The unprecedented spread of the novel Coronavirus is posing a serious threat to the global economy. We are witnessing disruptions across the globe impacting nearly all industries, with some like Travel, Hospitality, Finance, and Manufacturing being heavily affected. As COVID-19’s consequences ripple through the global economy, it is certain that technology will be one of the most powerful weapons for businesses to respond effectively and decisively to this challenge. However, with worldwide, IT spending projected to decline by 8% in 20201,
Four key IT imperatives that organizations should focus and invest will be
- How to build trusted digital workspace for the future
- Employee engagement
- Remote customer relationship management
- Fast-tracking digital adoption by focusing on cloud, cybersecurity, hyper-automation, and analytics
Let’s explore the new normal:
A. Digital workspace of future
Nearly 48% of employees are likely to work from home (WFH) in the post-pandemic environment as against 30% who did so before2. As organizations increasingly shift to remote work operations, they should relook into their strategies for asset availability/connectivity, collaboration and security for the digital workspaces. It involves:
- Seamless switching from work to home: Virtual desktop infrastructure/desktop as a service will continue to gain traction as cloud adoption increases and organizations support trends like bring your own device (BYOD). On the other hand, the key focus will also remain to increase the VPN capacity, which will also grow numerous challenges, including cost of endpoint equipment, effort required to manage devices, etc. VDI will help overcome these challenges as the end devices will act as thin clients completely managed by organizations.
- Strengthening security: Work from anywhere (WFX) is here to stay, which makes it challenging for enterprises to protect their infrastructure, applications and data from risks and vulnerabilities. Even large enterprises have witnessed a spike in phishing and ransomware attacks since the onset of COVID-19. As of May 2020, over 150 organizations globally have had their data published on leak sites: with the majority of these (60%) leaks having occurred after 11th March, when the WHO first declared the COVID-19 outbreak to be a pandemic3. No wonder the global cybersecurity market size is expected to grow from USD 183.2 billion in 2019 to USD 230.0 billion by 2021, at a CAGR of 12.0%4.
Going forward, organizations should adopt a ‘Zero Trust Approach’ and reduce their attack surface by:
- Scanning all existing applications, servers, VPN/VDI connections and endpoints at regular intervals.
- Ensuring compliance of all assets connecting to VPN with periodic security checks.
- Ensuring all endpoint devices have the necessary software installations for security – advanced antivirus, email protection, end point detection and response software, etc. that can block ransomware, malware based on machine learning and behavior patterns.
- Tightening security for internet facing applications through multi-factor authentication, implementing block mode in web application firewall, etc.
- Clearing the external threat landscape including DNS names, public IPs, etc.
B. Employee engagement
Employee engagement will take a drastic turnaround with the adoption of remote working. Project team collaboration, ideas generation, and overall team management, which used to happen face-to-face earlier, will now have to be done virtually. Organizations must quickly adapt to the new remote working normal, to avert any losses in employee productivity, engagement and business agility. It can be done by leveraging video conferencing for everyday stand up calls, remote collaboration spaces like virtual whiteboards for brainstorming ideas and spontaneous one-one connects/mentorship on digital channels.
Robust cloud-based collaboration tools will play a major role here. While most enterprises already use these tools, in the long-run, strategies should be considered for consolidation to one/two tools from a security/cost perspective. Organizations should also consider implementing productivity measurement tools/analytics dashboards to track employee performance, work patterns and collaboration effectiveness in WFX scenarios. Connected intelligent workspace of the future will seamlessly connect with multiple tools to provide a single source of truth for remote workers to collaborate with distributed teams.
Methodologies and tools used for remote working must be regularly revisited to identify what suits teams best and establish proven standards for the new normal
C. Managing customer relationships
With travel restrictions in place, maintaining relationships with customers is challenging. However, sales opportunities need to be pursued and delivery issues must be resolved. Virtual, information-led sales will become the new reality. It is therefore important to ensure that the sales teams have the right tools that will provide them access for internal/external networking and real time insights to improve deal conversion rates. With more time spent on virtual connect with customers, sales teams should be provided data based virtual coaching on key deals to focus, customer buying behavior and best fit solutions.
Advanced AI driven CRM systems will play a major role here and organizations need to look at advanced features that can help teams collaborate better and respond faster to customers. Key features should include - Bot-based assistance for field force, predictive role-based KPI dashboards, automated workflows, and AI/ML based contextual recommendation
D. Fast-tracking digital adoption
Most organizations are already on their way to digital transformation to reimagine the future of work. However, the COVID-19 crisis is pushing leaders to accelerate cloud adoption, cybersecurity, automation and advanced analytics spending.5
- For cloud adoption, organizations must understand the right mix of cloud availability (hybrid/multi cloud) to reduce reliance on in-house infrastructure and ensure applications’ availability anywhere, anytime, and from any device. It is estimated that public cloud spending will grow by 19% in 20206 as enterprises increasingly view it as a reliable option for business continuity. However, security and cost management will be major implications as organizations move to cloud.
- With modernization of legacy applications gaining momentum, SaaS based offerings will also see greater uptake as users will expect applications to be available across devices and from anywhere.
- Intelligent automation will be a major response during the post-COVID recovery phase. It is estimated that 55% of organizations will boost their investments in automation solutions, with WFH being a major driver7. According to IDC, Healthcare and manufacturing are two verticals where there will be a major surge in adoption of automation solutions, with supply chain being the key process to be automated8. Chat bots will gain prominence for customer service and remote issue resolution.8
- Organization will also race to adopt advanced analytics to enable data-driven decisions that drive innovation, sustainability, and growth. 49% of enterprises9 are either launching new analytics and Business Intelligence projects or moving forward without delay on already planned projects. Use cases for analytics which will gain momentum will include WFX analytics to understand employee working patterns/collaboration/productivity; supply chain insights; cost optimization to drive assets/people consolidation decisions, etc.
Building resilience and adaptability to beat crisis
The COVID-19 pandemic has in many ways augmented the disaster preparedness of organizations and demonstrated how technology can ameliorate even the worst impact. Though technologies like remote collaboration tools, cloud and security solutions have been in place for long, a situation like this is pushing organizations to re-think their strategies for effective usage of these tools. Going forward, IT organizations should be prepared with business continuity and disaster recovery plans and devise short and long-term strategies to increase resilience against disruptions, while preparing for rebound and growth.