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The new ICT requirements and solutions that have come into play in the response to the urgent health crisis have sharply accelerated digital transformation in companies.

“The pace at which the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our personal and professional lives has been staggering,” says José Calado. According to the Head of Expertise, Strategic Partnerships & Innovation at Axians, “the crisis has forced companies to go from implementing digital projects in a one to three-year cycle to turning them around in a matter of days or weeks.”   

With the lockdown policy of half the planet requiring offices to close, first in Asia then Europe and finally North and South America, companies have found themselves in a situation that no business continuity plan had anticipated.

Extensive reliance on home working

“The first and main consequence was the need to adapt to the extensive use of home working,” points out Calado. Digital transformation was no longer a goal to be achieved but an immediate reality to be put in place.

The first challenge was to make it possible to set up an efficient virtual office, the only “toolkit” being home internet bandwidth and laptops.

Furthermore, a whole range of tools, including video conferencing and cloud collaboration software as well as secure remote access, endpoint management and ad-hoc infrastructure solutions, had to be made more robust in order to provide an operational service while ensuring rapid implementation and cost predictability.

“Digital technology has become the default and in some cases the only means of ensuring business continuity”

However, some employees still using traditional desktop computers in the workplace didn’t have laptops. And indeed a large proportion of people hadn’t been trained in how to work effectively with all the new digital tools and platforms.

A learning period was therefore necessary to enable them to get used to the new technological platforms and working methods.

Increase in IT requirements and training

The COVID-19 crisis highlights the fact that: “companies with an existing remote services system (whether internal or outsourced) have been able to adapt much more quickly than others,” stresses José Calado. “As a result, it has been easier for them to focus on their clients and the business impact of lockdown.”

Service providers have had to provide a swift response to the significant increase in bandwidth requirements not just in homes (with simultaneous video calls, online schooling, YouTube access, etc.) but also in businesses, which have had to ramp up remote access and video conference platforms so as to cater for a larger number of simultaneous users.

“Unfortunately, this way of working has opened up new vulnerabilities which cyber criminals have been quick to exploit,” says Calado. Digital confidence is therefore key to ensuring that employee privacy is protected and respected.

New standards, new sources of productivity

This is especially the case since phase 2 of the crisis – a gradual transition out of lockdown – involves new workplace standards covering health of course (tests, physical distancing rules, hygiene measures and so on) but also technology, due to the increasing reliance on ICT applications and platforms to automatically monitor compliance with the new rules.

“We’ve entered an era in which digital technology has become the default and in some cases the only means of ensuring business continuity both internally and externally (clients, suppliers, etc.),” says Calado, “and the pace of business process digitisation is likely to accelerate, giving ICT players a  prominent role in the value chain.” Indeed, the head of expertise & strategic partnerships at Axians Portugal predicts that the digitisation and automation of business processes and the increased use of all formats of cloud services (IaaS, PaaS and SaaS) will offer new sources of productivity.

The growth of digital channels for prospecting, virtual selling and remote delivery means that businesses will need to adjust to a diverse and multifaceted competitive landscape. “Continuous experimentation and IT agility will be key to responding to the constant changes in clients,” he adds.  

As a result, digital confidence and security will become crucial for protecting both businesses and homes. “Besides technology, communication and transparency will emerge as the new sources of value,” says Calado.