COVID-19 has dominated our lives and news headlines around the world – disrupting business and triggering economic volatility in global markets. Despite lockdown measures easing across the UK, the need to address the consequences of the pandemic are intensifying.
As the UK economy begins to reopen and restart, businesses are looking for guidance from the government and beyond to understand the long-term impact of the pandemic, and the ways in which it has changed life and business as we know it. With widespread talk of the economic restart, we must keep in mind that what we do right now will define the future.
We’ve all been given a mandate for change. Today is less about a restart and more about a chance to rethink how business works for a post-pandemic world. The actions we can take now to emerge smarter, more resilient, and more agile will help us thrive for years to come.
Build an empowered remote workforce
The pandemic saw organisations fast-track their technological capabilities to support remote working. This shift opened up a surge in adoption of cloud and SaaS services – which allow users to connect to and use cloud-based apps over the Internet – including video conferencing services, collaboration tools, and file storage tools and even tools like VPNs.
Those organisations that had already adopted these services were more readily able to pivot employees to home working than those that hadn’t.
However, building an empowered remote workforce goes beyond providing network-access tools and group-meeting software. Empowerment means ensuring employees have the skills, tools and support they need to excel wherever they are based.
Large organisations have other challenges to overcome in addition to this, with leaders required to build trust, flexibility, and resilience into their cultural mindsets.
At the same time, as we continue to see these cultural shifts, it is critical for organisations to urgently enhance their security capabilities, to ensure that sustained remote working does not undermine cybersecurity. IBM X-Force IRIS saw a 40% increase in security incidents in 1Q 2020 globally compared to the same quarter in 2019.
In Europe, Middle East and Asia, some of the first regions to be hit hard by the virus, security incident response rose 125% in the same timeframe. It is vital businesses revisit their incident response protocols, many of which may be sub-optimal in current conditions.
Savvy organisations will conduct user awareness training to educate employees, secure collaboration tools and take advantage of tools that protect endpoints from connecting to known malicious domains, malware, and phishing sites.
Keep connected to customers
Another important area that businesses have turned to is customer communications. The surge in enquiries triggered by the pandemic has led many to invest in virtual assistants to field enquiries and send rapid responses.
Amidst the lockdown, TSB identified an urgent need to provide customers with access to measures implemented in addressing the pandemic. As a result, the bank launched a new smart agent function on its website, giving customers the chance to live ‘chat’ with staff for the very first time.
Investment in virtual agent technology will continue post-pandemic as more industries look at how best they can engage customers. We expect more businesses to explore next-generation contact centres ‘as- a-service’, adopting messaging versus voice and coupled with new AI-enabled business models to deliver personalised experiences and greater customer satisfaction.
Fast-track applications to the cloud
Another key priority for organisations is ensuring reliable access to data centres. Some operations have added ‘burst capacity’ to cope with surges in demand. Others are fast-tracking the migration of applications to the cloud to guarantee consistent access.
The prospect of area-specific lockdowns or quarantine also prioritises the distribution of critical applications and data to varied access points and locations. Physical access can no longer be taken for granted and should be a consideration for any data-dependant business.
The crisis has likewise emphasised the need for enhanced supply chain resiliency. As we progress, organisations will increasingly need real-time insights, providing hyperlocal visibility of inventory fluctuations and logistics constraints. Using AI, it is possible to correlate real-time COVID-19 data with supply chain locations, which is proving incredibly valuable as organisations try to predict disruptions.
As we re-think the road ahead, organisations have the opportunity to take advantage of newfound pace and capacity to build resiliency for the future. By exploiting technologies such as AI, blockchain and cloud computing we can reinforce the resilience, intelligence, and adaptability of governments, healthcare systems, companies, and chains of value from all sectors.