Five Priorities for Business Continuity Amidst a Pandemic

Fri 02 October 2020, Erik Meijer
Five Priorities for Business Continuity Amidst a Pandemic

Whether we like it or not, and whether we’re ready or not, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the business landscape globally, with corporations placing emphasis on maintaining business continuity. The disruption caused by restrictions to large-scale business activities, increasingly challenging trade dynamics, and market volatility has forced corporations to be more responsive and more adaptable to the new normal.

The pandemic has also demonstrated the need for corporations to have adaptive technologies and tools for secure collaboration to ensure seamless connectivity, particularly when facing disruption.

This insight is illustrated in the study titled “Business Continuity, Flexible Working and Adaptive Infrastructure: Five Actions for When the Economy Reopens Following COVID-19” initiated by Telstra, a leading telecommunications and technology company and one of the parent companies of Telkomtelstra. The results of this study by Telstra and GlobalData show that 93% of corporations in Asia-Pacific, Europe and the United States have changed their IT priorities either gradually, significantly, or dramatically.

The study collected data from 120+ business leaders, including a range of C-suites and IT decision-makers, in the Asia Pacific region, Europe and the United States to understand organizations’ responses to the pandemic and to provide an insight into efforts to recalibrate IT strategies.

The research results show that corporations are updating their overall IT strategies, with the main priority in all regions being to make policies so that employees can operate remotely. This includes various initiatives, such as ensuring that employees can connect securely when accessing applications and data.

Key Business Priorities and Obstacles to Remote Working
Key Business Priorities and Obstacles to Remote Working

The study also found that prior to COVID-19, almost one out of ten companies did not have a Business Continuity Plan (BCP). Meanwhile, of the organizations that did have a BCP, nearly a third (29%) did not have a plan for responding to unexpected global events, like a pandemic. In Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand (SEA and ANZ), only 22% of corporations claimed to have a complete BCP and demonstrated preparedness to face challenges such as the current pandemic.

Business Continuity Planning
Business Continuity Planning

The results also highlight the need for businesses to not only significantly widen the scope of their BCPs, but also to better identify vulnerabilities and consider new strategies to control risks that may arise.

Most Transformative Technologies

When Engaging Service Provider & After COVID-19
When Engaging Service Provider & After COVID-19

Video conferencing solutions, team collaboration tools, and cloud contact centers are some of the most transformative technologies adopted by companies. 98% of respondents believed that there would be an increased reliance on video conferencing to replace face-to-face meetings following the COVID-19 recovery. Although video conferencing technology is not new, there has been a change in perceptions about using video as a medium for collaboration prior to and post-COVID-19.

On the other hand, organizations are reviewing new approaches to customer engagement. Nearly half of the respondents have now adopted a cloud contact center strategy to enhance end-to-end capabilities for increased speed, agility and flexibility when serving customers. The North Asian region showed the highest sentiment for this at 57%, followed by Southeast Asia and Australia-New Zealand at 52%.

Network connection will also play a more important role in connecting employees over long distances. According to the survey results, eight out of ten businesses had a percentage of employees who were unable to work due to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) challenges. As a result, one of the top ICT priorities at this time is to support the remote workforce. This sentiment was strongly voiced by respondents from Europe, Southeast Asia, and Australia-New Zealand. Following COVID-19, network requirements will be better established in terms of being software-defined, cloud-ready, and more automated and flexible.

77% of respondents in Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand set ICT resilience and security for business continuity as their top business priority. To that end, they are heavily invested in Unified Communications and Collaboration tools, including video conferencing for remote work, accelerating cloud adoption, and looking at role-based ICT solutions that combine automatization and digital tools. 84% of business leaders in this region saw this as their top priority, surpassing the global average of 74%.

So, based on these results, what priorities do organizations need to pay attention to in order to maintain business continuity during and after the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of IT technology? Here are five main priorities that can be adopted:

1. Developing a Better Business Continuity Plan

A good business continuity plan (BCP) should be a corporate initiative to create or update policies by identifying potential threats when facing major challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic (but also any other risks the company could face at any time that have the potential to significantly disrupt its business). The next step is to define a recovery strategy that prioritizes business resilience and minimizes downtime. Each potential vulnerability and threat should be mapped to create a risk profile. The BCP can then be effective in creating a prevention and recovery system.

2. The Need for Collaboration Between Digital Tools to Work Remotely

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed work processes and behaviors. As businesses move more of their workload to the cloud, the functionality of using multiple physical tools and devices has become less relevant.

On the other hand, digital tools are playing an increasingly prominent role as platforms used to work and collaborate, as well as serve customers. Within this collaboration, there needs to be a balance between the end-user experience (for example, access to content, from any device, in any location) and network flexibility, cybersecurity, IT management, as well as regulations and compliance.

Several organizations in Indonesia have been seen using collaborative technology effectively, to empower themselves in these months of large-scale social restrictions (known locally as “PSBB”). When the PSBB was first announced, they quickly scaled up to the most advanced collaborative technology, such as Microsoft 365, to connect thousands of employees and contractors that had to work from home. The technology also supports them to quickly create workflows to share and edit work documents and secure approvals, supporting accelerated collaboration & decision-making.

3. Secure Collaboration

Throughout COVID-19, several Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) platforms, including cloud contact centers, have become the most important capability for maintaining business continuity. It is not only important for employees to collaborate on work securely, but to communicate virtually and work together in multiple locations.

Over the past few months, organizations and corporations have invested significantly in UC&C. Several global vendors have reported high growth in the use of UC&C technology.  

The results of the Telstra study show that a high number of respondents adopted a cloud contact center strategy with end-to-end capabilities (for example Auto Call Distributors [ACD], Interactive Voice Response [IVR], and workflow optimization) for speed and agility. The highest percentage was in North Asia at 57%, followed by Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand at 52%, then the United States at 40%, trailing after Europe at 47%.

While in Indonesia, several enterprises and institutions have also changed the way their services, including call centers, work during the pandemic so that work can be carried out from home, to ensure the health and safety of their workers. UC& C solutions with cloud technology such as Cloud Contact Centre have allowed agents to continue to run call center services optimally in a work-from-home (WfH) scenario during the COVID-19 pandemic. Telkomtelstra as the Cloud Contact provider in Indonesia has worked with various customers to review workflows in order to ensure appropriate response and work arrangement implementation can run optimally even amidst external disruptions in call center operations through its Cloud Contact Center solution.

4. The Cloud as the First Choice

The COVID-19 pandemic has also made migrating to the cloud an unavoidable necessity for organizations. The results of the Telstra study show that around 93% of respondents accelerated their adoption of cloud services. Respondents in Europe and North Asia reported the highest sentiments across the region, with nearly all respondents (97 percent) seeing the cloud as the only option.

As businesses update their BCPs, the top priority is to streamline uptime and data security using a multi-cloud strategy. 67 percent of respondents were more concerned about business continuity to support remote work.

Based on an IDC Indonesia End-user Survey, a majority of the organizations in Indonesia have started to use and adopt cloud-based applications in their business processes. The increasing requirements of collaboration applications and business applications, as well as the growing needs for storage and servers, have become key to support business during this challenging pandemic time. Hosted private cloud is expected to grow 23% in the near term as certain Indonesian organizations remain reliant on on-premises workloads and focus on driving hybrid environments internally. Hybrid cloud is expected to be “business as usual” going forward. Many enterprises have started leveraging hybrid environments to combine required governance, localization, and data residency with a strong move towards cloud-based solutions that can provide flexibility, agility and efficiency to the company.

5. Prioritizing Adaptive Networks

Changing the way we work remotely is changing the priorities of organizations’ IT needs. Service quality, access and control, and security represent challenges when most employees are no longer centrally engaged in the office, but working from home or other remote locations. This means that companies require adaptive infrastructure to overcome the challenges related to employees using their own devices and accessing company data and applications from home.

To address this, organizations have made various efforts to improve their overall performance and core network security. However, the challenge is not always related to how well the network is designed, but also how well the network can be connected and interconnected to produce the best service in accommodating collaboration needs to work remotely. Leading network technologies with the best capabilities, such as SD-WAN, can certainly support performance and user experience, while also providing opportunities for efficiencies when scaling.

COVID-19 is pushing customers faster into SD-WAN as the need for cost savings rises, while still having to maintain (or rather further improve) operational simplicity, agility, and especially security for its branch network.  SD-WAN is currently in high demand, considering that systems and business applications for remote work systems require added flexibility and good network resilience support, especially during peak conditions (peak capacity). GlobalData forecasts the SD-WAN market in Indonesia to grow at a CAGR of 16.74% to $21 million this year and $39 million by 2024. In Indonesia, VPNs (Virtual Private Networks)  are not designed for ‘peak capacity’ of increasing network traffic in a significant manner.  SD-WAN allows the company to have scalability, especially during periods of high surges in network traffic when most employees work remotely from home. Evidently, if a company only relies on local VPN servers, these tend to become overloaded with the number of connections and the amount of traffic needed to support a very large increase in workload. Of course, this will cause the network to become slow and less than optimal which then affects employee performance and business productivity, and even more so in video conferencing and cloud-based video collaboration platforms that require large networks and capacities to reach dozens of people in real-time.