“Leaders,” “Followers,” and “Laggards:” Grading CIOs in a pandemic

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"Leaders," "Followers," and "Laggards:" Grading CIOs in a pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has demanded a radical rethinking of the workplace, ushering in a new age of remote work that will likely remain long after a vaccine is procured. And while it has affected every aspect of the workplace, it may be safe to say that IT departments have been especially impacted—as the glue that holds together and troubleshoots problems for the new remote workforce. 

As the pressure on IT departments has grown during the coronavirus era, IT leaders have been forced to reprioritize their goals, shifting spending and resources to fit the new needs of operating during a time of uncertainty. TechRepublic has reported on how IT departments have been increasingly focused on security tools during this period—a Pulse survey shows that efforts to deploy VPNs, encryption tools, and password management, for instance, have gotten a big boost.

A new report from PwC and Qualtrics, “Future-proofing the workforce’s technology experience,” takes a deep dive into how, exactly, IT departments are stepping up during the crisis. In the study, organizations were divided up into “Leaders,” “Followers,” and “Laggards,” depending on how well IT departments were actively supporting the new remote work landscape.

The new study examines how these different groups have handled the management of IT departments during the coronavirus period, which may yield clues for how other organizations can better prioritize. One of the biggest takeaways is that “Leaders” take employee input seriously, putting them “at the heart of that decision-making.” 

Nearly all Leaders, 95%, have made efforts to listen to employees more since COVID-19—versus 63% of Laggards. Organizations that are Leaders also pave the way for their employees to work in different ways: “Building a strong feedback loop between IT teams and  the employees they serve is one of the key pillars of their transformation,” the report states.

While IT departments maintain a critical role in managing security, privacy, and communication for their organizations, it is also true that some CIOs are facing difficult decisions, with slashed budgets. As TechRepublic has reported, 49% of CIOs have seen budget declines, and nearly a quarter, 23%, of IT budgets have been frozen. CIOs have made security and end-user technology a priority, however, investing in them even as budgets have dropped.

The majority of Leaders also get feedback on employee satisfaction at the close of a ticket or incident, compared to 25% of Laggards. And “always-on listening,” is key for Leaders with 62% of them using this as a tool to proactively engage in the feedback process, per the report.

Many Leaders (87%) invest in “traditional employee listening mechanisms,” but do so “across a range of experiences  and topics including holistic tech experience assessments, application deep dives, and IT service feedback (vs 49% Laggards),” the report states.

As COVID-19 continues to spread, keeping workforces remote, these trends are likely to continue, with increasing gains for the Leaders, who can tap into employee sentiment to operate at peak levels, even during a period of instability. And as for the post-COVID-19 outlook? A full 65% of IT executives believe that 25% of their workforce will stay at home—even when it’s all over.

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