When will the pandemic end? How long will we have to wait before things return to ‘normal’? We’ve all asked ourselves these questions over the past few weeks. With most of the world working from home, we may have to face the very real possibility that what we consider ‘normal’ may have changed forever. What if this is the new order of the day? As words like “webinar”, “collaboration”, and “communication” become part of our everyday lexicon, behind the scenes, organisations are having to up their game to service the increased loads on their tech infrastructure to ensure seamless productivity and improve their security measures.
Business leaders will have to adapt to this new reality and come up with new strategies that keep their employees engaged and connected. This will also involve adapting their technology infrastructure to sustain a scenario with the “new normal” in place.
Most companies are now working towards building better infrastructure for their homebound online workforce. While many will be able to scale and survive this transition, others are building online first workforces for the first time. Those that already allow their employees to work remotely will now have to scale operations. But the real challenge will be faced by those companies where employees are required to work on desktop systems at the office. Issuing new laptops with the required security and network connectivity in a short span of time has been costly and challenging. Let’s look at some of the key infrastructure challenges companies face and how to overcome them.
One of the greatest challenges for a workforce that has been forced to function remotely is that companies have had very little time to get their house in order in terms of securing their systems. This was evident with the Maze ransomware started targeting companies across verticals all over the world. Sent via email, the ransomware demanded that a cryptocurrency payment be made in exchange for the safe recovery of encrypted data. Even with a secure network, companies will have to put additional safeguards in place to protect their data when it’s being accessed by multiple workers from multiple locations.
While working from home is not new, this is the first time an entire workforce across the globe is operating from home. Many organisations have been scrambling around to ensure that their employees stay connected and productive. The sudden surge has put immense pressure on their networks, leading to congestion and greater strain on critical ICT infrastructure. We also see challenges emerging with accessibility and affordability of such infrastructure across many countries. Governments across the world have taken up measures such as making connectivity ‘essential infrastructure’. Many have also sanctioned additional spectrum to operators to increase capacity.
Most employees are used to having instant access to tech support at the office. With people working remotely, many are facing challenges with connectivity, hardware issues, slow connections and technology they are using for the first time. Clearly defined IT support structures will be needed, including an accessible Service Desk that is available via chat, phone or mobile app. This will help IT support better manage escalations, fix issues and resolve issues as they arise.
Communication and collaboration
Aristotle once said that nature abhors a vacuum. In a time where communication and collaboration are the cornerstones of what sustains businesses, companies are under pressure to ensure that their employees stay connected to each other via secure tools and solutions. This has put an immense amount of pressure on VPN infrastructure, collaboration applications, and live communication platforms. If the proper channels are not provided, employees will be forced to use non-authorised personal platforms that could compromise data security.
While the adoption of cloud computing has been on the ascent, the sudden lockdown meant that companies that had an office-based workforce have suddenly had to look at cloud solutions to keep their employees engaged and productive. The demand for cloud services has been on the rise among large and small businesses owing to the increase in the need for collaborative tools. What remains to be seen is how this will play out once employees return to work. Gartner has already estimated that 15 percent of Indian companies are likely to increase their share of permanent work from home employees which means more workloads will have to be migrated to the cloud to ensure the business can function as usual. While many businesses are unlikely to return to an older way of working, companies will have to scale up in terms of data security and privacy, especially in the wake of an increasing number of phishing attacks and cybersecurity threats, with employees accessing networks outside the organisation’s secure firewalls.
The SaaS opportunity
One area that has witnessed greater interest is India’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) sector despite the decline in risk capital investments in 1H2020. The 2020 edition of Bain & Co’s India Private Equity report, co-authored with the Indian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (IVCA), said that the SaaS market in the country is expected to grow to over $20 billion in 2022 from about $6 billion in 2019.
According to the report, “these companies are able to offer high-quality products with cost arbitrage due to local talent and thus satisfy the demand for a high degree of verticalisation. They are also benefitting from an increased digital penetration across verticals and a growing adoption of SMBs in the local market.”
With Indian SaaS companies targeting both enterprises and small and medium businesses (SMBs) at home and globally, those companies seeking to leverage Big Data, advanced analytics and machine learning are turning to cloud-based software on demand . Also, SaaS providers who are the first to deploy new product capabilities based on customer demand will be the first to drive engagement and customer loyalty.
The way ahead
The one common thing that binds all companies together at this time is the need for the right tech solutions to empower their employees to work optimally. This means that they have to constantly monitor their systems and stay on top of evolving requirements and challenges. Ultimately, companies are also learning to adjust to this new normal alongside their employees. Many will scale up to meet the challenge and others will reach out to technology partners who will help create the necessary infrastructure to power on and achieve optimal productivity.
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