As the coronavirus continues to spread around the world, the economic symptoms are emerging. More than a dozen global firms have announced they will miss their financial goals for the upcoming quarter due to the combined impact of supply chain disruptions and dampened customer demand.
“The value of digital channels, products and operations is immediately obvious to companies everywhere right now,” says Sandy Shen, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner. “This is a wake-up call for organizations that have placed too much focus on daily operational needs at the expense of investing in digital business and long-term resilience. Businesses that can shift technology capacity and investments to digital platforms will mitigate the impact of the outbreak and keep their companies running smoothly now, and over the long term.”
Expand digital workplace resources and access
As the virus continues to spread across an increasing number of countries, company leaders and government representatives — most recently, the governor of the state of Washington in the United States — will encourage people to avoid unnecessary travel or large gatherings. Businesses will ask more people to work from home even when they’re healthy to increase “social distance,” which can limit viral spread. CIOs can take these steps to make sure people have the systems they need to stay productive:
- Inventory work use cases. Understand the typical workflow of people who are able to do their jobs remotely and identify the systems they need to access. These range from in-house communications platforms like email or messaging to CRM and ERP systems. Include interactions with customers and business partners as part of the use case analysis and document potential needs of external users.
- Identify security needs. Review existing security infrastructure and assess what people will need to work safely. Consider the hardware remote employees will use (company-issued or personal devices), and the networks they’ll be on (public or private). Consider endpoint security for devices and robust identity and access management to allow secure sign-in to corporate systems.
- Update policies, access and training. As companies expand the number of people working remotely, they will need to update their policies regarding who can do it, how often and for how long. IT will in turn need to update system access — sometimes to expand access and sometimes to limit it. All workers must undergo training on rules around data protection and proper data use, including how to safely exchange documents or information electronically.
- Provide new capabilities. Organizations may need to quickly acquire or scale their technology capabilities. Videoconferencing, messaging, collaboration tools and document sharing are just a few examples of technologies that facilitate remote work. Additional bandwidth and network capacity may also be needed, given the increasing number of users and volume of communications. CIOs will need a process to quickly assess the company’s needs and acquire access — ideally with flexible, short-term contracts. Even organizations that have existing vendor relationships may have to renegotiate the number of users or transaction volume to accommodate a short-term surge.
Leverage technology to address customer demand
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