The connectivity lesson coronavirus has left us with

We are living in strange times and need to adapt to the realization that nothing will ever be quite the same again. If there is one big lesson the COVID-19 crisis has taught us, it is the importance of being connected.

Imagine if this health emergency had happened thirty years ago. There would be no video communications platforms to run virtual business meetings or catch up with friends and family isolating, no social media for community and emotional support, and no apps for live chat. The world would have been a very lonely place indeed.

The pandemic that has swept across the globe in a matter of weeks has shown us the importance of robust, ubiquitous connectivity. Stable, secure and scalable networks have been at the epicenter of keeping governments and businesses operating. It has helped to educate the next generation remotely and has given us a much needed link to the outside world.

Connectivity: a critical commodity

While some people have resented their forced home working regime, others have thrived. Following a telecommuting post-mortem, we will undoubtedly see a shift to home working for many knowledge workers. In a recent survey, Gartner discovered that 74% of CFOs intend to shift some employees permanently to remote working.

The pandemic has left most industries teetering on the edge of a massive economic slump. As a result, CFOs are under huge pressure to cut costs. Expensive office space is an obvious candidate for the hatchet. Under this new regime, connectivity will become a critical commodity. CIOs will have to provide secure network infrastructures and applications that support business goals for both remote and office workers.

Cancelled domestic and international business travel has already resulted in more videoconferences and has driven the requirement for effective, easy-to-use collaboration tools. On one day in March, for example, Cisco Webex hosted four million meetings. That is twice what Cisco hosts on a high traffic day. This trend will continue for some time as we all settle into our virtual world in the new normal.

CIOs have seen for themselves that well maintained networks have coped better with increased capacity during the crisis than low cost networks. We’ve had companies coming to us in Russia to migrate key components during the COVID-19 crisis. They were scrambling for support as their critical providers were unable to cope with security or cloud capacity demands, for example. Others could not provide a stable, high-performance service essential for telecommuting.

It isn’t just about bandwidth either, it is also about keeping data flowing across the networks securely. Interpol has seen thousands of high-risk, newly registered domains appear referencing coronavirus, set up for spam, phishing and malware campaigns. Cybercriminals are always one step ahead when it comes to exploiting changes in online behaviors and vulnerabilities due to unprecedented situations. Shoring up security now is essential, as coronavirus will not be the last catastrophe to hit the world.

Investing in digital transformation

Companies already on the digital transformation curve have stood out in the crisis. They are the ones that have invested in networks, security and the cloud. This investment has paid off, as they are adapting fast to the changing circumstances the pandemic is creating daily.

Businesses have rushed to embrace videoconferencing, collaboration tools and cloud services to see them through the pandemic. This accelerated transformation will continue as CEOs see it as an insurance policy for the future, because no business wants to be put on the back foot again. But it is not a time for technological experimentation. Technology spend will be carefully aligned with organizational priorities for some months to come.

End-to-end connectivity

With the multiplication of new technologies, processes are becoming extremely complex. A DIY approach exposes all kinds of compatibility issues. Buying off-the-shelf solutions does not mean they will all work together, as many companies have realized to their detriment during the crisis.

The pandemic has turned the spotlight on networks and has shown how critical they are to business operations. But they are made up of many parts, often from numerous vendors. This is where the skills of Orange Business comes in in providing a secure end-to-end solution from the physical layer of the network to the software.

Multisourcing service integration (MSI) will be the answer to many companies’ prayers. It offers up a sourcing model for managing and providing a single point of responsibility for services and technologies from multiple vendors. Companies can keep control of visibility and performance of their IT infrastructure without the management headaches that go with it.

A bold, new, connected future

Like clean water, many have taken network infrastructure for granted. The pandemic has changed the way businesses look at their connectivity. Digital transformation will be a vital part of survival. Some have learned this lesson the hard way.

Are you ready for the network of the future? Find out what a migration path would look like for you.

Richard Van Wageningen

Richard van Wageningen is CEO of Orange Business in Russia and CIS and is the Head the IMEAR (Indirect, Middle East, Africa and Russia) region. He has extensive leadership experience in the IT and telecommunications industries – both in services and equipment manufacturing – and holds degrees from Groningen State Polytechnics and the University of North Carolina. Richard has lived in Russia for more than 10 years and speaks fluent Russian.