HOW ECONOMIC VOLATILITY CAN BREED INNOVATIVE CHANGE
By: Robert Le Busque, Regional Vice President, Asia Pacific, Verizon Business Group
When the pandemic created large scale disruption and change, Verizon had the complex task of not only managing its own business through this unusual time, but also helping our customers to manage through change. We had to care for the well-being of our own 130,000 employees around the globe, while also ensuring we were continuing to advise our customers on steps they could take to keep their business operational, particularly with a wholesale move towards remote working. It was an enormous challenge, playing out on a global scale.
Our customers were facing a number of challenges - for example:
Is remote-access infrastructure robust enough over the long term to handle the number of employees shifting to remote working?
Are our core business applications cloud-ready? Or are we relying on bulky solutions that are not user friendly as a workaround?
Can our collaboration solutions cope with a massive explosion in traffic volumes as users switch to remote working?
Is my dispersed office environment secure?
In the midst of all the chaos, we learnt three valuable lessons.
- Firstly, we truly believe that a company’s first priority should be to care for the well-being of its employees – this is an absolute given. Verizon has over 10,000 employees in the APAC region, many of whom perform business-critical functions on behalf of our customers. Not only did we have to ensure they had the technology they needed to work from their homes, but we also felt we had a duty of care for their well-being through the pandemic, understanding the pressure the work from home situation might put on their personal circumstances, for example with child or elder care responsibilities. By March, 90% of our Asia-based workforce was working from home. But we knew that our people would only be able to care for our customers, if we cared for them.
- The second lesson has been to ensure that not only must businesses be able to continue to serve their customers, but that flexibility is key, as those customer expectations may now be different. The pandemic has impacted industry sectors differently, and so our role has been to advise businesses on exactly which technologies they should be considering to drive productivity - and that they need to invest in those technologies now. During the pandemic, many organisations needed to invest quickly to make changes to processes such as application migration to the cloud, collaboration tools and application performance enhancements. This helped them weather the initial storm, but will also hopefully set them up for success as they emerge into business and unusual, and seek new growth opportunities.
- Thirdly, a robust security posture is even more important than ever. Remote workforces have created new cyber security risks - a rapid migration to the cloud to enable remote working has created a much broader attack surface for cyber criminals looking for ways to penetrate an organisation. Pre-COVID-19, cybercriminals were successfully using tried and tested methods to obtain data. It goes without saying that if these tactics worked in a stable business environment, they have been working even more effectively in this period of unprecedented disruption.
Despite the challenges, uncertainty and doubt of the past few months, there is cause for optimism as we look to the future. When you look at the last era of truly revolutionary innovation, after the last global financial crisis, you can see some parallels. The confluence of some significant circumstances - global economic turmoil, the emergence of new connectivity technology (namely 4G mobile technology, and hyper scale cloud compute power), and historically low interest rates - gave rise to companies like Uber and AirBnB, and the birth of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Software Defined Networks.
Fast forward to today and many similar factors are in play - large scale economic turmoil, the emergence of next generation 5G mobile technology, the next evolution of hyper-scale compute power with Mobile Edge Compute - and of course, we still have historically low interest rates.
The pandemic gives leaders the opportunity to deliberately reflect on, and if necessary, reset their organization’s priorities. Those who make this transformation with consideration, keeping their people front and center, will not only survive, but thrive in a future rich with opportunity, growth and innovation.