Digital transformation has become essential to the whole company. CIOs are now reporting directly to the chairman and the board rather than being confined as part of the IT function. It has become a strategic issue, and this shift has been accelerated by COVID-19.
That strategic approach has been underpinned by a digital transformation roadmap, of which cloud is a key element. Whether you needed to rapidly increase your number of home workers, transition your contact center operation to home agents, or enable collaboration tools to support productivity, it became clear that cloud was vital.
Cloud supported all the changes that companies were forced to make rapidly and unexpectedly. The ability to spin up bandwidth in response to a crisis has proven invaluable. At Orange, one of our customers needed to enable several thousand contact center staff quickly and securely. Another customer, a global mining company, needed to hold virtual annual general meetings (AGM) during the emergency. These were new use cases – nobody really anticipates remote AGMs or 10,000 people dialing into a virtual town hall meeting at the same time – but cloud enabled them.
Cloud to power more business-critical applications
As we move forward and out of the COVID-19 emergency, cloud will power more and more business-critical applications. There is much talk about what the return to work might look like as we try to balance keeping workers and workplaces safe while also enabling productivity. That will require a hybrid working model of working from home (WFH) and in-office staff, but all will require flexibility and the ability to keep delivering their work. On-premise changes can take days or weeks to get done, whereas, in the cloud, you can add 50 contact center agents in minutes.
Companies have seamlessly enabled WFH during the COVID-19 lockdown in an impressive way. They just shifted operations into the cloud, including business-critical applications like IP telephony. People who don’t ordinarily work on softphones on their laptops for example suddenly were, overnight.
We have empowered our customers to keep their businesses running, with thousands of workers enabled swiftly. Contact center continuity has been a major issue, and cloud has kept companies in contact with customers and serving them effectively. Companies needed to ensure their networks were up to powering their virtual contact centers during COVID-19, and to support them we increased our network capacity and upgraded service platforms. It worked: at the end of March the number of users connecting to their companies’ networks remotely over the Orange network had already increased by 700%. Cloud kept businesses up and running seamlessly.
We surveyed our customers to see how the pandemic affected them, and what their future priorities are now. Cloud featured: with potential future disruptions from lockdowns in mind, companies know that cloud will enable them to keep contact centers operating and keep their workers collaborating. 64% of customers told us that improving their cloud collaboration tools is one of their top five priorities, while 60% said improving cloud and network capabilities are in their top five new priorities too.
There were good examples of cloud helping companies ride out the COVID-19 emergency in ASEAN: for example, the Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA) launched the GoCloud scheme, designed to help SMEs make the shift from traditional software to cloud applications. Malaysia’s government provided webinars for teachers to learn how they can use cloud-based tools to teach from home.
It’s been part of an enforced culture shift. Some companies that have historically been more traditional in their ways of working have had no choice but to evolve and embrace WFH and use the cloud to do it. There is a cultural aspect to manage, as throughout Asia many people do live in smaller, more densely-populated places.
In Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, people tend to live in apartments and spend much of their lives in social environments. For example, eating is a very communal thing and people like face-to-face meetings. WFH contradicts traditional behavior, so it will be interesting to see how people continue to adjust.
On top of enabling WFH and keeping businesses operating during the COVID-19 lockdown, cloud will be essential to kick-starting business and economic activity as we emerge from it. As the situation eases and ASEAN nations attempt to return to something close to normal, cloud will help companies enable the development of new products and services and, as a result, new revenue streams. A comprehensive cloud-native application and security strategy will help companies improve customer experience and assure data privacy.
We have seen e-commerce and online business explode during the COVID-19 lockdown, and cloud is central to that. Companies that have omnichannel communication strategies in place have been able to keep in contact with their customers better than those that did not, for example. More companies are trying to deploy omnichannel communications in the new normal, even in industries that haven’t typically used it such as eHealth.
Cloud for today and tomorrow
At no other point in time has there been such an urgent need for the instant availability of IT resources enabled by cloud. Cloud will continue accelerating as we move out of the COVID-19 crisis, with more and more customers and partners looking at how they can adapt next – what else can they use cloud for? The companies that will thrive will be those that shift their tools to the cloud quickest. Google’s cloud platform has seen a 52% increased demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cloud is now a business essential.