Caution: Speed Bumps Ahead

Community Blog
Written by Liz Ramey

DECEMBER 15, 2020

Months and months into a global pandemic, and wow, has IT set a new pace. Many companies have enhanced or operationalized digital capabilities faster than ever; new business models have been adopted at lightspeed, and IT has stepped up to support them; supply chains have been disrupted in myriad ways that IT must track and respond to. 

Some of these accelerated changes have come at the expense of quality and with increased risk, but overall, the deployment of new capabilities has positioned many enterprises 2-3 years ahead of their planned digital transformation. I’ve heard many CIOs over the last few months say, “We deployed new capabilities within 2-3 weeks that we predicted would take 12-18 months.” 

So, what’s the true expense of moving too quickly? If quality can be improved down the line and risk tolerance plans can be reassessed to support the new enterprise, then should companies plan to keep up this pace? Wait, I’ll answer that for you – NO. 

Adrenaline is subsiding, increased anxiety has come from the uncertainty of the fall and employee burnout is reaching levels you’d only expect in a start-up environment. As a CIO, the upcoming months are likely going to reveal several speed bumps that will force you to slow down and take care of your people. 

Prepare for these three speed bumps – change fatigue, trust, and burnout – in order to position the enterprise for sustainability and high morale in 2021.


Change Fatigue

Enterprises typically rely on good change-management practices when rolling out new business or technology initiatives, but when a crisis hits, carefully calculated steps can be a luxury you can’t afford. And when several crises hit, change-management practices are circumvented time and time again, causing instability and exhaustion. In an article published by Gartner in 2019, an employee survey stated, “66% of respondents say that change has a greater impact on their work now, and 71% say that the pace of change has increased in the past three years.” This was pre-pandemic – imagine the responses today. 

Two practices to keep in mind as change continues to be necessary.

  1. Motivation - Whether it’s recognition or goal setting, CIOs must chart a plan to keep their people motivated in ways that matter for them as well as the business. When you’re in the office, it can be easier to recognize what your people need than it is when they work remotely, so get creative and make sure you’re highlighting their efforts on a regular basis.
  2. Flexibility - If you haven’t already, establish individual plans that work best with each employee’s work/home lives. Either provide work-block options or let the employee decide what blocks of their day they can be the most productive.


Now more than ever, the employer’s trust is being tested. In Edelman’s Trust Barometer Spring Update, only 43% of those surveyed feel like companies are concerned about their health and safety. The research states, “Business is being called upon to demonstrate both its ability and integrity—the key building blocks of trust.” 

Continue to cultivate these practices in order to build and/or maintain trust:

  1. Communication - Tony Robbins said, “The way we communicate with others and ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.” Be deliberate, consistent and concise with your communication. 
  2. Honesty & Empathy - Two leadership qualities that are more important than ever. CIOs can build trust by being transparent. If you don’t know the answer, then tell your employees that you don’t know – but continue to encourage questions and dialogue. Tell them that you will provide the information the minute you can and empathize with their frustration over such uncertainty.


Different than change fatigue, burnout from long hours, little vacation, and the foggy line between home and work has caused many IT employees to begin to slow productivity. In an article published on Fast Company, author Jason Shen provides key statistics revealing that many IT professionals have been working throughout their lunches and long into the evenings, just to keep up with their workloads – or the perception that this is expected by leadership.

CIOs must confront burnout now if they want to sustain healthy productivity in the future.

  1. Project prioritization - We all know that the most important business projects have been moved to the top of our lists, but CIOs must also formally halt projects that can be paused. If necessary, dust off your resource planning strategy. Set reasonable timelines and communicate these with the business.
  2. Prioritize time off – Many organizations are offering free days off or early release Fridays. These practices can be used to help motivate your team and provide them with time to regain their focus.


IT truly transformed businesses in a matter of months this year. The speed and agility at which they deployed new capabilities is an astonishing feat, like breaking the 4-minute mile. But IT can no longer sprint – they can’t sustainably keep this pace for the marathon that lies ahead. Keeping in mind these three speed bumps, CIOs should set a pace that ensures consistent motivation and high morale.


Liz Ramey headshot

Liz Ramey

Director, Content at Evanta, a Gartner Company


by CIOs, for CIOs

Join the conversation with peers in your local CIO community.