As businesses contend with this landscape, they face a minefield when it comes to balancing agility with governance - retrospectively and in the future.
We’re reaching the conclusion of our Post-Covid Reality Series, which has explored all aspects of the IT response journey, from deploying virtual resources to restructuring end user services. Running through that journey is the issue of governance – perhaps the most crucial, yet tricky, area to address as we emerge from the pandemic and look to the future. So, in this article, we’re focusing the spotlight on:
- Why mobilising rapid remote working solutions has put governance on the back burner.
- The risks of not retrospectively addressing governance in the future roadmap.
- IT leadership’s role in moving to a new, lighter touch governance model to facilitate agility.
As far back as February 2020, before Covid 19 was even declared a pandemic, the World Economic Forum predicted why coronavirus is a global business risk. Back then, attention mainly centred on disrupted supply chains that might slow China’s GDP by 0.5%, creating a possible 0.1% drop in GDP globally.
Fast forward to March and the picture was changing alarmingly. Almost overnight, the epidemic became a pandemic. Businesses were forced to deliver virtual resources to home-based end users at breakneck speed. Now, larger companies are leading the charge on where the strategy should focus next. Radical restructures are starting to hit the headlines. Microsoft has announced its decision to close nearly all of its physical stores permanently (The Independent). Twitter has told employees they will never have to return to the office. Others have been less keen to commit permanently, but are still likely to keep employees working from home until at least 2021 (Tech Republic). Generally, and globally, businesses are using lessons learned from Covid to promote future recovery, resilience, and success.
The role of IT governance: Risk and return
As businesses contend with this landscape, they face a minefield when it comes to balancing agility with governance – retrospectively and in the future. In the process of redeploying workforces, for many organisations the usual governance lifecycle has taken a back seat. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Traditionally, IT has had to compete for its place in the business roadmap. Now, Covid has given IT the chance to flex its muscle and show what can be done when controls are reined back. But – especially for high regulatory sectors – checks and balances must be restored in the days and months ahead. A scenario is looming where IT spend constricts as organisations mitigate the cost of surviving the pandemic. Not to mention the inevitable risks that businesses have been exposed to during rapid rollout of hardware, software, and connectivity. That matters, not just to satisfy auditory requirements, but also for commercial health and future resilience. Governance must regain its seat at the table before boards move to the next big set of strategic decisions.
Achieving the endgame by playing your A-game
This means that the time to revisit governance is now – and IT should embrace its role as a key driver in shaping this next big step. The CIO (or equivalent) will be charged with drilling down into operations, understanding the areas where actions have accelerated and getting to grips with where the associated risks might lie. This intelligence will inform forward strategy, aligning what has been done during Covid with the journey ahead. IT leaders have an opportunity to articulate the real exposure across cost, risk, security, and productivity and put new solutions on the table.
To bring the C-suite on that journey, speaking their language is crucial. An expectation should be set that the strategy must be revisited with not just exposure and risk, but likely demand, in mind. The business needs to anticipate what that demand might look like in the days emerging from the pandemic and beyond. Big pharma, for example, is scaling rapidly, so capability is a crucial consideration. Automotive, on the other hand, will be more focused on cost efficiencies to recover from the fallow period. Regardless of your organisation’s environment, the basic principles are the same: IT leaders must understand where the organisation is, set the expectation of where it needs to go, and gain the mandate of the C-suite to take the things forward.
Winning that executive support starts now. IT needs to be the innovator here, demonstrating the business impact of its propositions not just to the C-suite but across all stakeholders. This should not be attempted in the boardroom alone. It is an ongoing, collaborative process. In this way, by the time the decision is considered, all stakeholders are geared up to handle change on the horizon. IT’s achievements during the pandemic create the chance to move from being an enabler of the business to being a key driver for the business. Leading on good governance is a great place to start. The answers lie not in a shift back to heavy restrictive controls, but in a shift forward to a more flexible model that is able to respond to change whilst still protecting the business. And that is something that should be embraced as we move out of lockdown and into a strange – but opportunity filled – new world.
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Author: Jagjeet Pandha