Conventionally, chief information officers’ job has been to oversee the IT and computer systems in the organization. But that changed during the pandemic. IT leaders are now taking on a wider range of responsibilities amid the health crisis, The Wall Street Journal reports. With the tech industry leading a new wave of digital transformation, CIOs are expected to build more consumer-facing technologies for customers and employees.
CIOs’ evolving role is part of the broader digital-driven changes sweeping across industries. With the pandemic accelerating this trend, tech chiefs are now retooling both office architecture and finessing the office culture to accommodate flexible work. Plus, they are also managing the recruitment and training of new talent. As we all know, hiring has become more complicated due to the rapid transition to remote work.
CIOs’ Future Vision of Enterprises
“IT leaders are designing the future version of the organization,” said Vipin Gupta, CIO of Toyota Financial Services, the vehicle financing division of Toyota Motor Corp. As consumers worldwide accelerate their shift to digital commerce amid the pandemic, CIOs have been under pressure to build new technologies. Since the beginning of coronavirus-induced confinement, small and large businesses alike have relied on digital enterprise solutions to run business processes.
“From our personal life to business life, convenience and speed are expected,” Anupam Khare, CIO at Oshkosh Corp., which manufactures mission-critical vehicles such as firefighting trucks. The automotive industry, like most other sectors, started to rely heavily on software and IT solutions even before the pandemic. They ramped up the embrace of automotive software solutions amid the global health crisis.
Accelerating Digitization in Manufacturing & Commerce
Oshkosh, the vehicle maker, has recently deployed computer vision and optical scanning of complex parts to help manufacturing workers detect defects. The vehicle manufacturer launched a wearable device that alerts factory employees if they come within 6 feet of someone else. Using this technology, they can stringently adhere to social distancing guidelines. Oshkosh’s tech solution originally was meant for ergonomic safety to monitor and alert workers about potentially unsafe posture. A growing number of OEMs are deploying automation solutions in their plants.
Keeping up with the trend, Toyota Financial Services is creating more ways for digital financing. Using advanced fintech solutions, the company is enabling vehicle dealerships to complete the financing process digitally. “The question at the leadership table is not about what should become digital, but what should remain physical only,” the company’s CIO Vipin Gupta said.
Wading Deeper Into Product Development
And it’s not just the tech adoption and talent hiring roles that are changing for tech bosses. CIOs at tech companies are also finding themselves working more on software products and services. As enterprises suddenly moved to remote work, IT leaders had to focus more on managing remote systems and business continuity solutions. It also enabled CIOs at enterprise tech firms to have a view of what tech leaders at other organizations need.
“The lines between these two disciplines have blurred. The pandemic certainly accelerated this trend,” Jason Conyard, CIO at cloud-software maker VMware, told WSJ about the dual role of overseeing a company’s in-house IT while developing new products and services.
In a recent survey of more than 800 IT leaders by research company International Data Group, over 90% of all respondents said the pandemic had changed their role in the company. Notably, 81% of CIOs at tech firms said creating revenue-generating initiatives was a key part of their agenda, compared with 68% of CIOs at companies across all industries.
Rethinking CIOs’ Role in the Post-Pandemic World
CIOs need to rethink their role in leading companies into the post-pandemic world. IT leaders must address employees’ psychological needs, while reimagining the use of office space and tech systems, according to a report by the technology research firm Gartner. Tech chiefs will have to be more intentional about engaging with employees individually as companies figure out how to get back to the office. “The leadership responsibility Post-Covid is different. We have more responsibility than before,” Anupam Khare of Oshkosh Corp. said.