21 things that CXOs might have to do differently in 2021

21 things that CXOs might have to do differently in 2021
Indus Net Technologies
According to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, the current global situation can be divided into three phases -- the pre-Covid era, the lockdown and recovery. However, none of these phases are linear -- as new Covid-19 strains are emerging, a few countries are heading back to lockdown. Some others have started vaccinating. With many looming uncertainties, the year of 2021 would leave businesses in a state of upheaval. But many believe that it would pave the way for a better world ahead.

The business leaders or CXOs will have to either keep up with the disruption or stay ahead in order to survive. Here are a few mantras that CXOs might have to include in their New Year resolution list this year.


The Chairman of Tata Group N Chandrasekaran extended the ownership and responsibility of the big changes with all his employees. As “rules are being rewritten”, he said, new opportunities are akin to a bridge. “But it is a special kind of bridge because we are not simply waiting to see what happens on the other side. Instead, we have a hand in building our own destination,” he said.

Referred to as India’s corporate disruptor-in-chief, Anand Mahindra the chairman of Mahindra and Mahindra group of companies said that Covid-19 gave them a unique opportunity to reboot by winding up loss making businesses to focus on what can yield them benefits going ahead.

Organizations like Dr Reddy’s Laboratories also seemed to have made up their mind to weave in volatility into their 2021 performance. “We believe FY2021 will have more uncertainties than ever before. Consequently, our overall performance may be quite volatile," Dr Reddy's Laboratories said in its latest annual report.

It seems like all the top leaders had embraced the upheaval that the pandemic has caused and turned 2021 into ‘the year of rebuilding’. To ensure that, the leadership has to brace for surprises, make agile plans and make room for the many uncertainties that are very likely to come. A few pointers that would help them in the way, would be:

  • The first is to make agile plans that can be amended easily to weave in uncertainty.
  • The new year should be about making fresh plans and not just about building on existing structures.
  • The digital way of doing things should be woven into the framework. One such way would-be smart outsourcing right from marketing to advertising to hiring.
  • As the world shifts to the work-from-home mode, technology and security budgets should be expanded.
  • The top leadership should turn a little ‘hands-on’ to make more virtual appearances more often to motivate the remote workforce.


Srinivas Phatak, the head of finance of HUL adopted a “follow the money” strategy during the pandemic. “Gone are the days where you can think about an innovation in a timeframe of nine months. The new normal is nine weeks. And how well can we do it? These are the kind of things we'll have to get better at in 2021,” he said.

The CFOs are also coining a new designation for themselves called ‘change agents’. “CFOs will have to bring new ideas on the table both within and outside their finance function,” said Rahul Malhotra, finance chief of Integreon.

Some pointers for them would be:

  • They would have to make structural changes to the finance function to support fast-paced transformation.
  • Since organizations need to move faster, they would have to have less baggage. That would mean leaner credit profiles with refinanced debt at bargained interest rates.
  • The inventory levels must also come down to keep pace with fast changing demand and supply dynamics.
  • CFOs must make way for higher R&D budgets that would ensure innovation matches market speed.
  • The finances of a company would have to be much more transparent. It will come under constant review to gauge the success of the many launches and changes.
  • To support change at an organizational level, CFOs will have to ensure funds keep flowing in and that would require streamlining investments and divestments.


COOs will have to bring technology and operations together, as organizations adopt digital modes of working.

  • They need to play many roles including motivating the workforce, and re-building logistics for new products and projects.
  • This year, most companies would tighten budgets. Hence, COOs will have to increase operational efficiency by adopting analytics and other digital tools to lower costs.
  • They would have to build a ‘human connect’ while adopting automation to ensure employees accept digitization.
  • This is especially important as they would have to re-think hiring and maintain a skeleton structure that would align with changed cost dynamics in 2021.
  • They would also have to re-think physical assets like offices in the wake of a new normal.


As remote working becomes the new normal, CIOs and CTOs should assume the new role as quasi-COOs who would ensure business continuity.

Most CIOs are betting on managed services which can ensure that they can transition to the new role with extended responsibilities. "With the focus growing more on digital, leaning on managed services ensures that domain experts help you with the scaling as you focus on your core competency," said Radhakrishna Pillai, CIO of SRL Ltd.

  • They should drive change in communication strategies to ensure remote working does not affect productivity.
  • They will have to drive creation of new products and assets with insights from big data, smart data and analytics.
  • The data sets themselves could be converted into products that can bring in revenue.
  • They will also play an active role in innovation as organizations tilt towards cloud-first and digital-first strategies.
  • Managed services, with providers like INT. (Indus Net Technologies) ensure uptime guarantee, proactive support and SLA driven response and resolution.
  • If digital is the game, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is the new domain.


In 2021, CMOs will drive sales electronically where consumers have no sense of ‘touch and feel’. They would have to beef up virtual experiences and make selling ‘smarter’. And all this while building a deeper emotional connect with the consumer.

“With a digital-first mindset, there’s a good opportunity to be smarter about using data to make sure that our touchpoints with customers are intentional, mindful, and impactful. For marketers, smart use of data and AI delivers personalization, and personalization drives growth,” said Stephanie Buscemi, the global CMO of Salesforce.

  • For long, customers have been demanding customization and in 2021, it will only amplify. With the power of big data, it is now possible to divide customer pools into thinner and thinner segments for relevant offerings.
  • Micro-segmentation can help identify new needs and improve return on investments for digital advertising.
  • But perhaps, CMOs shouldn’t miss the woods for the trees. INT ensures that micro-segmentation is a part of the integrated digital marketing. It devises end-to-end strategies using the right tools and a process in the right order for the best outcome.
  • Outsourcing key marketing functions to match the speed of product innovation and shorter product-to-market cycles, will also increase as the world embraces the new normal.
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post in partnership with Indus Net Technologies.