Throughout 2020 and into the new year, I’ve noticed how digital transformation has played an increasingly important role. Digital might previously have been considered the CIO’s remit and the IT department who probably reported to the CFO. Today, digital has become something essential to the whole company, so the CIO now reports directly to the chairman and the board. It has become a strategic issue, and recent events and disruptions have accelerated this shift.
That strategic approach has been underpinned by a digital transformation roadmap, in which cloud is a crucial element. It has made companies better prepared to handle disruptions like the pandemic. Whether you needed to increase your number of homeworkers rapidly, had to transition your contact center operation to home agents, or enable collaboration tools to support productivity, it became clear that cloud was vital.
Cloud supported all the changes that companies were forced to make rapidly and unexpectedly. The ability to spin up bandwidth in response to a crisis has proven invaluable: one Orange customer needed to enable several thousand contact center staff quickly and securely. Another customer, a global mining company, needed to hold virtual annual general meetings (AGM) during the lockdown. These were new use cases – nobody really anticipates remote AGMs or 10,000 people dialing into a virtual town hall meeting simultaneously – but cloud enabled them.
Cloud becoming increasingly essential
As we move forward and companies seek to recover successfully, the cloud will power more business-critical applications. There is a lot of talk about what the new world of work might look like as we try to balance keeping workers and workplaces safe while also enabling productivity. In my view, that will most likely require a balance of working from home (WFH) and in-office staff. But it will all require flexibility and the ability to keep turning things on quickly. On-premise changes can take days or weeks to get done, whereas you can add an additional 50 contact center agents in minutes in the cloud.
I’ve been impressed with just how seamlessly companies enabled WFH throughout the pandemic emergency. Companies just quickly shifted operations into the cloud, including business-critical applications like IP telephony. Staff who don’t ordinarily work on softphones on their laptops for example suddenly were, overnight.
Orange has empowered our customers to keep their businesses running, with thousands of workers enabled in a hurry. Contact center continuity has been a significant issue, and cloud has kept companies in contact with customers and serving them effectively. Companies needed to ensure their networks were up to powering their virtual contact centers, and to support them, Orange increased network capacity and upgraded service platforms. It worked: at the end of March 2020, the number of users connecting to their companies’ networks remotely over the Orange network had already increased by 700%. Cloud kept businesses up and running seamlessly.
Orange also surveyed our customers to see how the emergency affected them and what their future priorities are now. Cloud featured: with potential future disruptions from lockdowns in mind, companies know that cloud will enable them to keep contact centers operating and keep their workers collaborating. 64% of customers told us that improving their cloud collaboration tools is one of their top five priorities. Another 60% said improving cloud and network capabilities is in their top five new priorities, too.
There were good examples of cloud helping companies ride out the emergency in ASEAN: for example, the Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA) launched the GoCloud scheme, designed to help SMEs shift from traditional software to cloud applications. Malaysia’s government provided webinars for teachers to learn how they can use cloud-based tools to teach from home.
It’s been part of an enforced culture shift. Some companies that have historically been more traditional in their ways of working have had no choice but to evolve and embrace WFH and use the cloud to do it. There is a cultural aspect to manage, as throughout Asia, many people live in smaller, more densely-populated places.
Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, in all these places people tend to live in apartments and spend much of their lives in social environments. For example, eating is a very communal thing and people like face-to-face meetings. WFH contradicts traditional behavior, so it will be interesting to see how people continue to adjust.
On top of enabling WFH and keeping businesses operating during the disruption of 2020, cloud will be essential to kick-starting business and economic activity as we move forward. As the situation continues to ease, cloud will help companies enable the development of new products and services and, as a result, new revenue streams. A comprehensive, cloud-native application and security strategy will help companies improve customer experience and assure data privacy.
We’ve seen e-commerce and online business explode during the pandemic, and cloud is central to that. Companies that have omnichannel communication strategies in place have been able to keep in contact with their customers better than those that did not, for example. I see more companies trying to deploy omnichannel communications as we move forward, even in industries that haven’t typically used it, such as eHealth.
Cloud for today and tomorrow
Simply put, at no other time has there been such an urgent need for the instant availability of IT resources enabled by cloud. I see cloud just accelerating as we continue to recover and move forward, and I foresee more and more customers and partners looking at how they can adapt next. What else might they use cloud for? The companies that will thrive will be those that shift their tools to the cloud quickest. Google’s cloud platform has seen 52% increased demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cloud is now a business essential.
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