How the pandemic revealed opportunities to innovate

Some artificial fears and barriers that organizations faced around technology adoption before the pandemic are gone. This offers new opportunities for CIOs
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The sudden disruption of work brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the critical role that IT plays in every organization. For some companies, this has exposed serious IT shortcomings and has placed the organization at a competitive disadvantage. For others, it’s revealed the value of a well-oiled IT machine and the role it plays in advancing the organization.

For CIOs everywhere, this unprecedented time – where telework is the norm and technology adoption is happening rapidly – is an opportunity to innovate. We’ve seen this ourselves at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

[ Learn more about how UAB IT is approaching this new reality. Read: How CIOs can emerge from the pandemic with a competitive advantage. ]

During a recent town hall meeting with faculty and staff, someone asked the university president whether we would see more telework in the future. The inevitable answer is yes. For us, the pandemic has created opportunities to move quicker than we ever have before in launching new tools and capabilities.

Under normal circumstances, these deployments would have taken us months or years to roll out, but we didn’t have that luxury.

Early on, for example, we scrambled to ensure the organization’s investment in technology could handle the transition. It could and it did. Emboldened by necessity, faculty, researchers, and staff embraced existing and new technologies. They've innovated in the new normal of a pandemic. Under normal circumstances, these deployments would have taken us months or years to roll out, but we didn’t have that luxury. We had to move fast and months and years became days and weeks.

We also discovered that some students had computers that weren’t capable of running the programs for e-learning nor were they powerful enough for video conferencing. We quickly developed a solution that included pushing out virtual desktop infrastructure. This allowed students who had a machine without a lot of processing power to essentially use it as a display while the processing was performed in the cloud.

Improved technology adoption, increased opportunities

This pandemic has thrown all rules we once followed out the window. People are off their normal routine, and they’re actually liking it. They have embraced working remotely. The artificial fears and barriers people had before – “We can’t do this,” “That would never be an option,” “We will have to approach this slowly” – are all gone.

While UAB has always been an innovator, the beat has changed. The pace has quickened. As a result, we’re seeing an influx of people embrace technology and this new opportunity for change.

This is a very important time for the CIO. Organizations need us to step up, shine light on a new, transformational path, and help guide the organization there. Take advantage of this opportunity. Foster the widespread appreciation of the power of technology. Thrive in the new normal. And above all, work to create competitive advantages that will transform your organization.

[ Are you leading through change? Get the free eBook, Organize for Innovation. ]

Curtis A. Carver Jr., Ph.D. is the Vice President and Chief Information Officer for the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In this role servant leader and enabler of others, he leads a team of dedicated professionals focused on providing solution to the UAB through world-class IT with a focus on innovation, agility and cost efficiency.