COVID-19: Phase Two, Long-Term IT Strategies

Gary Barton – Analyst, Business Network and IT Services

Summary Bullets:

• Digital transformation strategies will play a crucial role in how companies respond to and recover from the COVID19 crisis and all enterprises should be working on their strategy now

• The cloud has demonstrated that it is a resilient and flexible technology that will enable enterprises to respond to COVID-19 and other future emergencies

Most enterprises have considered and deployed their initial response to COVID-19 which has been to deliver at least a minimum viable IT solution to the sudden shift to remote working. Enterprises are now looking at phase two: how do businesses create IT infrastructure that will support the ‘new normal’ that emerges in a post COVID-19 world?

Keep Calm and Think Digital Transformation

Companies need to establish what needs their employees who are working from home have that are not being met by remote working solutions that may have been delivered with a focus on speed of deployment rather than wide-ranging feature sets. Enterprises should also bear in mind that the free use of many platforms (whether that is UC/team collaboration, contact center, VPNs, or SD-WAN) is time limited with many grace periods ending either after 90 days or at the beginning of July.

Enterprises should also take time to consider what a longer-term response will look like. IT consultancies and service providers are reporting an increase in demand from enterprises for guidance on which technologies they should be considering and how they can be deployed. As COVID-19 eases, there will not be an automatic return to the previous normal.

For example, remote working is likely to become more ingrained in employees’ expectations and the use of video will continue to be higher than before. The COVID-19 economy will change multiple verticals, e.g., pushing retail even further towards the online, increasing automation in manufacturing, etc. Network architectures will have to adapt to a higher number of public Internet connections and cloud-based services. As more people work from home, 5G may become an even more important part of access infrastructures.

The convergence of these trends and what it means for enterprises is usually covered under the umbrella term ‘digital transformation’, and it COVID-19 means that it is now more important than ever that enterprises have a digital transformation strategy.

Cloud Proves Its Worth

COVID-19 has underlined the strengths of cloud-hosted IT, whether that is SaaS applications (e.g., Microsoft Office 365, SAP, Salesforce), private hosted data and applications, workload in the public cloud, or cloud-hosted unified communications and contact center solutions. Cloud hosted platforms have demonstrated remarkable resiliency under the weight of enormous increases in usage over a short period of time. Those companies who have already moved to a more cloud-based IT setup have, by and large, been those who have been most able to continue to do business.

A more disparate workforce also means that it is less practical to try and locate services in a single place. It is no longer just salespeople and executives who need to access corporate platforms remotely. Furthermore, this distribution of the workforce and likely long-term reductions in office numbers and size means that functions such as security and network monitoring/optimization cannot necessarily be supported by on-premises equipment. Enterprises now need to consider how their IT providers can deliver security services hosted with the network core and at the network edge, and how network providers can monitor the performance of applications over multiple public internet connections.

Network Reborn

Another factor that enterprises should be aware of is the increased importance of investing in robust and redundant network services. Cloud platform resiliency counts for very little when the networks that are connected to them are not up to the job. Enterprises should consider that a failure to provide sufficient capacity at key pinch points will significantly undermine their ability to do business. Similarly, technologies such as SD-WAN and SDN that allow more dynamic routing and traffic prioritization are even more crucial in a distributed, multi-cloud environment.

 


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