Organizational Collaboration in a Pandemic: A Guide for CIOs

In these tumultuous times, BizOps teams can be instrumental in ensuring the fast adaptation and effective execution required. This blog post examines how CIOs can help foster the organizational collaboration that is essential in fueling these teams’ success.

In Midst of Rapidly Evolving Realities, Urgent Imperatives Arise

In today’s pandemic-wracked world, the imperatives for IT teams have shifted dramatically. The CIOs tasked with leading these organizations are tackling disruptive change, with new, critical initiatives arising that weren’t even on the radar at the start of the year. At the same time, the strategic imperatives that were there at the beginning of the year, such as leading digital transformation, haven’t gone away; they’ve only grown more urgent.

Further, while the demands and the urgency show no signs of letting up, internal teams also have to contend with unprecedented disruptions, adapting to remote workplaces, shifting roles, and revamped processes and workflows.

Positioning BizOps Teams for Success

Within many enterprises, BizOps strategies are playing an increasingly central role. As organizations navigate these roiling waters, they’re increasingly reliant upon BizOps teams to tackle some of the biggest, most pressing challenges.

How do CIOs help position these BizOps teams for success in times of crisis? In a recent report, IDC analysts examine how BizOps is helping foster effective management in times of crisis. This report provides CIOs with proven approaches for applying BizOps to crisis situations, based on proven best practices of CIOs, BizOps practitioners, and business leaders. (See “IDC PeerScape: Practices for Effective Use of BizOps in Crisis Management.”1 ) In the following sections, I highlight some of the most important strategies the report examined.

Optimize Organizational Collaboration with BizOps Teams

More than ever, communication is the glue that binds employees together. While always important, in these times of remote working, communication has emerged as pivotal, the connective tissue that ties people together and fosters the comradery, collaboration, and coordination that are essential to continued business success.

Optimized communication channels need to be established, and that’s particularly for true for BizOps teams. BizOps teams are being tasked with responding to critical enterprise needs. Across the organization, various departments and teams need to be apprised so they can assist, inform, and advise BizOps teams—not run the risk of countering or stifling their progress.

To foster this organizational collaboration, IDC analysts advise CIOs to address a number of key efforts:

  • Establish clear communication roles and responsibilities. Various executives may be involved with critical communications. It is vital to establish a detailed plan for communication, so leaders can minimize the chances of messages going out that are conflicting or redundant, or that critical information doesn’t get out at all.
  • Maintain continuous feedback loops. CIOs need to establish mechanisms that foster continuous sharing of intelligence. This includes enabling appropriate staff to access current reports, offer targeted feedback and recommendations, and help ensure that teams are staying on track.
  • Tailor content. Individuals across the organization will need to be kept apprised, but that doesn’t mean everyone should be receiving the same information. Instead to maximize efficiency and insights, look to establish channels, including reports, dashboards, and outbound messages, that are targeted to specific individuals, teams, and roles. (For more information on this topic, see our blog post, “The Communications Gap Between CIOs and Business Stakeholders—and How to Fix It.”)

Establish Intelligent Prioritization

Under normal circumstances (did we ever have those?), the CIO’s responsibilities for making prioritization decisions were difficult. Maximizing alignment with strategy, fielding requests, and mapping efforts with resources available has always been tough. In these times of crisis, however, these efforts are far more difficult, and applying resources to the wrong endeavors is that much more devastating for the business.

Therefore, it’s vital that CIOs, BizOps teams, and business stakeholders are given timely, targeted intelligence. More than ever, it’s vital that individuals are equipped to make fact-based decisions, rather than simply taking on the projects backed by the loudest advocates.

Moving forward, about the only certainty is that BizOps teams will face escalating demands; more than they can handle. To avoid overtaxing staff, leaders need to ensure they’re prioritizing intelligently. That means identifying the right criteria for prioritizing BizOps teams’ efforts based on evolving realities, continuously tracking key metrics, and reprioritizing existing initiatives as needs dictate. 

The IDC PeerScape report offered a great example that underscored the critical nature of intelligence in the current business landscape. In response to the emergence of COVID-19 and the prospects of significant drops in revenues in various segments of the business, a large financial institution’s leadership team sought to reduce capital expenditures. They had to determine which efforts and investments could be put on hold, and which couldn’t.

To make these decisions effectively, they needed intelligence. They needed to know what activities were under way, what dependencies were, what impacts there would be on resources, funding, timing, obligations, and so on. Architects worked with BizOps teams to furnish the insights required. They were able to identify options, understand impacts and dependencies, and develop a new, optimized set of priorities, and they collaborated to mitigate any potential unintended consequences.

Empower Teams

In fast changing, uncertain environments, decisions, assessments, and course corrections need to happen more frequently. Top leaders clearly can’t be involved in all day-to-day decisions, which is why it’s now so vital to empower teams at multiple levels of the organization to make local decisions. To do so, it’s important to communicate clearly and to establish a common vision that can inform decision making, while giving teams the autonomy they need to make tradeoffs and modifications based on changing circumstances

With a common vision, communicated and reinforced by leadership, team members across the organization can be clear on their objectives and goals, key deliverables, and top customer requirements.

Establish an Agile, Closed-Loop Approach

Across the board, speed is a powerful ally. Through BizOps, teams can accelerate their execution by getting business, development, and operations to work together more effectively. CIOs can further support the need for speed by establishing agile, closed-loop operating models across their organizations. In this way, teams can gather user research, develop hypotheses, introduce new features, get new capabilities in front of users, and employ real-time measurement to gauge results. Based on these insights, they can then revise their hypotheses, reimplement code, and continue to iterate.

It can also be useful to adopt a minimum viable product or service approach, which can help teams stretch resources while addressing urgent needs quickly. Through these approaches, teams can employ rapid and continuous learning, and foster the organizational collaboration that constantly reinforces and refines their shared vision.

BizOps-Powered Organizational Collaboration in Action

The IDC PeerScape report offered a number of compelling examples of organizations that have made significant strides through BizOps in recent months. Following are a few of the highlights:

  • Global banking and financial solution provider. This institution executed a large-scale agile transformation. By fostering a combination of collective business ownership and effective communications, the organization has been able to boost alignment. Teams have a common vision, and work together more effectively to prioritize efforts and address customer requirements. Now, more than 800 employees are contributing to 25 business-aligned release trains. These teams have a great deal of autonomy; they’re empowered to make suggestions, iterate, test with stakeholders, and deploy if successful.
  • Global healthcare product company. This business had forward-looking leadership that pursued digital transformation early on. They’d made investments in agile cloud services and digital collaboration capabilities. With these investments serving as a transformation foundation, the organization was able to quickly and efficiently pivot when their staff needed to start responding to the pandemic. Almost overnight, executives report their operations have become 10-times more digital than before.
  • Printer manufacturer. Through the intelligent implementation of BizDevOps, this manufacturer was able to reduce development costs by 40%. However, the advantages didn’t stop there. Through enhanced organizational collaboration, informed and business-aligned teams clearly understood top-level goals, and were thus empowered to make better trade-off decisions, faster, on an ongoing basis. Their streamlined communications and approval workflows helped significantly enhance the organization’s agility.

Conclusion

In the midst of so much change and uncertainty, it’s motivating and empowering to see examples of teams who are leveraging BizOps to not just survive these times, but to thrive. To learn more, be sure to download the report: “IDC PeerScape: Practices for Effective Use of BizOps in Crisis Management."

1. IDC, “IDC PeerScape: Practices for Effective Use of BizOps in Crisis Management,” Mike Rosen, Marc Strohlein, June 2020, IDC #US46577319