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Part of KPMG's series COVID-19: Insights for CIOs and IT executives on considerations for building IT and business resilience in challenging times.

From triage to the new reality

Tolerances for risk, uncertainty and ambiguity are typically factored into an enterprise's strategy and plans. But how to react when a situation surpasses tolerances and the entire organisation must operate differently during a global pandemic such as coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Many businesses have needed to adapt to remote ways of working quickly, have faced a surge in use of digital channels, and have needed to make technology solutions operate in constrained environments – while putting a stop to discretionary IT transformation spend.

Within these challenging market conditions, leaders must ensure they are driving value from their portfolio by doing the right work, at the right time, with the right resources. A considered, integrated business strategy can adapt rapidly to changing market conditions and customer demands to remain relevant. It is paramount to be able to quickly reprioritise IT work to drive maximum value with limited resources.

This article in our series Insights for CIOs and IT Executives, explores how leaders can help steer organisations through the phases of reset, recovery and emergence into the new normal, utilising four work-prioritisation practices.

Prioritising work

Risk, uncertainty and ambiguity levels in acceptable ranges were a part of the plan pre-pandemic. However, in these uncertain times, the situation surpasses those tolerances, and the entire organisation must be ready to react. So how to prioritise work when everything is a priority? Here are four tips for consideration.

1. Criticality:

Evaluate what the most critical services (including obligations) your organisation must continue to deliver during an extended crisis situation. Focusing on what is truly urgent versus important will help prioritise which requests are mission critical to core organisational functionality. While not all challenges are created equal, critical items could include ones that can lead to systemic failure, impacting the health, safety, security and integrity of the organisation, its employees and customers. It’s important to keep timing in mind, and rank all of the work into what is most impactful and most urgent both internally and externally. For example, in a time of reprioritisation, consider business continuity, stability of operations, which technology capabilities directly impact revenue-generating and customer-facing activities, as well as the wins on digital business transformation initiatives and the positive impacts they’ve had to core capabilities.

2. Impact:

Understand the key business impacts caused by coronavirus (COVID-19) and how IT departments need to adapt to address these. It is important to have a holistic view of the business capabilities across the entire IT function. This will vary based on how mature the organisation is, with less mature organisations needing more urgent attention, and more mature organisations relying on product portfolios, moving quickly to technical elements. Once the work is classified, mapped to outcomes and tied to the technology estate, it is easier to determine what work can be stopped, deferred or deprioritised – freeing up critical assets, resources and capital.

Impact infographic

3. Sequencing:

Once priorities and IT capabilities are organised, determine the order in which things will get done. For example, deploying secure VPN access would be considered an immediate need, while automating a functioning process might be considered secondary. Sequence work that immediately resets the core operations, helps the business recover and kicks off longer tail work to deliver results when we reach the new normal operating environment.

4. Resourcing:

Once priorities are set, staff can be appropriately assigned. In times of urgency, the work being done is likely to be agile and dynamic, impacting cross-functional groups. It is important to engage business partners early to determine the skills and capabilities required, when, and for how long. This can help inform how to reallocate resources to areas of need to ensure continuity of customer services and stability of key operations. When faced with reduced availability, consider looking externally to supplement internal capabilities with additional resourcing.

Through this challenging and stressful time, technology leaders’ good practices and prioritisations will help support your enterprise to successfully navigate through this pandemic, and be even better prepared for any future challenges.


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COVID-19: Insights for CIOs and IT executives series