IT Business

Overcoming business disruption with technology during the Coronavirus crisis

By Heath Muchena | Decentralised News | 11 Jun 2021

The global spread of COVID-19 has prompted many businesses to instruct their employees to work from home. Employees are being encouraged to work remotely and many companies have taken steps to restrict business travel for employees. Several unicorn startups including Zoom and Slack and large corporations such as Microsoft and Google are even now offering their cloud-based tools for free to enable more people to work online as more stay at home measures get put into force by governments across the globe. 

Aside from making sure that corporate networks can handle the spikes in connections coming in over virtual private networks (VPNs), tech execs are expected to take charge and ensure that productivity is maintained and disruption is minimised. To enable employees to meet their deliverables, C-suite execs are more than ever reliant on business IT leadership to make recommendations on how to effectively manage the crisis by ensuring the tools which allow employees to be productive are put in place and running optimally to minimise loss of time and revenue.  

CIOs exercise crisis organisation leadership 

When asked whether IT execs are well positioned to guide the C-suite through the current crisis. “These are unprecedented times and it’s important to ensure that business continuity measures are in place to ensure operational continuity. We are fortunate to have our office working staff fully enabled to work from home and be fully operational with all the tools and systems to collaborate and operate the business. But we also have production facilities that require human intervention on a labour level and that complicates the process. Many businesses in similar industries that rely on a mix of administrative and production facilities will not be able to operate 100% in the event of forced shutdowns,” explained Yoav Tchelet, Chief Technology Officer at Amrod and former CIO of Bayport Financial Services. 

“I think that the Chief Information Officer is uniquely positioned to have a 360 degree view of the business and this view helps one position priorities and scenarios much better,” said Sudhish Mohan, CIO and COO for TransUnion Africa. 

Engaging business stakeholders 

To ensure the company’s objectives are achieved through the use of IT, CIOs would have to make the right recommendations to business leadership and stakeholders within their organisations. This is especially important during crisis times since decisions taken can potentially be cost-saving or in worst case scenarios lead to significant revenue losses. Navigating such complicated scenarios is never easy. “We are on a cloud journey and have already put in place the core components of our strategy to enable the business. It’s a journey that will continue and it's in times like these that we can even accelerate this journey due to the ability of our developers and IT staff to work remotely,” said Tchelet. 

“Ensuring the safety of our people and their families is of the first priority. We are allowing all employees to work from home and providing them with the technology capabilities from tooling to systems to do that. Although tooling does not drive cultural change we have an opportunity to drive embedment using the data of the usage of these services,” said Mohan. “We are driving decision orientated meetings and on our communication side, we are ensuring that our messages are consistent and frequent. Nothing breeds uncertainty like a poor communication strategy, he added. “I am giving direction and ensuring the stability of our systems; making sure that we have a plan to address potential scenarios. Ultimately, our work needs to continue but the lessons learnt from this pandemic and solutions will reshape the way we work in the future.”

Even though most companies are encouraging staff to work from home, it is crucial to understand how effective this is in the long run especially across African nations which already struggle with load shedding and poor internet connectivity. According to said Tchelet, it’s a massive challenge for SMEs in Africa which don’t necessarily have the infrastructure to support this. “Compounding this, small businesses that rely on human interaction can put some measures in place to deal with this crisis but technology will not help these businesses. Companies that don’t rely on human interaction or have manufacturing/production facilities are in a much better place to continue operating but if they don’t have the technology infrastructure in place then they will struggle to survive, that’s not just an African but a global problem,”  he said. 

Tackling increasing cyberthreats that come with remote working 

To deal with exploding online loads from people working remotely and to handle new cyberthreats effectively is a challenge especially when you have people working with varying home connectivity methods. This means that every company has to put in place the right plans to enable their employees. “In terms of global infrastructure capability, we’ve seen massive loads and spikes on connectivity, infrastructure and data centers but I think we still have the capacity and ability to handle much more on a global scale. From a cybersecurity perspective, the core cyber security principles should apply whether someone is working on premise or remotely, this includes employee awareness and understanding that in times of global panic people will attempt to take advantage of the situation and breach security,” said Tchelet.

“Scenario planning is always a help in these situations, but I think one needs to think through upgrading capacity to handle more traffic loads on consumer-facing services, roll out self-service tools and interactive-voice-response capabilities for customer-support needs,” said Mohan. 

Stabilizing critical infrastructure while enabling the shift in business processes in times of crisis

The availability of cloud and software as a service is making it easier to operate in times of Coronavirus which means stabilizing critical infrastructure while enabling the shift in business processes in times of crisis is key to sustaining remote work practices. “My first priority is to ensure that business adapts to the new normal and ensuring that all services and critical infrastructure is available. I think making visible the challenges on premises solutions and some of the challenges experienced is critical to the SaaS type solution business cases. Cloud migration provides the flexi­bility to manage the current spikes and changing employee and customer needs rapidly and cost effectively,” explained Mohan. 

“It’s important that any cloud strategy is focused on business enablement and clearly defined within a larger business strategy, that’s the only way to make cloud a business enabler and drive organizational value including continuity and the other benefits that can be derived through its implementation,” said Tchelet.

During such disruptive times as most companies are currently facing, CIOs face the challenge of managing supply chains on hardware assets and software including VPN licenses that employees would use to log into servers. “Some of the challenges include vendor procurement, standardization, policy implementation and alignment and governance. It’s important to get the right standards, processes and maturity in the business to effectively deal with these challenges,” said Tchelet.

“Currently, we are all experiencing a massive delay in services especially out of China. I think the future will hold a much more diversified supply chain portfolio, including planning for more capacity that currently exists,” said Mohan. 

IT governance is also central to the overall business in times of crisis. “This has proven to be the most fundamental building block to have in place. A central plan that is concise and consistent in priorities and communications sets the right tone although regional and local nuances are equally important to make everyone feel included,” Mohan explained. “It is a critical component especially in times of crisis as it’s easy to lose control if the right governance and controls are not in place both from a cybersecurity and overall governance perspective, said Tchelet.

Originally published in CIO Online

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Heath Muchena
Heath Muchena

Founder, Decentralised News & Proudly Associated Author, Journalist For more about me:

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