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Interview

CIOs will have to take the lead and transform into Chief Digital Officers

Ashish Khanna, Deputy Vice President – IT, Oberoi Hotels and Resorts talks about the pandemic and its impact on the role of the CIO.

Do you agree that the pandemic may have created the opportunity for alternative managerial and leadership styles, with dispersed and remote teams requiring a different set of skills to get work done? What are the changes that we can expect at the top levels in 2021? Will this impact the position of the CIO in the organisation?

Yes, with distributed and reduced workforce working all through remote locations, the situation demanded fluid and agile changes. Creating a culture of collaboration was key to the success of bringing everyone on a common page. Team mates working from remote locations or small houses were suddenly forced to attend office from the same house while other members of the family too needed to attend their work. There were sudden challenges which were earlier non-existent like- Poor bandwidth, Lack of space, number of devices, etc. Managers needed to be more empathetic to such situations.

We had setup regular calls with our global IT teams and with key partners at least once a week to keep an ongoing rhythm and to keep a check on their well-being and keep their morale high. Going forward, I see organizations would become more collaborative at all levels and digitization will be in forefront of their strategies with adaption at its peak. CIOs will have to take the lead and transform into Chief Digital Officers, CDOs.

Do you feel that the pandemic has changed the pattern of decision making inside organisations? Is the approach for strategic planning and operational decision making likely to change in 2021? Will there be more emphasis on analytics and forecasting and business models, to manage the impact of external market volatility? Will the CIO’s office be under more pressure to deliver in 2021?

While the reality is that no one could predict a pandemic but I completely agree more and more decision making would be dependent on analytics. Tools like Artificial intelligence and Machine learning would gain further momentum. Organizations need to invest in robust technological platforms with high availability and business continuity to ensure people are able to work and deliver from any device, anywhere with scalability and agility.

We all know that the pandemic has accelerated transformation projects and online business models. Going forward into 2021, what are the changes that we can expect in IT decision making and IT spending? Does the CIO need to start preparing for this?

Well, there has been a joke going around along the lines of: Who has triggered digital transformation in your organization? CIO, CTO or COVID?

We all know the answer to this one. What we all have tried to do from many years what Covid has helped accomplish the same in less than a year. So i would say we are already ready for future, the platform is already set. Most of the CIO’s have understood that cloud first is the way to go in order to manage such large change at the shortest notice and are already making strategic IT investmentsin that direction.

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