Blog: role of the CIO & Tech in times of economic downturn

Blog: role of the CIO & Tech in times of economic downturn

2023-05-12 | NB | Blog AnnaFriday 12 May 2023

CIOs should step up when economy goes down.

There are a number of crises at the moment, both in the world and in the Netherlands. Crises such as climate and biodiversity change, shortage of workforce, inflation, immigration, and war...

Technology and we, as technology leaders, can help CEOs and governments to address those challenges. Some companies have already demonstrated how to do this on a smaller scale. The next step now is to scale up, using our community’s wisdom and collaboration. Are you in?

The world is quite uncertain, again…
There are quite some challenges at the moment, in the world and in the Netherlands. We’re dealing with a global climate and biodiversity crisis, which is - exceptionally notable - on the local scale in the Netherlands. Moreover, there’s war again in Europe, which also “helped” us to be aware of other wars in the world. Both climate change and warfare lead to immigration, to the Netherlands as well. One would think that this would actually help against the aging population in Europe and in our own country, but to be honest, we’re not yet dealing with this new talent pool that well… Unsurprisingly, this whole situation leads to a social crisis: lack of trust in the system and governments, and a growing gap between poor and rich.

There is also a part of this crisis that we created ourselves, with the use of information technology. Thanks to the internet and social networks, disinformation spreads very fast, especially now with the development of large language models like ChatGPT. Internet and e-commerce also increased overconsumption of goods. The society got used to real-time ordering, receiving, using… and throwing things away, often very fast and without recycling.

Cut the IT-costs, again…
As a result of the crises some of us, CIOs / IT-directors, got the question from their board of directors to cut the costs in IT. If you were lucky, you got this question together with your peers in operation or commerce, which means that you could cut different types of costs by investing in technology. Only few of us are asked how information technology can increase the resilience and agility of our companies to adjust the course and to contribute to new business models of our organisations. If you received the first question, don’t shy away to also unsolicitedly provide your answer to the second question. Whichever of these two questions you got, please take into account that you have to answer it in a world with workforce shortage in the IT-sector.

So what do we do? We help our companies and each other!
Yes, even when we’re competitors, we need to work together on some issues. Because some crises are bigger than any of our organizations. In the cutting cost challenge, we can instead challenge our IT-suppliers, who usually follow a “divide and conquer” strategy, making profit from all of us. Moreover, in a new business challenge empowered by technology, of course, you have competitors, but you also have partners who are further ahead than you in some areas. So learn to combine forces!

Even in the workforce shortage challenge, we can compete with each other on the same set of candidates; we can even (implicitly) ask recruiters to approach IT-employees in your neighbour-organisation to step over. Especially easy when you target non-profit organisations, because they don’t have that competitive salaries. But to structurally address the workforce shortage, we can also make sure that more children choose for IT, that other disciplines at different colleges and universities include some basic IT-skills, and that immigrants get access to the IT-labour market in the Netherlands.

In the situation that you as a CIO are not receiving the question to contribute to the resilience and agility of your company, your peers can help you to change this situation: open the eyes of your peer directors and board of how Tech can create value if the going gets tough. In times that economy goes down, CIOs should step up and not sit on the sideline as spectator!

When the world is uncertain: act, keep learning and working together!

Anna Chernilovskaya
Member CIO Commitee Digital Strategy & Innovation CIO Platform Nederland
CIO ONVZ

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