Research firm Gartner specialises in making predictions and providing insights for the ICT industry, but even it could not have foreseen the effect that the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has had on the technology sector.

With supply chains severely impacted as a result, and a number of high-profile firms stating a below-par earnings guidance for the first quarter for 2020, many in the organisation are turning to the CIO to tackle these problems.

As such Gartner has unpacked some of the aspects of the business that CIOs should be focusing on under the spectre of COVID-19.

Turning to digital

“The value of digital channels, products and operations is immediately obvious to companies everywhere right now,” notes Sandy Shen, senior director analyst at Gartner.

“This is a wake-up call for organisations that have placed too much focus on daily operational needs at the expense of investing in digital business and long-term resilience. Businesses that can shift technology capacity and investments to digital platforms will mitigate the impact of the outbreak and keep their companies running smoothly now, and over the long term,” she adds.

As such there are two key areas that CIOs need to focus on, according to the research firm, with expanding digital workplace resources and leveraging technology to meet customer demand being highlighted.

With more companies prompting employees to limit travel and not venture into the office, and instead work remotely, CIOs will need to ensure that digital systems are in place and optimised for people to continue to work productively and effectively.

Making remote easier

“Organisations may need to quickly acquire or scale their technology capabilities. Videoconferencing, messaging, collaboration tools and document sharing are just a few examples of technologies that facilitate remote work. Additional bandwidth and network capacity may also be needed, given the increasing number of users and volume of communications,” explains Gartner.

“CIOs will need a process to quickly assess the company’s needs and acquire access — ideally with flexible, short-term contracts. Even organisations that have existing vendor relationships may have to renegotiate the number of users or transaction volume to accommodate a short-term surge,” the firm continues.

Looking at customer demand, Gartner points to IT systems being prepared to work with relevant members of the C-suite in order to provide technology-enabled experiences across the board.

Smarter experiences

These will include the ability for self-service of customers, many of which will likely be inundating the organisation with questions pertaining to the effects that COVID-19 may have had. Companies must adequately prepare for this with technology tools like chatbots, easy reply emails and optimised apps.

Added to this is the need to create remote experiences with a “personal touch”, the firm adds, especially as self-service is not always the best solution in all situations.

“Sometimes the human touch makes the difference to customers. Examples include B2B salespeople spending ‘face-to-face’ time with their customers, public schools providing online classes so kids don’t fall behind, healthcare facilities expanding access to telemedicine or conference organisers holding remote events,” says Gartner.

Tech workarounds

“IT will play a critical role in providing accessible, reliable and secure IT systems to deliver positive experiences in unfamiliar contexts,” it concludes.

The coronavirus will no doubt impact several businesses and industries, but it now falls to CIOs to address any issues with smarter tools and savvy technology.

[Image – Photo by Samson on Unsplash]
When he's not reviewing the latest smartphones, Robin-Leigh is writing about everything tech-related from IoT and smart cities, to 5G and cloud computing. He's also a keen photographer and dabbles in console games.