Delivering on the post-pandemic promise

A story is vital, but it is not the outcome. As leaders face a new wave of challenges in the wake of Covid-19, realistic delivery will be vital.

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Leaders must deliver on what they promise. As the globe begins to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, leadership will face challenges every bit as significant as those dealt with during 2020 to 2021. Business technology leaders, as with all leaders at all levels, will now be tasked with delivering on the prospects of a post-pandemic enterprise and society.

The 2021 Gartner CEO Survey: The Year of Rebuilding, finds that CEOs expect technology to be at the centre of a return to economic viability. This is wonderful news and well deserved, but not without its risks. All levels of leadership, in recent years, have been prone to offering up dreams of the future. Now is the time to be realistic. Leadership's history is littered with tales of promised bridges to glory, infrastructural developments to rival the island of the Tracy family in popular children's cartoon The Thunderbirds or unsinkable ships. If all you can offer is a bus stop, then be realistic and offer a bus stop, not a bridge to rival the Millau Viaduct.

As a result, it will be important for leaders to right-size the promises they offer. We all want to be part of a colossal success that transforms a vertical market, community or completely innovates the way our organisations operate - that is human nature - a frail and fickle beast as we have all seen since early 2020. But the recovery, like the sensibilities of our valued staff and customers, is weakened by the pandemic. The correct size of change and delivery for your organisation and market will be far more successful. If the business needs a raft to stay afloat as the world economy recalibrates, then don't promise a Blue Ribbon winning ocean liner that will not only succeed but break records. In order to choose the right size of change and delivery, leaders will need to be clear about what they control. The pandemic has demonstrated the extent of globalisation, with sectors such as automotive hit by chip fabrication delays being just one example. These challenges will continue; climate change, which is set to be a bigger challenge to leadership, markets and society than the pandemic, will increasingly disrupt supply chains, transport routes, people's lives and the stability of routines.

CIOs and CTOs are at the centre of the control and globalisation debate. Competition for skills is at an all-time high, and those business technology leaders that don't take the opportunity to control and improve the purpose of their organisation and its contribution to the development of a talent pool will lose out. Selecting the right partners, empowering and developing the skills of your workforce and local community will become increasingly important, because demand is already outstripping supply.

Pressure for talent, chips or just flexibility will mean that leadership will have to become increasingly community focused. Building communities and espousing the value of the ecosystem that your team and organisation is part of will be vital if vows are to be upheld. Many lessons can be drawn from the good work already done (though much more to do) in diversity and inclusion. Difference within a community is to be celebrated and harnessed, and whereas some like to over value doing things differently, unique ways to deliver a shared vision and outcome is far more likely to deliver success.

With CEOs believing technology is part of the solution to taking back control of their organisational destiny, those same CEOs are looking at a balance sheet that needs some serious levelling up. As a result, IT budgets will not be profligate. Leaders will therefore need to be extra vigilant in getting the details absolutely correct, and budget calculations have to be realistic. In addition, failures to get the devil of the detail right will be exploited by suppliers, rivals, partners and fellow peers. None of us can complain if we are at fault; those that follow the detail to the letter have the same leadership challenges as we face in our organisations.

As was seen in the pandemic, the CIO and CTO community is well versed in completion and delivering on its promise - especially in a tight spot. But the turbulence of the pandemic will live with all of us for some time to come. Therefore leaders must continue to focus on defining what they are promising, deliver on that promise and communicate clearly what has been achieved. This next chapter will be one of the hardest for leaders. Those that keep making new promises and never or under deliver will put those they lead at great risk. But those that deliver, honestly, on the promises they have made will reap the reward.