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‘Virtualization’ is key for MSMEs, startups to compete with large players; here’s what can enable it

Technology for MSMEs: The benefits that Cloud Service Providers (CSP) claimed around reduced workforce for support and reduced hardware/software resource requirements has suddenly become the most needed capabilities.

The covid-19 scenario will see an increase in adoption of data, technology, digital as well as integration of MarTech to create virtual experiences for consumers online
  • By Anoop Nambiar

Technology for MSMEs: Covid-19 pandemic has been a wake-up call for many organizations and communities as it exposed how prepared or unprepared they were from a business continuity standpoint.  Remote working and remote access has now become the new normal. The benefits that Cloud Service Providers (CSP) claimed around reduced workforce for support and reduced hardware/software resource requirements suddenly became most needed capabilities and thereby powerful value propositions for the cloud. In addition, the world is realizing that many of the facilities and services available online are made possible by the cloud. These include productivity and collaboration software products, games, enterprise business applications etc. where cloud-based capabilities play a vital role. Cloud computing is playing its share in enabling much-needed virtualization to support citizens and organizations during this pandemic where lockdowns and social distancing are being enforced in most parts of the world.

Demand for services that are better suited for the cloud has seen a big surge. These can be broadly termed into three distinct categories. First, Respond – Immediate reaction to the disruption of business continuity. Second, Recover – Medium-term where it is ‘business as usual’ and ensuring that business applications are functioning with needed features being built and introduced continuously and third, Thrive – Long term sustainability and optimization of business operations. 

In the Respond mode, organizations have been seen attempting to ensure business continuity by establishing interfaces for their staff to access core business applications remotely, expanding VPN/remote access capabilities which were previously under-scaled and only meant for a smaller percentage of the workforce at any given time.  Demand for collaboration tools for intra-organization communication spiked as workforce moved to remote locations. Hyperscaler CSPs saw demand surge for the products in all these areas.  Challenges in provisioning sufficient number of laptops resulted in demand for CSP provided Virtual Desktop Interfaces (VDIs) through which a remote working employee can access business applications. Cloud-based VPN capabilities enhanced remote connectivity for organizations. Collaboration software solutions leveraged the power of the cloud to scale to the extent they needed to, based on the user workload. Some of the examples are Zoom, Chime, Teams, Hangouts, etc.

When looking at the medium term in a Recover mode, organizations are realizing being ‘cloud-first’ is the smart way to go where they can address business continuity challenges with reduced resource requirements.  Cloud-based virtual contact centres that can function with remote workforce became the need of the hour. As business application development leveraging on-premise hardware and labour were being delayed due to sudden dearth of resources, organizations realized that they could do better by leveraging cloud computing where they could manage with the remote workforce, eliminate server/hardware requirements and reduce maintenance/operational costs drastically.

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For long term sustainability in the Thrive mode, organizations are thinking of digitizing and virtualizing more of their operations and have been seen working towards establishing ‘cloud-first’ and ‘digital first’ policies. Organizations that were on the fence about whether or not to adopt cloud are now convinced about the value they can extract by being on the cloud. Leveraging the power of the cloud and attaining agility, scalability, elasticity, optimized operations, etc. are some of the key drivers for such a move. Organizations are planning for a cloud adoption journey beyond just a lift and shift migration. The final frontier should be being truly cloud-native and retirement of technical debt that they have accumulated over the years.

Along with providing large enterprises with options to ‘Recover, Respond and Thrive’ in a Covid-impacted world, cloud-based services provide opportunities for small business and startups to mobilize successful business operations. This can be in terms of ensuring a level playing field where Small to Medium Enterprises (SME) could compete with larger organizations by implementing cloud-based platforms that they can mobilize with minimum upfront investment. Major CSPs understand this and have come up with attractive schemes that will help SMEs journey to cloud and virtualization during these challenging times. Startups now have an opportunity to address the surge in demand in areas such as retail commerce, health services, etc. by providing commercially viable solutions that can address challenges created by the pandemic and associated lockdown. CSPs are laying out offers and opportunities to attract startups to leverage their platforms and services for solution development in a cost-effective manner.

To summarize, this pandemic induced crisis has disrupted the way the world did business, how organizations want their workforce to function and how resources are to be made available. Cloud computing has risen to the occasion and have been one of the key enablers of virtualization for organizations and defining what the future of work should look like in order to be agile and flexible.

Anoop Nambiar is the Partner at Deloitte India. Views expressed are the author’s own.

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