In our Cisco survey, CIOs reveal their fears, strengths, and strategies for coping with the pandemic.

In my position as Cisco’s CIO, I often have the opportunity to connect with my peers across the industry. And that’s been a great source of strength in these very unpredictable times.

I know at Cisco we’re already accustomed to remote working, and we have the network expertise to make it happen on a large scale. But to go from 20,000 to 140,000 remote workers in 10 days was something we had never dealt with, and it required a great deal of coordination and teaming across the company. We had teams working around the clock and doing whatever it took to make sure Cisco employees could quickly begin working from home.

So it was great to check in with other CIOs, to gauge their stress levels and see where we could help. Many have done the same for me.

That’s why I’m excited about the results from a new Cisco study being released today. CIO Impact Report: COVID-19. For this study, we pulsed more than 300 global CIOs specifically on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their leadership strategies, day-to-day stress levels, and perspectives on current and future IT strategies.

Impact of COVID-19 on CTO's and CIO'sIt’s no secret that this has been a difficult transition for CIOs, and the CIO Impact study reported that 78 percent feel the pandemic has had a severe or major impact on their organizations.  Beyond that, some interesting insights emerged:

  • Our survey respondents listed the top stress drivers as security, VPN bandwidth, loss of productivity, and tech outages.
  • The increase in stress from security alone rose by 14 percent since the pandemic began, and half said that their security fears were connected to the sharp increase in remote work.
  • Another half said that the move to remote work represented a major cultural shift for their organizations.

Navigating the new normal — and looking beyond it

These numbers reveal the extent to which we’re all realizing what the new normal looks like — and the importance of digital transformation in navigating it with less stress. Many of us are already adjusting our future plans accordingly, to be better prepared for the next unexpected event. For most that will mean making additional investments.

The survey highlighted the critical role of modernized network technologies in supporting CIOs and their organizations through the current crisis. It’s a theme that we’ve been sharing at Cisco for years. And recent events have only confirmed the key pillars of digital transformation — rebuilding your infrastructure, reimagining your apps, securing your data, and empowering your teams — as never before.

Collaboration tools, of course, have been essential through this crisis. Our survey respondents highlighted the importance of regular team meetings using video (86 percent); unified communication tools that enable faster innovation and iteration (79 percent); and one-on-one meetings using video (78 percent).

An interesting call out, using video was shown as enabling CIOs to support their own teams’ mental health through the crisis. At Cisco we’ve done a lot of virtual coffee chats, happy hours, group fitness sessions and more. And though it doesn’t replace in-person communications I have actually found that I talk to my direct reports more often as we work from home.  There have definitely been some silver linings as we get creative on staying connected.

The next leap for IT

I’m incredibly proud of how my team responded to the crisis. But I’m also proud of the IT industry — CIOs and their teams have all but kept the world running through the lockdown, while enabling business continuity, health care, and other vital functions to continue.

Out of our survey respondents, 88 percent felt that the role CIO/CTO is expanding to have greater impact in their organizations and across their industries.

I agree fully. We live in unprecedented times, but I’ve learned that we’re stronger than we think we are. I work with an amazing team in an industry that’s changing the world. And I believe that there’s never been a better time to be in IT or a better time to transform.

At the same time, CIOs are looking beyond their own organizations. More than ever, they are considering the impact they can have in their communities and in the world.

There will be more challenges to come, no doubt. But I believe that the technologies will only get better and that continual transformation actually is the new normal. As IT professionals we are no stranger to change and much of this is a mindset shift as we reimagine IT.

As we emerge from this crisis, we’ll need to apply the lessons we’re currently learning, as we prioritize the opportunities ahead of us. That will include new investments in talent and inventive solutions we haven’t even thought of yet. The possibilities are endless.

In the end, I’m very optimistic as to where we can take IT — regardless of what the future may bring.


Cisco Live 2020: Day 1 Review



Jacqui Guichelaar

Senior Vice President & General Manager, Customer Experience, APJC