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The coronavirus outbreak is a human tragedy, affecting hundreds of thousands of people. The process of containment and slowing the spread of the virus in each country is creating major disruption. In addition to the serious implications for people’s health and the healthcare services, COVID-19 is having a significant impact on businesses and the economy.

In this context, CIOMajlis organized a virtual meeting of more than 40 leading technology executives in the UAE, to discuss CIO areas of focus during the COVID-19, as CIOs need to take proactive actions to maintain as much business continuity as possible. 

This article is intended to provide business leaders and senior technology executives with a perspective on the lessons learned and recommendations for the work from home initiatives in the UAE. This article reflects our perspective as of April 8, 2020.

Business Continuity: CIOs play vital roles in making sure their organizations can function during COVID-19. CIOs need to review, test and update their BCP as new emerging risks/threat appear, and think of “what-if” scenarios and test them to ensure operational continuity.

Emotional well-being: As COVID-19 changes how we work, CIOs must also consider the wellbeing of their employees, as they are facing increasing mental health issues. CIOs require to pay more attention to the emotional well-being of staff and provide encouragement and appreciation while trying to keep spirit through virtual human interaction.

Supply Chain: As COVID-19 continues to impact supply chains, CIOs need to think of and find ways to ensure logistics and secure supplies of material and equipment during crises and pandemics. Lesson learned from the enforcement of business closure in the UAE that restricted the availability of material and equipment.

Agility: The COVID-19 crisis has posed numerous challenges to businesses. Many companies are already financially impacted, and the global economy is predicted to be hit to the tune of $1 trillion according to the World Economic Forum. To overcome all these burdens, CIOs need to embrace agile methodologies at this time more than ever and innovate by providing new capabilities (scaling tech capabilities) and tools.

Cybersecurity Focus: With the whole nation working from home, cyber hackers are looking to exploit vulnerabilities in order to steal valuable information. CIOs need to focus on cybersecurity and ensure safety and security when leveraging infrastructure for work from home initiative. CIOs have also to make sure to provide the necessary cybersecurity trainings to staff.

Close collaboration with other departments: CIOs need to play a leading role to ensure flexible policies and procedures are implemented and work with HR and legal departments to overcome organizational challenges.

Leading Practices: Many organizations have never provided work from home flexibility, so this is a new experience for a lot of people. For those who are used to remote work at home or in public spaces, it may be just as much of a transition to set up a home office as for those new to the experience. It’s important for CIOs to share best practices with staff to establish a place where they can be the most productive, to have proper equipment and ergonomic setup, to ensure work-life balance, and to exercise to help improve blood circulation and muscle activity.

Performance Metrics: Employees are increasingly working remotely due to the new COVID-19 outbreak. CIOs need to establish clear performance metrics in the work from home initiatives.