How technology can help return businesses to operational fitness

The coronavirus health emergency has shown businesses the importance of having the right tools in place to ensure business continuity. As a result, companies are accelerating new digital transformation initiatives. Digital tools and channels will help them increase business resilience and enable them to rebound for future growth.

The pandemic has turned the business world on its head. It will change how business is done, from manufacturing and supply chain logistics to the way products and services are sold. Technology will be the enabler of this shift. “Unlike an economic recession or the disruption created by a new technology, COVID-19 is an immediate event that changes how we think and work at the most fundamental levels,” says Mark McDonald, VP Analyst Gartner. “That must be the starting point for any response or action plan.”

Once some semblance of normality appears, 71% of executives said they will prioritize new investments in digital and technology, according to a recent EY poll. With digital transformation plans set to start with greater vigor in the new normal, “executives will have to make faster moves to reimagine, reshape and reinvent their businesses and create long-term value,” says Steve Krouskos, EY Global Vice Chair Transaction Advisory Service.

UC&C as business essential

Even once the peak of the pandemic has passed, a large number of knowledge workers will take the option to work from home. Secure unified communication and collaboration (UC&C) tools have become essential for this. IDC predicts that by 2024, enterprises with intelligent and collaborative work environments will see 30% lower staff turnover, 30% higher productivity and 30% higher revenue per employee than their peers.

CIOs will need to work on developing a digital workspace strategy that incorporates collaboration applications, security controls, bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs and network support to empower employees and improve efficiencies. Performance management tools will help companies to better understand both the morale and productivity of remote workers and improve processes where necessary.

Multicloud and performance monitoring

Cloud platforms have the innate ability to remotely link people, partners, consumers, applications and processes effectively across diverse geographies. As well as agility and flexibility, cloud also enables companies to scale up and down according to demand and enhance security and control.

IDC is forecasting that post-COVID, 2021 will be the year of multicloud, with many companies investing in the deployment of on-premise, off-premise, public and private clouds as their default infrastructure. Performance monitoring will also be key as companies can monitor the digital experience of cloud-based apps. At the same time, they can also proactively manage networks and applications to quickly solve any issues.

To be successful in this post-COVID 19 multi-cloud journey, IDC advises companies to run an audit of their applications and put together a phased modernization roadmap for each one. Hybrid cloud strategies can be complex and one size doesn’t fit all, which is why it is advisable to get expert advice.

SD-WAN and edge computing

The importance of cloud in keeping operations running in a crisis has already been established. As we move more towards a decentralized ecosystem, SD-WAN can help companies offer connectivity and services quickly and easily from the cloud. The technology’s scalability also provides the agility and responsiveness companies will be chasing in the new normal.

Some organizations are considering extending SD-WAN to support homeworking. Its flexibility in exploiting multiple broadband connections makes it hugely appealing to companies who want to ensure their knowledge workers have consistent access to internal and external cloud applications. IDC is confident that SD-WAN technology can be adapted to significantly aid “current, extended and scaled remote working environments by extending the acknowledged benefits of the technology to the remote worker on the edge.”

Processing at the edge will also bring other benefits to companies looking to strengthen their digital infrastructures post-pandemic. As well as the ability to process large amounts of data in real time for greater insight, it will also allow companies to provide users with high-performance applications incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) and to exploit the emerging Internet of Things (IoT).

Security: a key consideration

Securing mass migration to homeworking has been a massive challenge for companies and has turned security requirements upside down. Suddenly, large numbers of knowledge workers have had to access critical data from outside the traditional secure perimeters of the network.

This has resulted in a transformation in cybersecurity demands, driven by an increase in remote working and cloud usage. To secure this new way of working, companies will need to adopt an end-to-end approach to security. Both security teams and offerings will need to become much more flexible and agile.

Companies now need to revisit their security and business continuity plans in the light of what they have learned from COVID-19, according to Deloitte. They should run a risk assessment on critical processes to ensure they can be maintained if another global crisis hits down the line. Companies also need to analyze their security posture to ensure it aligns with their business plans.

The new age of digitization

COVID-19 has ensured that the business world will never be quite the same again. Technology has helped us all through the pandemic. It will now be central in getting companies back to operational health, building, connected ecosystems and a productive future for us all.

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Jan Howells

Jan has been writing about technology for over 22 years for magazines and web sites, including ComputerActive, IQ magazine and Signum. She has been a business correspondent on ComputerWorld in Sydney and covered the channel for Ziff-Davis in New York.