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Technology transformation & readiness assessment during COVID-19 pandemic

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Sampath Sowmyanarayan, President Global Enterprise, Verizon Business

The way we work has been transformed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has made it clear that a remote working model is not a “nice to have” for global businesses, but a prerequisite. The new world that will take shape as we work through the pandemic and beyond will be determined by organizations deploying remote working at scale and extending its possibilities with next-generation technologies driving competitive advantage, writes Sampath Sowmynarayan, President- Global Enterprise, Verizon Business Group.

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Reshaping the technology transformation agenda:

At the very core, we believe there are four key stages to be undertaken when organizations look to reshape their technology transformation agenda.

1.Define your transformation vision and goals

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The COVID-19 pandemic’s dramatic drive toward a remote working model offers us many lessons. As we move into the fourth wave of remote working, CIOs need to think about how their IT infrastructure performed during the crisis and really note down their key learnings: What held up? What failed? Was their IT infrastructure resilient enough? Was there any impact on workplace efficiency, process and productivity—and did they still manage to effectively support their customers? For example: For scalable networks, what level of flexibility is expected for our network usage? What levels of remote working are anticipated (and which functions, roles, geo-location “hotspots”)? How will the network needs change as we flatten the curve and fight out of the economic trough, gradually bringing some of the workforces back to the office?

2. Focus on future-readying your people building blocks, i.e., workforce and talent

This second step is about ensuring that you have the right skills available to deliver on your transformation vision. This might mean retraining existing staff in areas such as AI, machine learning or cybersecurity or hiring in to ensure that you have the right skills to deliver the six imperatives of transformation. Or it could mean identifying a partner who can contribute to specialist knowledge. But you need to ensure that you have the right team in place to make transformation happen, or you won’t get out of the starting gate.

3. Build scalable and adaptable application, IT infrastructure, and data and digital platforms (DDP)

This is where transformation comes to life. The most important part of future-readying your business is to ensure that you have a modular, flexible IT architecture, which can adapt to challenges the future brings. This means simplifying your data and application landscape and establishing application programming interfaces (APIs) and microservices to create more flexibility. It means leveraging private, public and/or hybrid cloud infrastructure, with an opportunity to scale if required. And it means infusing strong cybersecurity elements across the design and implementation of technology, data and platform layers.

4. Design cybersecurity in from the beginning

Designing cybersecurity into a transformation from the very start helps control development and operation costs, reduce time to implementation and generate revenue earlier. BCG client data analysis has shown that designing cybersecurity into a transformation can reduce rework costs by up to 62 per cent, and time to market by up to 20 per cent. Moreover, by instituting a common cybersecurity framework for all applications (both on-premises and multi-cloud), BCG indicates that operating costs can be reduced by up to 40 per cent.

Also Read: Business as Unusual – How to Lead Differently in the Workplace of the Future

Technical building blocks— transformation imperatives

1. A scalable network – For organizations to stay relevant and competitive in a global and turbulent market (both during and after COVID-19), organizations of every shape and size require a network that can support the dynamic and on-demand needs of their users and applications—for example, more bandwidth to support seasonal sales requirements, more VPN connections or cloud access to support work-from-home requirements. This is where software-defined networking (SDN) comes in. Traditionally, companies have purchased different devices to deliver networking functionality—routers, switches, firewalls, load balancers, etc. With SDN, the network is now software based, and these functions are accomplished virtually.

SDN enables organizations to gain network flexibility and agility and also makes their network much more elastic, as software can also be used to increase capacity or introduce new functionality. SDN supports innovation in a way that static networks cannot. While one can have an SDN without scale, you can’t have a truly scalable network without SDN; SDN is a prerequisite for scalability.

2. Cloud-ready applications – In this building block, again, the first must-do is creating an inventory of which applications you already have, and which are already mission-ready to be moved to the cloud. And this is an inventory check that should actually be repeated frequently. A BCG report states, “Cloud vendors typically refresh their hardware every two years, compared with every four to seven years at most large enterprises, leading to a 20 per cent performance improvement. This improvement comes via the benefits of Moore’s Law, as well as from faster data retrieval and improved operating systems and virtualization software.” This is not so much of an issue for smaller organizations, who tend to have deployed more SaaS applications and so have an easier “transition to cloud” mission.

Also Read: New digital workplace – overcoming the limits of time & place

3. Strong and secure mobile connectivity – The must-dos of this third building block are all about delivering reliable and secure connectivity. The quality of the physical connection cannot be overlooked here, so organizations should consider multiple options to get the right performance. As an example, a Verizon customer (global financial services company) recently deployed LTE hotspots to augment areas where consumer broadband connections didn’t perform as expected. VPNs are the next key item and a foundational piece of this, which can then be augmented with private wireless gateway services. But security must not be an afterthought and, rather, has to be built in as standard. And this is not just about anti-virus protection but rather zero-day protection, leveraging, if possible, AI technologies and threat intelligence to predict potential data breaches.

4. End-to-end monitoring of performance – This is important if you are to be able to properly understand your network data flows. The second is to define how your network is working with respect to visibility, insight and execution. The overall objective is to curate an accurate data set so you can understand how you might re- instrument different parts of the network, incorporating predictive analysis to help predict and prevent anomalies or outages, and automating actions, whether for users, transactions or applications. With the shift in traditional corporate data flows away from the office setting and into remote scenarios, CIOs must be able to glean data directly from the network itself in order to quickly identify and address anomalous behaviour.

4. Zero-trust security – The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) states that “Zero trust [security focuses] on protecting resources, not network segments, as the network location is no longer seen as the prime component to the security posture of the resource.” The first must- do in this building block is to identify those business-critical applications and data feed that are your organization’s most critical assets (“crown jewels”)— without which you could not operate. These could be virtual or data assets or physical assets such as manufacturing or energy production and transmission equipment.

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