COVID-tested CIOs focus on resilience

The pandemic revealed gaps in business IT infrastructure that CIOs are eager to fill

CIOs are figuring out how to boost organizational resilience by filling gaps in IT infrastructure.

For senior executives, COVID-19 was a lesson on a global scale. And, as they prepare for the next unforeseen crisis, CIOs appear to be distinguishing themselves as agents of organizational resilience.

According to new research from ServiceNow and ESI ThoughtLab, which surveyed 1,080 executives across 13 countries, C-levels are intent on leading their organizations toward greater resilience. In service of that goal, CIOs are more likely to be responsible for investing in digital tools and IT support.

CIOs, tech savvy and organizationally aware, are also more likely to foresee challenges, such as a lack of skills, processes, and overly complicated tools, necessary for building organizational resilience. But if CIOs want to make real progress creating cultures of resilience, survey results suggest they must look for common ground with other C-level officers to do so.

CIOs expand digital infrastructure for resilience

The pandemic revealed gaps in organizations’ digital infrastructure. Although CIOs rank third behind the COO and CEO in their leadership role for resilience, CIOs took note of the pandemic’s widespread impacts on their organizations’ digital tools and services: everything from customers’ abilities to access digital products and experiences to employees’ abilities to work remotely. Nearly all CIOs surveyed said they’re responsible for accelerating IT support, providing employees with technology, tools, and data, and using software and other tools to better understand what it takes to be resilient.

CIOs say that the pandemic revealed gaps in their businesses’ cybersecurity efforts. Ninety percent of CIOs say that improving cybersecurity is a top area of responsibility, with 75% taking the leadership position. Such preparation is more important than ever. According to Check Point Software’s Mid-Year Report 2021, global cyberattacks are up almost 30%, while global ransomware attacks have almost doubled from earlier in the year.

Cybersecurity and continuity tools pay off big for CIOs

For CIOs, a huge part of resilience is investing in digital tools and experiences that make the organization more agile against threats and disruption. In the face of COVID, companies invested in enabling remote and hybrid work—not just applications for collaboration, but securing the remote work experience and avoiding outages as much as possible through business impact analysis and continuity management tools. They attributed strong ROI for tools that digitized work, securely and reliably—including with their third parties.

Risk management tools are a recurring theme as they enable the organization to monitor business continuity, supply chains, vendors, and cybersecurity, while a mature IT infrastructure enables business agility.

CIOs see challenges ahead

CIOs and other C-levels agree that resilience investments will lead to greater revenue, higher profitability, and better planning. Yet unlike the rest of the C-suite, few CIOs in the survey cited increased customer satisfaction, reduced costs, or improved health and safety as high-value results. This may be an area where some CIOs have a more strategic and business role, while others are more tech-centric.

CIOs see challenges as they move their companies toward greater resilience. On the whole, they are concerned that their organizations lack the necessary skills and talent to realize resiliency plans and that the systems associated with such shifts require too much configuration to be useful to them or their businesses.

While CIOs recognize, like other top execs, that a lack of talent poses a major problem to the enterprise, they might not simply be thinking about internal staff. Rather, most CIOs are aware of the cybersecurity talent gap—globally, roughly 3 million cybersecurity jobs are unfilled because of widespread burnout and a shortage of available talent, according to nonprofit IT security organization (ISC). Thus one of the biggest challenges for companies, and especially for CIOs, is recruiting, hiring, and keeping talent for the roles necessary for all IT-related jobs, including risk management and resilience planning. Operational transformation tackles this challenge and explains why the No. 1 value cited was “Improving cybersecurity operations” through cybersecurity automation and collaboration tools.