CIO Connect – One year into the COVID crisis

CIO Connect is an informal national online forum to enable us to have face-to-face conversations in real time and is based on leveraging your trusted network of CIOCAN peers where you can openly and confidently talk about issues that you are facing and also the solutions and innovations that can be shared with all of us. It is different than other sessions as no one is trying to sell you anything and everyone is focused on creating a valuable experience worthy of your time investment.

As these sessions are virtual round tables, the resulting discussions are informal and unstructured. The topics that are suggested are general guidelines. We seek to have active participation from all attendees. The volunteer Moderators record some high level notes of the themes discussed, but at all times protect the privacy of the members by not attributing actual quotes to any of the participants. In addition, these sessions are not recorded.

The most recent CIO Connect session was held on February 18th. The discussion topic for this session centred on the theme of: one year into the COVID crisis, does your organization have a flexible workforce strategy for the post-pandemic world?  What are the challenges and opportunities? Here are the main points that were raised during the resulting discussions:

From Digitization to Digitalization:

  • Many companies are still very paper based. Remote work made it necessary to ‘digitize’ information and data for remote access and collaboration.
  • Beyond just ‘digitizing’, structuring electronic documents, wrapping processes around document management and collaboration (i.e. ‘digitalization’) is necessary. The same is true of disparate data sources.
  • Some technologies & processes were accelerated due to the pandemic out of necessity. Examples are:  moving to digital signatures, modernization and automation of customer services which traditionally had been in-person services.
  • Companies that have done this or were ahead of the game before the pandemic hit are doing well. As an example, ordering a cell phone would have been arduous prior to the pandemic, but now, retailers have risen to this need and can deliver in 15 minutes!

Physical Considerations:

  • Some companies have long term lease commitments for office space. This space may not all be needed if work moves to a hybrid model (remote & in-person).
  • Some companies have leased desktop equipment which is sitting in physical offices. When work from home began at the start of the pandemic, laptops were purchased.  What do we do with the desktops?
  • Most companies are considering a hybrid model. In these cases:
    • are employees expecting desktops at their office or does their laptop become their only device?
    • are dedicated workspaces assigned to each employee or do we move to a hoteling model? If so, what are the protocols for sanitizing, distancing, etc?

Elevation of the role of IT:

  • The pandemic forced companies to remove barriers to virtual work models. As a result, deployment of new technology and processes became a priority.
  • Accelerated decision making made it easier to move forward with transformation initiatives.
  • IT was showcased in an elevated role (if not already).
  • Barriers were removed and necessity forced useful conversation.

Employee Care Considerations:

  • While virtual meetings and connections are productive, they don’t replace the human interaction and camaraderie that take place organically in an in-person environment.
  • With remote work becoming more the norm, employees are relocating out of urban centres, sometimes out of province, or even out of country. This requires consideration of changes to tax structures, salary scales due to regional differences.  How do we handle these?
  • From a mental health perspective: How do we address the feelings of isolation?  How do we recreate informal human interaction?
  • In a unionized environment, there are additional challenges with collective bargaining agreements related to work environment.
  • Some organizations are shifting away from traditional recruitment geographies and opening up to wherever there is an office.  This allows employers to attract talent maybe otherwise overlooked.
  • The ability for candid conversations to take place within the office is having a direct impact on an organizations ability to innovate.  Often innovation or new ways of thinking are sparked through a touch point or an ad hoc conversation, these types of conversations are hard to come by.

At the conclusion of the session a poll was taking regarding the members’ experience with the session. The feedback was once again overwhelmingly positive with over 90% of the participants rating the session as “worth my time and would recommend it to my peers”.

We encourage all members to participate in these monthly CIO Connect sessions. If you have a specific topic in mind that you would like to be the focus of a future session, please don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know. Our next session is scheduled for March 25th on “Digital Ethics”. Hope to see you there.

Host: Gary Davenport

Moderators: Kyoko Kobayashi and Shaun Guthrie