive employee experience also requires finding the ideal balance between office, hybrid and remote working. It is essential to find common ground between the needs of employers and employees and to have the flexibility to meet them.

It’s a challenge we face trying to understand what exactly employee expectations are, said moderator Shamim Mohammad, executive vice president and chief information and technology officer at vehicle retailer Used CarMax. Everyone has a different set of expectations.

3. Proactive Disruption Planning

Organizations have had to reassess their business continuity and disaster recovery plans in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and other disruptions. CIOs looking for better disruption planning should review their plans for weaknesses and address them.

An organization should research where to add capacity and layers of defense, Bates said.

CIOs tasked with troubleshooting IT issues may not have a quick fix. Thus, management must work with internal resources to help the business pivot, which may require asking some tough questions.

“How flexible am I to pivot from a position that I think is the right position?” said Karaboutis. “What this entails is building strong capabilities, knowing all your strengths…and understanding your application[s].”

Planning a disruption is never easy. CIOs who focus on creating strong security, improving the employee experience, and finding ways to create agility can strengthen their organizations to better handle the surprises that come their way.

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