The third Metis Strategy Digital Symposium of 2021 is in the books. A special thanks goes to the global CIOs, CEOs and entrepreneurs who offered their perspectives on the future of work and innovation and shared their organizations’ plans for returning to the office and an emerging “new normal.”
Below are a few takeaways from the event. Check out our YouTube channel in the coming weeks to view recordings of individual panel discussions.
Digital acceleration focuses on employee and customer experience. The pandemic unleashed a wave of digital acceleration as organizations navigated a rapid shift in how we live and work. As parts of the world begin to reopen, CIOs say they expect that acceleration to continue as organizations seek to create tools that deliver value to customers quickly across both physical and digital channels.
Hotels, for example, are upgrading Wi-Fi to create a better experience for guests who may blend work and pleasure while staying at a property. Updated apps will allow guests to schedule housekeeping at times that fit their preferences, providing more flexibility to guests while driving changes to internal operations. At B2B companies, digital experiences such as virtual coaching and real estate tours are likely to continue even as more people return to offices. Technology leaders noted continued investments in technology platforms that will allow their organizations to adapt to changing circumstances quickly.
Hybrid work models get their first big test. As a “new normal” comes into focus, one thing executives agree on is that the future of work will be hybrid. When asked what an anticipated future-of-work operating model would look like, 92% of attendees indicated it would be some form of hybrid work. Indeed, 60% said they have communicated future-of-work plans to employees, while nearly 30% said they plan to do so in the next few months.
While the future may be hybrid, a return to the office will not be uniform across industries and developing a playbook has been more of an art than a science. Leaders noted that while they have established plans around the future of work, they expect those plans to adapt as they test new ways of working and learn what works well (and what does not). Nevertheless, they say a mix of in-person and remote working will create opportunities to attract new talent and foster new forms of innovation.
Platform investment aids sustainable, scalable innovation. Many executives noted faster decision making as one of the pandemic’s silver linings. A challenge for IT leaders now is figuring out how to maintain a spirit of speed and innovation while providing the tools and governance needed to deliver growth. As one executive put it: delivering “business value at startup speed.”
CIOs said enterprise-wide technology platforms increasingly play a role in doing just that. At Pizza Hut, for example, platforms have become the foundation upon which new innovations can be delivered. That approach allows for sufficient governance of new initiatives while allowing new solutions to scale quickly, improve productivity, and reduce costs.
IT increasingly key to enabling enterprise strategy. Vanguard CEO Tim Buckley (himself the company’s former CIO) and current CIO John Marcante discussed how the company’s rotation programs helped develop them as leaders. These programs allow leaders to “drink deeply” in technology while giving them a broader view of the business, a perspective that ultimately helped them understand technology’s role in achieving business objectives. While metrics like productivity and uptime are important, Marcante said, technology leaders’ influence shows itself in how they apply technology to enterprise strategy and create more flexibility for the business.
For CIOs hoping to ascend to the CEO role, or even to be more valuable in their current position, Buckley advised executives to not only know their own role deeply, but to also learn and understand the challenges facing colleagues across the business. “Being good at your job is table stakes,” Buckley said. “If you want to be a change agent, you have to understand other peoples’ [jobs]…”
Low-code/no-code continues to democratize IT: The pandemic spurred an uptick in adoption of low-code and no-code tools to build work apps, with Forrester estimating that the market has grown by 23% between 2019 and 2021. Quickbase CEO Ed Jennings said that has caused some IT departments to warm to the idea of citizen developers, employees outside IT who create business applications for themselves or others. Jennings said low-code/no-code applications may be part of the solution as companies continue to face talent shortages, particularly among technical staff. Indeed, 56% of executives polled at the event noted that finding candidates with the proper skillset is the biggest obstacle to hiring. If the barriers to creating useful business applications dissolve, Jennings said, IT increasingly becomes the responsibility of the entire organization. Many executives we have spoken with say they continue to experiment with the technology.
Stay tuned for more information on our next Digital Symposium, which will take place September 22.