How the coronavirus could lead to entrepreneurial tech strategies

By Adlina AR

In the face of what the World Health Organization (WHO) is calling a pandemic, businesses are forced to either halt all operations or find ways to continue functioning, while taking into account social distancing measures recommended by governments and health agencies.

Video conferencing and digital point-of-meeting platforms have become the organization’s new best friends, helping companies maintain business as usual.

Plenty of companies have to devise remote-working initiatives, but an internet connection and a computer won’t always cut it. Various work settings require extra equipment and technology to be able to carry out tasks as usual, with the same capabilities and efficiency as the workplace.

In situations like these, the role of CIOs and CTOs become more key than ever. These executives must lead firms through the pressure to make sudden shifts to operations, and ensure their workforce have all the support necessary technology to enable them to work from home.

The director of the Center for Digital Transformation at the University of California, Vijay Gurbaxani, told Forbes, “The CIO role has definitely become more central [to contingency strategies] because technology mediates almost every single interaction in business these days.”

CIOs and CTOs have to think about how to best provide employees with a secure access to the company’s network and whether or not the current operating systems and IT infrastructure can support remote working initiatives.

But some of the more entrepreneurial establishments are using the disruption caused by the outbreak to put new working models to the test.

The outbreak has spurred companies all over the world to invest in digital solutions to support a remote workforce. As a result, there’s been an evident upsurge in tech adoption, from risk management tools to cloud services and cybersecurity solutions.

Nontawat Poomchusri, Managing Director of Accenture in Thailand, said the crisis is leading some businesses to review traditional models as they realize how they can adapt to new, agile ways of working made possible by technology today.

Cybersecurity solutions are receiving particular attention as executives now direct their focus to ensuring networks remain protected and threat-free since the workforce will be accessing them through private, home internet connections.

But Poomchusri also highlighted how data analytics and AI could show itself instrumental in helping operations continue to serve customers despite limited physical interactions. The solution can offer valuable insights on customer expectations, suggesting ways on how to best meet them and provide a better understanding to their changing behavior.

One example of a company managing this sudden shift is Shopify. The Canada-based e-commerce platform instructed over 5,000 of its employees across 11 different countries to work from home, and offered US$ 1,000 to each employee to furnish their new remote “offices” in a bid to make the transition easier and motivate the workforce to continue performing at their best.

Waste Management’s Chief Digital Officer, Nikolaj Sjoqvist, meanwhile told Forbes the company has upped its virtual private network licenses and is now working towards scaling up its operation network capacity to allow improved remote working experiences.

“Businesses must shift their mindset from ‘just because’ to ‘trust because’ — re-examining fundamental business and technology models and creating a new basis for competition and growth,” Poomchusri said.

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