3 post-COVID priorities for CIOs: Workplace transformation, emerging tech, and CX

Closeup shot of shoes with arrows on the ground pointing in different directions.

COVID-19 is a disruption like none other, as few businesses had the foresight to plan for a global pandemic.

While everyone in an organisation is surely feeling the heat right now (the CEO included), I’d argue CIOs are being tested even more since they are tasked to ensure business continuity though technology.

As enterprises look to capitalise on digital transformation projects, three challenges emerge: How will workplace cultures transform? What emerging technologies will create new value? And who will lead sustained investment in customer experiences?

Supporting workplace culture

Agility is the most powerful attribute of the modern organization, and at no other time has the ability to move at speed mattered so much. Workplace culture plays a huge role. If in a centralized organisation structure business decisions are made at the top or in a head office and distributed down the chain of command, a decentralized organisation allows decisions to be made by managers and subordinates further down the chain. Organisations that most quickly adapted to the current business climate decentralised their capabilities – in other words, delegating key business decisions – to leaders throughout their organisations.

Data in the “2020 APAC Digital Trends Report” by Adobe and Econsultancy supports this trend. The report reveals that more than 50 percent of businesses in Australia and New Zealand that are classified as “mature” in customer experience – and 33 percent of APAC businesses overall – have decentralised functions.

This plays neatly into the current work-from-home model that almost all businesses have had to deploy in 2020. One company moving fast to support workplaces during the COVID-19 pandemic is HR outsourcing company CXC, who were required to onboard 400 contractors in two weeks due to workplace shutdowns. Fortunately, it had the right capabilities for the job: a seamless contract management process powered by Adobe Sign. Chris Thuell, director of risk and compliance at CXC, says if COVID-19 had happened before the company had Adobe Sign, its entire business would’ve stopped.

“One day we were in the office, and the next day we were all working at home. It was seamless — no interruptions at all,” says Thuell.

As we transition to the post-pandemic work world, there is no doubt that old workforce cultures of command and control are getting left behind, and businesses need to adopt flexible and agile approaches and decentralised decision-making.

Creating new business value

Thriving in today’s (and tomorrow’s) dynamic marketplace will be determined by how well businesses can harness and integrate new technologies. To name a few capabilities, emerging technologies can support process automation, predictive analytics, and decision generation. They have the power to dramatically improve employee and customer experiences, making a business a true partner to its employees and a valued brand to its customers.

Improvements in automation will create greater value for both business and society, allowing businesses to be more responsive to customer needs, provide more personalised services and recommendations, and provide higher value work to employees through phasing out low-skill, repetitive, and administrative work.

In fact, findings from Adobe’s Digital Trends research show that 54 percent of APAC companies are planning to invest in emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, compared with the global average of 42 percent. This suggests successful APAC CIOs have a greater appetite for adopting new technologies.

Kayo Sports is one example. The Australian video streaming service leverages AI and first-party data to run personalised retargeting campaigns and conduct lookalike modelling to expand its reach. In less than one year, Kayo Sports has grown its paying subscriber base from zero to 364,000.

Leading investment in customer experience

Sustained development of customer experience (CX) involves investing across a combination of people, processes, and technology. According to Adobe’s recent “Reskilling Revolution” study<u>,</u> reinforced by the business impact caused by COVID-19, digital and data literacy have clearly become more important for all employees. In addition, data and analytics, together with technology-driven gains in capacity, will help create more ways to engage customers, enhance CX, and deliver a greater commercial impact.

Technology adoption will ultimately lead to process improvement, but we will have to keep investing in process improvements to drive maximum value. Adobe’s annual Digital Trends Report has been published for a decade now, so we can benchmark businesses that made early and continued investments in CX technology versus the laggards. Those that made early investments and are mature in CX were three times more likely to have significantly exceeded their 2019 business goals.

A key example is Business Australia, who support business owners with marketing consultations, access to government grants, HR legal documents, and cash flow support. Content is one of Business Australia’s most valuable services, and the organisation implemented Adobe Experience Manager in February of this year to manage and publish new content to its website. They’ve published over 650 pages so far, some multi-lingual. The content management system makes it easy to create, approve, and publish content, so the team can move fast and keep the website fresh — which became important as the COVID-19 outbreak forced Business Australia to revise all of its messaging just before launch.

Prudent and sustained investment will be required through these uncertain times to ensure businesses are optimally positioned when the tide turns. This new environment compels every organisation’s CIO to integrate technology into processes and systems, not just to survive but also to compete and engage with customers and staff.