PwC’s Robert Byrne: ‘There’s a need to understand the overall change agenda’

3 Jun 2020

Robert Byrne, PwC. Image: Connor McKenna/

With businesses going through so many changes at the moment, PwC’s Robert Byrne spoke to us about the challenges facing CIOs.

Covid-19 has pushed digital transformation forward so much for many companies that it’s possible the role of the CIO has never been more critical.

How a business will survive and thrive during this pandemic and how it will emerge in a post-Covid-19 world will be largely dependent on how CIOs handle change management and how truly resilient their IT strategies are.

Robert Byrne is a partner in technology consulting at PwC Ireland. He said that in the uncertainty of everything that lies ahead, organisations will need to face some big changes right now.

“It’s been said that nothing has done more for the digital agenda than Covid-19 and I think there’s something in that,” he said.

“I think to build upon that and to really push the digital agenda and enable the organisation to thrive when we all emerge from this, I think that’s where the technological resilience question really comes in.”

CIOs need to think about IT change management right now and how their current strategy and projects need to change. This might include re-shoring some projects or finding other routes to market.

“There’s a very real need to have a strong ability to understand the overall change agenda, to be able to prioritise what is truly important in the short term, but also on the strategic front,” said Byrne. “And I think what’s most important is to leave room within your IT delivery capacity to be able to react with agility to the short-term and must-do changes, but also not lose sight of the strategic changes that need to happen to allow the business to continue to grow and emerge from Covid.”

The importance of balance

With one of the biggest challenges for CIOs being the need to prioritise strategies, Byrne said finding the balance between short-term goals and necessary long-term plans will be critical.

“The CIO will need to be the centre point to balance the need to protect and serve the business in the immediate sense, and make sure that the business can continue to run and operate successfully as it has been, and also allow the bigger changes that are needed,” he said.

Covid gave licence to technology to make a range of changes that were necessary to allow the business to operate completely remotely and to be able to survive and continue operating in a very difficult set of circumstances.”

Those short-term changes include strategies to enable mass remote working and putting safety measures in place. Byrne said while he doesn’t expect these projects to disappear completely, he does expect the need for them to reduce given that a lot of the immediate challenges have been successfully dealt with.

“But I would see continuing demand for remote working projects, for maybe increased levels of collaboration or communication tools, for increased moves towards cloud-based services. So projects like that, I would expect to continue to be needed.”

Looking ahead to a post-Covid-19 working world, Byrne said those larger technology projects or strategic technology projects that will help a business succeed will be the ones that will need attention next.

“So, the CIO really needs to stay close to the business through all of this.”

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic