Strategic Partners

Overcoming the pandemic

Simon Bennett, CTO, EMEA, Rackspace Technology, lists key steps every business must take to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

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We’re experiencing a tectonic shift in working practices witnessed by any living generation, with all industries simultaneously having to learn and adapt to serving their customers with a remote workforce. Technology has been instrumental in most organisations’ business continuity throughout this period, yet it hasn’t been easy sailing. This unprecedented situation uncovered and accentuated a number of challenges that IT teams will need to overcome to continue supporting their businesses over the coming months.

Whilst lockdown 2.0 took place across EMEA, business leaders needed to adjust to a more permanent period of uncertainty than anyone could have expected and quickly overcome these issues – most of which are not quick fixes. The biggest, according to research commissioned by Rackspace Technology, were a need for business continuity programmes; a lack of adaptability to change; a lack of preparedness for different working arrangements; and not having enough employees with the right skills.

The pressure is now on for organisations to overcome these obstacles with longer-term strategies. So how can this be done?

Improving adaptability to better prepare for the unknown

The biggest challenge that EMEA businesses uncovered during the pandemic was a need for business continuity programmes (44%), whilst they reported the second as being a lack of adaptability to change (34%). This reflects the findings from Leesman, which previously cited the UK as amongst the least prepared countries to deal with a mass home-working strategy.

Most organisations are having to shift their operations beyond recognition as a result of the pandemic and its mid-term impact on their operations. For many, this means completely reformulating their business continuity plans to prepare for the next wave of the unknown as well as establishing adaptable processes that can support the business in navigating the evolving situation.

The cloud underpins many businesses’ ability to continue operating services virtually and to support their entire workforce remotely. Those that had migrated to the cloud, or had already started the migration prior to or at the beginning of lockdown, found that the shift to cloud turned out to be critical to enabling remote workforces.

For example, a UK public sector organisation, the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust’s (CNWL) revealed it may have not been able to support patients without its migration to the cloud, as most healthcare was in-person. However, the Trust has now been able to adapt to provide many of their services remotely, for example with the use of online tests and video calls.

As a result of these reported benefits of the cloud to remote working, we’re seeing many companies increasing their investments in the cloud services that underpin their ability to scale up and down, deliver better online experience, and support their entire workforce to work productively from home. Whilst the majority of businesses (67%) were already either in progress or planning to move to a multi or hybrid cloud model in 2020, and 74% had started or planned to develop cloud-based solutions, the pandemic has given rise to three quarters (73% and 76% respectively) bringing their projects forward.

Will remote working, work tomorrow?

 IT leaders also felt that the pandemic had exposed their lack of preparedness for different working arrangements (28%). Nearly six months after the coronavirus upended our traditional working practices, businesses across the world are grappling to turn their temporary fixes into more sustainable processes that will support many employees that expect to work from home for the foreseeable future.

This means employing the right technology solutions to ensure workers can be as productive and efficient at home as they are in the office.. Whether that means migrating to the cloud to ensure easy access to tools and documents from remote locations, or implementing collaboration tools that enable quicker, easier, and simpler communication between employees but at the same time remaining secure.

But it’s important that this challenge isn’t just viewed in the context of a technical fix. Businesses will also need to reassess processes and ensure employee benefits packages reflect a remote working structure. For example, this may involve providing the right physical set-up to ensure people can work comfortably, or launching wellness programmes to support the emotional and mental health of their employees.

 Identifying where new skills can help you thrive

 Technology is, and will continue to be, a key driver in helping businesses adapt to what lies ahead. But as many accelerate transformation projects to help them take advantage of its benefits today, many have uncovered that they lack the right skills. In fact, 28% of EMEA businesses reported that the COVID-19 crisis highlighted their workforce doesn’t have the right skillsets.

To overcome this, organisations first need to identify which skills they are missing that their business model relies on. It is then vital that employees are up- and re-skilled appropriately to fill these critical skills gaps. This will likely involve launching tailored training programmes that not only provide employees with the necessary learning, but that can be completed from the home environment.

But training and reskilling can take time, and – particularly in a pandemic – time is of the essence. Organisations should therefore also take advantage of working with third parties to help plug their skills gaps and elevate their teams’ capabilities as quickly as possible, to ensure they can deliver the critical transformation needed to survive these difficult times.

The right technology and people to cope with future disruption

At the start of the pandemic, organisations had to act fast with quick, tactical responses to the unexpected disruption, to ensure they could continue to function as a business. This in turn uncovered areas that needed attention, whether it was the business continuity plans they had in place- or lack thereof – or the lack of skills they had to implement the long-term solutions needed to cope with ongoing disruption.

As a result, the next phase for organisations will be addressing these immediate issues to build both agility and resiliency into the business, which will help them overcome the challenges presented by any future unexpected events – COVID-19 or otherwise.

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