Key learnings from COVID-19: Adapting to a changing world

While this pandemic is arguably a black swan event, COVID-19 is a lesson on the importance of ensuring business agility.

Under these circumstances, technology and digital infrastructure have a critical role to play in keeping the world connected more than ever before.
Under these circumstances, technology and digital infrastructure have a critical role to play in keeping the world connected more than ever before.

By AS Lakshminarayanan

The world is still coming to terms with the impact of COVID-19 which continues to change everything about life and work as we know it. As strange as they are for many, people are learning to follow guidelines on social distancing and isolation.

Innovation and technological advancements have ensured that we have the essentials needed to see through this pandemic. Virtual gatherings, remote learning, telehealth, work from home – as nations around the world practice social distancing, technology is what is enabling a sense of normalcy in these strange times.

Businesses too are being forced to adapt. Very sudden mass shifts in working patterns, market dynamics, supply chains and consumer demand would test any business. But in this challenging time, it’s more important than ever that businesses, logistics and supply chains continue to operate, so that citizens, as well as healthcare workers, can get the food, essentials and medical supplies they need to survive and also combat the virus.

Under these circumstances, technology and digital infrastructure have a critical role to play in keeping the world connected more than ever before. Of course, any business today depends on connectivity, and this global event is testing companies’ abilities to fast track their digital transformation and pivot to embrace new ways of working via their use of technology. It’s not quite as simple as ensuring that employees have laptops and are empowered to work remotely.

Connections need to be reliable, secure and stable. VPNs need to have the appropriate amount of bandwidth and throughput available so that they don’t hamper employees who are just trying to get a job done. The user experience on business-critical applications needs to achieve the same high standard remotely as it does in the office where it’s served by a full fibre connection.

And last, but by no means least, the collaboration and video conferencing platform you now rely on for 90% of your communications must be fast and stable, with security built-in. It’s all about providing a consistent, quality experience to employees working remotely so that they can operate in the most productive way.

Many businesses are now realising that enabling this type of agility—being able to switch your business to a distributed workforce almost overnight—requires careful forward planning and preparation. COVID-19 will accelerate digital transformation for many businesses, acting as an unwanted catalyst for change. Where for now the investment may be made in the hope of ensuring business survival, the good news is, that for many, investments made today to respond to the virus will help to future proof businesses and equip them for the medium and long-term.

While this pandemic is arguably a black swan event, COVID-19 is a lesson on the importance of ensuring business agility. As human beings around the world demonstrate their resilience and come together as one to beat this virus, businesses need to demonstrate a similar kind of resilience and corporate agility to see through this period, adapt to a new normal and come out stronger. Although the situation today is difficult, the skills needed to shift focus will act as good practice for companies facing similar situations in the future.

At this uncertain time, the businesses and people who can adapt in the smartest ways will make the best of the current climate, and will be well placed to thrive when the world changes again and our planet enters a new chapter – whenever that may be.

The writer is MD & CEO, Tata Communications

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