Ready for the next normal

Speaking to contributing editor Janees Reghelini, Mubarik Hussain, Director of IT, Bloom Properties, shares tips on how regional organisations can rise up to the challenges of COVID-19, ensure business continuity and seamlessly transition into the digital age.

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The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic drove organisations to accelerate their digital strategies and initiatives to avoid disruptions to day-to-day operations. This meant doubling down on technological investments and utilisation and empowering the workforce to transition and be efficient in the digital era.

The impact of the pandemic reverberated across all industries, affecting businesses of all shapes and sizes. We speak to Mubarik Hussain, Director of IT, Bloom Properties, to learn his thoughts on how companies can thrive in this new normal

What are some of the main challenges regional businesses have to address during these difficult times?

Some companies had internal transformation projects lined up for 2020 while many hadn’t embarked on the digital path yet. As a company, our priority has always been on how we can digitally enhance ourselves and what kind of innovative solutions we can add that would help us to cater to our customers more effectively. Those firms that already had a digital mindset were able to make the transition easier than those who didn’t. However, companies who had these digital projects planned also relied on physical aspects such as people being present at certain locations, infrastructure hardware, etc. At the time, none of us could anticipate that requiring physical equipment and operational logistics would be a challenge. The biggest impact and challenge for all companies was to move their operations to a complete digital model. The next challenge was ensuring the new platforms and technologies were being quickly adopted, expanded and effectively utilised so that activities could be conducted remotely.

The sudden shift to working from home throughout the COVID-19 outbreak was very challenging. Overnight organisations had to enable staff through IT cloud application accelerations, ensure VPN connectivity for data centre applications and make sure remote IT support was available securely.

Businesses had to increase security and monitoring of environments, ensure identity and access management were controlled and avoid rushing new applications into the new environment. Additionally, every new integration had to be security checked and complaint rather than based on user demands. Trainings had to be conducted to make sure employees were acquainted with the new technologies in place. All of this was easier said than done. But the urgency of the situation helped propel these initiatives across most businesses. Digital transformation strategies that would normally take years to implement were being done in a matter of weeks.

How did it help those companies who already had a digital-first mindset to make the transition faster?

Organisations that had business continuity built into its IT landscape and technology solutions found it easier to deal with these challenges than those who didn’t. These kinds of situations are unpredictable, and this is why it is so critical to have business continuity plans in place – an aspect most companies ignore or don’t get around to it because of day-to-day targets. The first step to getting on the digital movement is to have cloud-based solutions architecture. With software and cloud-led solutions and technologies embedded into an organisation’s IT environment, it becomes much easier to scale and evolve. Making the 100 percent transition into the virtual world quickly across all our business lines was definitely challenging but having a cloud-based architecture made it a lot easier for us.

It was critical for all companies to digitalise, otherwise they risked not just being left behind but locked out from the market. Industries that were purely relying on physical contracts have been gravely impacted over the past few months because they suddenly find themselves unable to communicate with their clientele. This is because they were too reliant on customers coming into their premises. These firms are finding it challenging to adapt to this increasingly digital environment we find ourselves in.

Do you expect the trends that have been brought about by the ongoing pandemic to continue for the foreseeable future?

I certainly believe that the trends that have emerged from the pandemic such as remote work models, contactless payments, automation, social distancing policies, reduced contact points, less physical interactions, and so on, will continue to see a long-term effect and therefore, regional businesses have to urgently boost their digitalisation drives.

How do you see the regional business landscape shaping out over the next few quarters?

Businesses are seeing the returns and rewards on digital technologies. Digital companies are able to continue to grow, expand and reach their customers. As more people have adopted digital channels in the past few months, the potential to reach additional customers is now wider. Companies can successfully grow in these times and continue to grow even after the pandemic because the buying, learning, teaching, customer experience will have altered customer behaviour going forward with the shift from physical to digital. We are excited to continue to offer unique solutions and quality services across our business units to offer customers genuine value-adds.

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