The pandemic has forced business leaders to rethink almost every part of their operations. Various challenges and disruptions to business continuity arose almost overnight, and many have are now relying more heavily on technology to develop new offerings, operate remotely, and deliver goods and services through digital channels.
Digital transformation, which already topped the agenda for most CIOs before 2020, became a key enabler of resilience. Those already on their digital journeys had their resilience tested to its core during the early stages of the pandemic. Those who weren’t, found themselves under tremendous pressure to accelerate their journeys, or risk becoming obsolete.
In some cases, businesses found that their technology infrastructure was inadequate, and they struggled to respond with the required flexibility, while others were able to pivot their business models to unlock broader opportunities in a constrained business environment. Technology can help organisations overcome both present and future challenges, enabling innovation and operational continuity, especially during a global crisis. So, what has the pandemic changed, and how can technology help businesses achieve resilience in the face of new challenges?
When the shift from business-as-usual to crisis management happened, businesses had no way of knowing that they would suddenly have to scale their digital infrastructure to be able to reach customers, enable employees to work remotely, and overcome various other challenges. Supply chain disruptions, a global shortage of resources, cashflow constraints, the unavailability of frontline staff, and gaps in continuity planning all presented significant risks to business continuity.
As organisations hastily tried to accelerate their digital transformation efforts to meet these new challenges with innovative digital solutions, they were also subject to greater cybersecurity risks.
Working remotely meant that distributed workforces were suddenly using their private networks, personal laptops, home Internet, and preferred applications to access their workplace’s corporate network, and with it, sensitive business data. However, this “bring-your-own-everything” trend meant a far wider attack surface, and malicious actors began to capitalise on this, targeting underprepared and unprotected businesses and employees, and making disaster recovery even more difficult.
This, coupled with an increased dependence on public cloud services, unsecured apps, and vulnerable virtual private networks (VPNs), saw entities of every size becoming more vulnerable to network intrusion, business email compromise, phishing, DDos, and social engineering attacks.
The technologies used during the move to working from home helped businesses remain operational. Most people with a laptop and an Internet connection made the transition seamlessly, and a slew of technologies such as VPNs, voice over Internet protocols (VoIPs), virtual meetings, cloud technologies, and collaboration tools enabled us to carry on as “normal”.
This taught us that technology can build resilience through innovation and flexibility, giving businesses the ability to operate during times of change with minimal impact on critical operations, and allowing them to be better prepared for future challenges. But achieving resilience is about more than just having the right tools and technologies; it is also about being able to recognise new challenges as they arise, and identify the technologies that can help solve them. This means that business leaders must have a good understanding of their existing technological infrastructure, its shortcomings, and how they can fix it.
With limited resources at their disposal, businesses need to ensure that they can rationalise which technology project they need to prioritise. Naturally, critical business operations need to come first, and employees need to be equipped with the right tools and guidance to support this shift in priorities. While cashflow constraints may mean that some projects may have to be put on hold, it is also important to know when to fight for additional technology investments that would accelerate recovery, improve business performance, or create new revenue streams.
The migration towards hybrid work models has resulted in increased network traffic and new usage patterns, which is why businesses need to equip their connectivity, security, and network infrastructure with modern capabilities. This will ensure that they have the technological foundation to support these new ways of working. Connectivity infrastructure has become the gateway to almost every business interaction today. Teams or Zoom, for example, are now essential communication and collaboration platforms. Several business processes and applications have moved to the cloud, and if businesses don’t have a plan in place, a sudden increase in network traffic can easily result in costly downtimes, poor application performance, or frustrating service delivery for online customers.
Businesses cannot undergo digital transformation without implementing strong security measures along every step of the way. With more employees working from more vulnerable home networks, security mechanisms, such as VPNs and access control, need to be present in every layer of a network.
The pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated the migration towards the cloud, providing businesses with the convenience of accessing services and resources from anywhere, enabling remote collaboration between teams, and powering more innovative business functions. Organisations can push out workflows to improve employee productivity, make remote configuration changes, and offer customers self-service capabilities. The cloud gives businesses the flexibility to scale their infrastructure up or down – such as their bandwidth, storage, or computing capacity – to meet fluctuating demands, which often occur during a crisis.
A cloud-first approach has become the new normal, and has proven to be a valuable lifeline for many companies over the last 18 months. Because of the cloud’s flexible nature, this technology gives business leaders the confidence to meet both present and future challenges with the capacity to scale and operate remotely.
The pandemic forced many of us to rethink the way we do business, and it has challenged the established paradigm of the physical workspace and the way companies operate as a whole. Digital resilience is not only a cluster of technologies, strategies, policies, and practices that protect our ability to maintain, change, and recover in the event of a crisis. It has become a mindset that has taught us that businesses should not only invest in their remote work capabilities, but also look at their wider technological ecosystem to make wiser investment decisions that support resilience. The business world is on a steady track towards rapid digitalisation, and those who delay digital transformation will only be left behind.
Navigating the growing complexities of ever-changing technologies may seem daunting at times, and that is when businesses need to ensure that they are partnered with the right technology leaders to guide and support them. A good technology partner, like SEACOM, will have the industry expertise to understand a business’ unique requirements, and help achieve organisational resilience by building adaptable, future-ready technological infrastructure.