Companies must be prepared for uncertainty, continued remote work

| January 20, 2022

Australia is in the middle of a new COVID crisis as the fast spread of Omicron causes significant disruptions, with business leaders facing a somewhat rocky start to the new year. Self-imposed lockdowns, increasing staff absenteeism and supply chain chaos – the current challenges are endless. Business leaders may have to rethink the office return and continue to reinvent the way they work, including how to manage their teams in a way that is supportive and encouraging.  

Shane Baker, Chief Executive Officer of TransAction Solutions (TAS), predicts that CIOs will continue to be challenged this year with the heavy demands on digitalisation, robust technology and IT systems unlikely to dissipate anytime soon. He explains how the ongoing acceleration of digitalisation continues to test businesses, as does remote working, the hybrid workforce and the pressure to secure talent, which will only intensify as new variants like Omicron are set to emerge in the year ahead. 

“No one knows what will come in the year ahead, but to stay ahead of the virus, companies must be prepared for uncertainty. They must constantly refine their strategies to accommodate the ongoing challenges that the pandemic continues to present. To deliver to customers no matter what the circumstance, and retain and attract new customers and hires, even when thousands of the workforce are off sick, leaders must surround themselves with trusted advisors who can provide the necessary advice to continue to navigate unchartered waters,” Mr Baker said. 

According to Mr Baker, the three key priorities for any CIO in the year ahead given the current environment are: 

1. Ongoing enablement of remote working  

While businesses are exploring a return to the office, the new Omicron variant has thrown many plans into flux once again with talk of an ongoing remote working situation. This will demand attention from leaders to ensure that the right technology is in place to support a flexible workforce, with remote access to core business systems, real-time data and analytics, and tools which allow staff to share, work and collaborate together as they would if they were in the office, becoming critical. Businesses that have started the process will have to continue to fine-tune the working arrangement, systems and technology, while those that haven’t made the shift to remote working enablement will need to prioritise this so they can put it to work at times such as these.  

2. Automation and business efficiency 

Restriction of access to labour markets, increasing costs of labour, and now high staff absenteeism combined with supply chain disruption continue to place significant pressure on businesses to become far more efficient than before. Policies and procedures must be streamlined to remove unnecessary complexity, and technologies will need to deployed to reduce or remove the need for manual intervention in highly repetitive tasks. With companies seeing high percentages of their staff being off sick or in isolation, being able to operate in such conditions will become even more urgent in the year ahead as we enter a new phase of the pandemic.  

3. Security and compliance 

The rise of cybersecurity and tighter regulations around data security, along with increased exposure due to the remote workforce, will see businesses zoom in on governance, security and compliance. Procedures and policies will require ongoing review and enhancement, and leaders will need to have a focused strategy on how to address the risks to ensure the integrity of their clients’ data.