As the coronavirus pandemic spreads around the world like a wildfire, it is pertinent to adopt stringent measures and follow safety precautions to break the cycle of mayhem.
Governments across the globe are fighting a tough battle – urging individuals to stay at home and maintain proper hygiene to contain the spread of the virus. Consequently, many countries have closed down educational institutes while most companies have been asked to implement remote working models.
Amid this chaos, all eyes are set on the chief information officers (CIOs), who are vested with the responsibility to keep their businesses running. CIOs are expected to ensure the health and safety of their associates – which is intrinsically related to their companies’ present digital health and the use of technology for regular operations.
In the present scenario – most CIOs are focussed on implementing secure remote-working applications or platforms that enable employees to connect during travel bans and home quarantine. However, with the end of the pandemic nowhere in sight, many IT leaders are also treating this emergency as an opportunity to build long-term contingency plans, which will serve the present, as well as future needs of their respective organizations.
At Zensar, like most employee-centric organizations, our concern for employee health and safety is at par with our commitment to quality and customer satisfaction. Consequently, our foremost aim is to provide secure and seamless remote working sessions and continue to make our IT infrastructure robust and scalable.
As the pandemic unfolded around the world, Zensar took an early-lead in ramping up its business continuity plan through role-playing – to test whether its remote staff had proper access to applications, such as Microsoft Teams and Cisco WebEx, to enable collaboration and keep up their productivity. Through small test batches, the company was also able to get an idea of the network traffic and make necessary changes to keep up with the increased volumes when needed – which is essential to ensure seamless connectivity within the company.
Apart from providing a dynamic IT infrastructure, enhanced security protocols are essential for the success of any remote working model.
To enable this, all the stakeholders in the process, including the management, staff, end-users, and clients, must be made fully aware of the data security issues related to remote-working and best-practices to avoid them. Besides, if the company doesn’t have an internal cybersecurity team, it needs to hire an experienced MSSP (managed security service provider) to create a reliable remote working platform, which must be tested in small batches before work-from-home or remote-working is rolled out at large.
From a technology viewpoint, this second step requires the employee and end-user profiling for determining the nature of the threat associated with each role. Accordingly, associates can are issued secured company laptops with appropriate malware protection and restricted end-point functionality. Alternately, companies can employ VPN or DaaS for mobility, depending on the nature of the threat involved, as well as the preference of the client in question, such as corporate end-users.
Once the infrastructure and security are covered, the third and extremely crucial pillar for the success of any business continuity plan is communication.
In the present scenario bound by mass-scale panic and chaos, ongoing communication is critical to prevent confusion at every level – which indicates the importance of virtual interaction for remote workers.
At Zensar, we have seen a 42% rise in the use of platforms like Microsoft Teams and Webex, in addition to some homegrown native digital solutions for increased virtual collaboration between teams.
The spike in the usage of collaborative apps is a clear indicator of the vital role that virtual communication plays in any business continuity plan.
To enable seamless interaction, we emphasize on the creation of a centralized platform for all associates, despite their location, to act as a repository of valuable information (such as all the precautions and emergency numbers dedicated to COVID-19 prevention and cure). We have created a digital platform for our global associates, which can be used for accessing remote systems and seeking help during personal emergencies. The users are mandated by the company to login to the platform and update their travel history and medical status daily. An associate can seek help by sending an automated email to all the users on the platform – which was recently used by a team member in the US office who was experiencing some flu-like symptoms.
Battling the Crisis – Now or Forever?
Unlike the floods and earthquakes of the past, COVID-19 has proved to be an ongoing challenge for senior IT leaders from a business perspective due to its dynamic and unpredictable nature.
For example, scaled-down operations are often endemic to crisis frameworks but cannot be implemented in the long-run. Thus, with the end currently not in sight for the corona pandemic, it falls upon CIOs to build long-term crisis frameworks that can sustain regular operations and also be able to scale in time.
That being said, it is a fact that many businesses, especially in the retail sector, have been badly hit – and business continuity plans for such companies require a higher degree of innovation to ensure they find themselves better-equipped when the situation finally rebounds. Some of the companies that have already invested in digital supply chains will find themselves better off in the present case as compared to their technology-agnostic counterparts due to a high degree of automation that leads to human-free operations to a large extent.
However, this is not a conducive time to goad or feel proud; instead, wherever you find your organization at the moment, take this time to humbly re-evaluate your operations and identify the gaps that can be filled by technology while enabling remote working with a personalized touch – so that you are not found wanting in the future.
Stay healthy and stay safe!