As we’re all suddenly aware, a pandemic like COVID-19 can impact millions of lives and bring the world to a standstill. Aside from the human toll, global businesses are facing disruptions of unseen proportions, with industries like Aviation, Travel, Hospitality and Oil & Gas particularly hard hit. Many organizations have turned to technology to maintain their operations and relevance. The steps those companies are taking to accelerate their digital transformation are aiding business continuity, helping offices run virtually, providing support for essential services, enabling the supply chain and delivering online entertainment. They’re also providing a glimpse into how businesses may function in the post-COVID-19 world.
Cloud technologies have been particularly useful, a trend that will persist well after the current pandemic subsides. In the healthcare sector, the cloud is enabling researchers and scientists to access cutting-edge technology in their scramble to study the virus and find a possible cure. In the nonprofit realm, Microsoft has launched an Azure-driven Nonprofit Data Warehouse to help not-for-profit groups make more-informed strategic decisions. On the government side, Google is developing an AI-based chatbot to respond more quickly to citizen requests.
Why has the cloud been the go-to solution for businesses and nonprofits alike? There are many reasons, though its scalability has been a common response. For instance, in just a matter of weeks, cloud technology enabled remote learning for millions of students, work-from-home functionality for tens of millions of adults, a seamless transition to virtual healthcare, and the ability to shop and perform other essential services online – all without the Internet failing.
The stress on the global infrastructure has been remarkable. Microsoft has seen a 500% increase in Teams activity since January 31. Google Meet and video-conferencing products have surpassed 60% day-over day growth. Webex demand has doubled. Online sales have increased 74% worldwide. Online gaming activity has increased by 94%. Other collaboration tools such as Zoom Video, Slack, Monday, Blackboard, Canvas, AnyMeeting have all seen demand skyrocket. Comcast saw network traffic go up from 32% to 60%, while Verizon experienced a 34% increase in VPN traffic — all within a matter of one week.
Yet amid this unprecedented surge in traffic, during the week of April 6-12, service outages for ISPs, cloud providers, and conferencing services dropped from 298 to 177 globally. That’s the definition of resilience. Clearly, the elasticity and scalability of cloud have been critical to the world’s transition to a remotely working, socially distanced environment.
In the eventual post-COVID-19 landscape, the cloud will play a key role in establishing a “New Normal,” even as it interfaces with multiple other technologies. Enterprises will focus in the short- to medium-term on cost optimization, operational efficiency, increasing automation, remote working, managing demand and forecast, streamlining the supply chain to ensure business continuity, and rapidly enabling creation of new products or offerings. Here’s how technology will enable these changes.
Cost Optimization – An increasing number of enterprises will “lift and shift” data center workloads on cloud to reduce capital investment and operation cost. Similarly, high-computational resource desktop applications (e.g. CAD, CAM, CAE, 3D modeling, simulation, video- and photo-editing software, medical imaging) will be delivered through cloud-based streaming solutions like Amazon AppStream 2.0. These applications stand to benefit most from streaming as, they can leverage the vast computational resources of the cloud and be centrally managed by a cloud provider.
Operational Efficiency through Automation – Enterprises will invest in automating business processes using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technologies to reduce human intervention. The objective in doing so is to build a framework for an application to operate autonomously, be it software delivery, monitoring, quality assurance, remediation, self-healing or AIOps for operational automation. Enterprises will also rigorously implement financial governance to eliminate the cost of underutilized, unnecessary resources and services.
Improve the Developer Experience – Cloud-based digital workspaces will enable employees to work from any location without a negative impact on the business. This will lead to improved reliability, a better employee experience and optimized network and support costs. Enterprises will also leverage crowd-sourcing models for rapid and low-cost development across the product lifecycle using the best skills available – wherever they happen to be located.
Enhanced Customer Experience – Enterprises will invest in how customers experience their brand. Cloud-based contact centers will enable a more-digital, scalable approach that promises greater efficiency, lower costs and rapid access to critical data. Automating low-value or no-value interactions, and being smarter about where in the value chain it makes sense to engage customers, will also be critical. Cloud-based, AI-enabled contact centers will ensure minimum human intervention while providing high-quality customer service on demand 24×7 across all digital channels.
Reimagined Business Processes – As customers leverage more digital channels for shopping and services, enterprises that are not digitally enabled will look to rapidly enable digital business processes. Likewise, enterprises that have a digital presence yet are suffering from a poor user experience due to increased pandemic loads will focus on fixing these issues and re-imagining their current processes. Companies will also likely increase their use of AI and machine-learning technologies to better forecast changes in supply and demand.
As enterprises discover their “new normal,” we will see sweeping changes in the business world as companies seek to leverage the power of the cloud they’ve experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Smart managers will find a sweet spot between the physical and virtual worlds, creating a hybrid and flexible model of working aided by cloud-based collaboration. The most-impacted industries are likely to postpone some key transformation projects and operate in a “Run” model until things normalize. Others, however, will rush to a cloud-based infrastructure in an attempt to future-proof themselves against future disruptive events.