A CIO’s View: Reacting to Crisis – We’ve been here before

Posted by Hans Weinberg on April 8, 2020

reacting to crisis during cover 19 for businesses and ciosAs experienced executives, we remember the upheaval from the previous global pandemic. In 2009, the H1N1 virus hit, coming on top of a 2008 recession which resulted in a 50% decline in the stock market. CIOs were forced to adjust their budgets. 

During that turbulent period, I was the CIO for ABB in North America, with around 30,000 employees and
several $$Bn’s in revenue. I had a financial target of reducing the IT budget by 10%, with worse to come as I had to move most of my spending as CIO from fixed cost to variable cost. Due to the risks posed by Swine Flu, these targets had to be achieved while making arrangements for most staff to be able to work from home. A complicated challenge at any time, but made more difficult back then –  as I’m sure you remember – all sensitive information and systems were on-premise, not in the cloud.

Why the nostalgic look back? The point I want to make is that during economic turbulence, difficult market conditions, and global pandemics, CIOs need to figure out how to reduce cost, meet targets, but at the same time continue to deliver services at a pre-crisis level. In 2008/2009 the easiest/hardest cost reduction was to remove staff and move services off-shore (outsource). Today the landscape is different, many of us CIOs today have different cost priorities and commitments – for example data storage cost, digital transformation and analytics.

Many companies are using this time to accelerate technology projects that will both, reduce cost and provide a flexible digital platform for the next wave of growth. Remote working is now an inevitable trend, forcing rapid digital transformation upon all of us.

We’ve faced similar challenges in the past and have the opportunity to apply those learnings in our current climate. My next post will be looking at some of those opportunities, remaining calm and managing the crisis to be primed for a rebound.

Part one of two – Click here to read part two