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How Covid19 Led a Remote Working Revolution

As those of us privileged, today sit in the safety and comfort of our homes, we are not just keeping the those around us safe, but are also participating in a remote working revolution. Where most companies in India have previously shunned remote working citing reasons like low productivity, the same companies are today forced to work from home to survive. As the technology leaders enable this transition, Indian companies are exploring uncharted territories and if one might say, making much process.

These are unprecedented times indeed. A challenge, a test, a struggle for survival. Both, for the individual and for the community. We have upon us the task to ensure that we don’t just get through it with minimum damage possible, but also that we have something to go back to when this is all over. It is this struggle to survive that is desperately trying to keep the show running. 

“Human Resource is always a topmost priority worldwide in any Business Continuity Plan. Human & Technology is the combination that works in tandem in any business for day to day operations. In such dreadful situation where Human life is at stake almost every organization across globe has opted to safeguard their Human Resources & have immediately instructed them to Work from Home (WFH).”

Amit Jaokar, CDO & CISO, NKGSB Bank

As businesses try to brave the crisis of the Covid 19 pandemic, we have to take a step back to understand what the situation was like in the pre-Covid 19 period, to make sense of how it is now during the national lockdown. Explaining the context of the scenario prior to the lockdown, Sriram, Chief Strategy Officer, iValue InfoSolutions, says, “ITeS companies due to the nature of their business with the customer and delivery team across different continents have working from anywhere baked into business models for a long time now. Initially, it was predominantly from the various office locations across the world which later got extended to any place, and any device securely with scale. Government and financial institutions evolved to move their citizens and customers to online model over time for enhancing efficiency, transparency, flexibility along with reduction of cost of serving them. Online marketplace companies accentuated the consumption of these services through mobile and web with a larger set of citizens over time. Digital transformation drives by corporates in the last few years also ensured most organizations adopted web/mobile delivery of key applications with DR and BCP plans.”

“A secure digital workspace can grant seamless access to business apps and data on any device, over any network, hosted on-premises or in a public cloud, thereby providing users with the experience they need. Business continuity has now become the core of digital strategizing for most organizations not just in India but globally too.”

Ravindra Kelkar, Area Vice President, Sales and Services, Indian Subcontinent, Citrix

These trends more or less set the backdrop that to a large extent prepared the Indian organizations to work from home in specific cases. But a remote working necessity at this scale is unprecedented and irrespective of how prepared these organizations were, moving to full time remote working model hasn’t been an easy transition. 

The COVID-19 outbreak poses unprecedented challenges to businesses, governments, and societies around the world. Companies are reacting in different ways to ensure business continuity. This new ‘Digital Normal’ that has been so suddenly thrust upon us is testing the boundaries of business relationships as financial considerations stretch cooperation to its breaking point.

“In India, as per Gartner report 54% of the organizations are not equipped to facilitate their employees WFH. Out of 46% who have so called preparedness; most of them are struggling with poor infrastructure (Dated Technology, Poor Network, Security concerns). Very rare portion of organizations have proper BCP in place (& implemented flawlessly) who can seamlessly WFH. So we India as a rapidly growing nation & emerging technology driven country has lot of catching up to do with respect to Business Continuity Plan, its adoption, & executing it in terms of drills / even essentially in LIVE Scenarios,” Explains

Amit Jaokar, CDO & CISO, NKGSB Bank.

Another issue that demands attention in a discussion on Remote Working is the perpetual debate between off and on-premise models. Through the years as technology has evolved, each model adds a number of pros and cons to its bag, as a result the needle seems to be constantly moving back and forth, never settling. The dilemma of remote working is much the same. While Cloud is coming on as extremely useful for enabling remote work, one cannot forget that just before the pandemic set in, the industry was debating the advantages of moving back to on-premise. 

Commenting on this Debprotim Roy, Founder & CEO, Canvs says, “In today’s day and age having on-prem tech infrastructure has reasons which have a lot to do with security and regulatory oversight than tech implications. For companies that literally need servers close by like HFT companies, it’s a different case altogether. Otherwise, for firms that have been on-prem, adapting right now to remote work and hence to the deluge of remote connections is becoming a herculean task. Establishing remote security is tough and challenging. Often, a step in establishing remote security is moving to established cloud-based solutions. For companies that still have concerns around public cloud, there is always the option of private clouds.”

“Companies with a multi-cloud model do find it slightly easier but there isn’t much of a difference because, more than cloud, it’s about operations. So, companies with physical operations are more impacted by the lock-down if compared with fully online businesses. For a purely digital company, the on-prem model vs cloud both is almost the same, because for IT services city authorities provide passes and there are other provisions as well. Many on-prem models can be controlled via software, only upgrades won’t be possible but business as usual can be managed, but yes, cloud models have an edge as it removes the hassle of frequently updating systems and is better in terms of flexibility, reliability, and security,” says

Lalit Keshre, Co-founder and CEO, Groww.

At a time when most of us are experiencing perhaps, the worst economical, social, medical, professional, psychological, and in a lot of other senses, disturbing and challenging times, it becomes extremely crucial to stand by each other and support each other in whatever way we can, while ensuring that we ourselves stay afloat. In times like these, supporting your business, partners, and employees acquires new meanings. It is a testimonial to this spirit, that companies are coming forward, together.

“Being a software and cloud solution organization, we at Crayon are extending all help possible to our business networks. We are making representations to the largest software publishers to relook the terms of our contracts with them and help businesses by financial concessions during prolonged lockdown. We are making entire gamut of our services around software and cloud available to our customers at attractive techno commercial value propositions. As the workforces are being disrupted, we are helping organizations quickly adopt new working models, by connecting employees and providing special access to solutions that maintain productivity and ensure business continuity. We have created an environment in the cloud where customers can host their desktops and continue working as usual. We have stepped up our capacity to address customers’ need to reduce costs by optimizing their infrastructure on premise or on the cloud and come up with better investment planning. On the account of this service our customers are seeing a dramatic shift in their cost,” shares

Vikas Bhonsle, CEO, Crayon Software Experts India Private Limited.

For organizations that have followed a remote working culture prior to it being mandated by circumstances, the struggle is slightly different. They have protocols and systems in place to ensure seamless operations. The catch is that, though in terms of their internal operations, the lockdown has hardly made any difference it has significantly impacted their relationship with their clients. Being self sufficient in terms of enabling business continuity, they are taking on the mantle of assisting their clients through the transition.

Debprotim Roy, Founder & CEO, Canvs shares, “Since we’ve had worked on quite a few fully remote projects till now, thankfully the protocols are in place. Our product managers who talk to clients have now improvised their external documentation infrastructure to keep a track of ongoing progress, meeting notes, calls, ideas, references and of course, timelines. This has helped clients to be aware of the various statuses of the projects running parallelly without having to even jump on a Zoom call or for that matter send an email. Having such platforms where statuses and messages are synchronously updated helps keeping everyone on the same page and reduces the time lost trying to stay in sync by making calls.”

Speaking in favour of the Remote Working Revolution and how it has the potential to re-structure the very fabric of the organizations, Shibu Paul, Vice President – International Sales at Array Networks, says “WFH is likely to be the new normal. Corporates will become more open to remote working and will adapt technology-enabled solutions for seamless working in the post-pandemic era. Employees are bound to leverage tele presence and video conferencing to stay in touch. Remote working will no doubt bring down attrition rates and increase digital productivity. VPN servers will become paramount to a company’s backbone, and their security as the workforce shifts to working from home. Organizations will work on firm monitoring and governance mechanisms for remote working and ensure that systems and processes are more fine-tuned, thereby creating the right working culture.”

“While in the short-term, remaining focused, calm and human-centric should guide most organizations through the new normal, in the long-term, the lessons learned from this temporary crisis may present an opportunity for organizations to create a more resilient workforce, with a focus on employee health and well-being enabled through a new perspective on the digital workplace.”

Aftab Ullah, Chief Operating & Delivery Officer, Brillio

Challenges

Different age groups react differently to remote working. It has a lot to do with how tech savvy the person in question is. While some professionals of the age group above 40 might be extremely handy in their use of technology, other young employees from modest backgrounds who have just entered the job market might be less so. Apart from these exceptions, it is generally observed that people in the age group bellow 40 will have no (or lesser) issues in adopting WFH whereas above 45 will have challenges to get accustomed to it & they will need an assistance every now and then. So, it will fall upon the IT Team to not just enable WFH but also educate those employees who are not well-versed in remote working. Moreover, induction, learning and development training for new joiners becomes difficult as well, since monitoring progress is complicated in the current scenario. 

“We are using Slack heavily for tech teams for easy coordination and team calls. Every morning and evening we have team huddles at a fixed time so everyone is updated on the progress of work. The weekly meeting between various teams have also switched to Slack. We have a lot of call centre employees for whom we have enhanced our integrated contact center solution to enable calls on employee phone instead of computer. Even the incoming customer calls are patched to the personal mobile phones of the calling executives. Each one of our employees can work from home without any hassle, All they are required to have is a good internet connection.”

Akhil Gupta, Co-founder & CTO, Nobroker.com

Commenting on the unravelling of the security fabric during the pandemic, Amit Jaokar, CDO & CISO, NKGSB Bank says, “Hackers have already started taking advantage of this situation & already many phishing emails have been floated in the name of ‘COVID 19 remedies’, ‘Safeguard against Coronavirus’ thta have resulted in compromising thousands of systems across the globe. As many resources will work from home, that means they will be out of your network & security boundaries; hackers will have their eyes on this & they will try to take advantage of such circumstances. Cyber security teams across the globe have a tough ask. All their preparation will be on stake, Email Security, DLP, SOC, Alter monitoring, IAM, Access control, MDM, Awareness, etc. They will have to be doubly vigilant & extra careful during this period.”

The industry is particularly apprehensive about all the additional security threats that companies are now facing due to the remote working scenario. Prashanth G J, CEO, TechnoBind says, “As the innovations are adding to the technology, hackers are getting even more advanced. With each user or a device accessing a network remotely it presents a potential entry point for hackers, it is important to ensure that all user access and devices are protected to the highest possible level to avoid damaging fallout from a cyber breach. In this pandemic situation to ensure the business continuity organizations must need to protect themselves with a holistic, end-to-end security architecture.” 

He further shares some tips that can help companies in educating employees on how to secure the company data from cybersecurity attacks. 

  • Employees should be encouraged to log out from the corporate network at the end of every day.
  • Employees should use complex passwords and should change these passwords frequently
  • One should change their default settings and passwords to reduce the potential impact on their work of an attack via other connected devices.
  • Use and regularly update antivirus and antispyware software on every computer used in your business
  • Employees working remotely should be required to use multifactor authentication (MFA) to access networks and critical applications
  • A VPN can be used especially when accessing the internal network to encrypt corporate traffic when using home or public internet
  • Virtual desktop interface solutions is also a good solution
  • To avoid risk, one should turn off any file-sharing on the work system and ensure home router or Wi-Fi access point has WPA2 security enabled while accessing or working on important documents

“For effective collaboration between team members, video meetings need to be conducted, data sharing is needed, a common dashboard of metrics needs to be in place and there needs to be a system where one can know what others are working on. This isn’t a simple process. We have been using Slack primarily. It easily integrates with all other enterprise tools that are built for teamwork and productivity (Eg: Gmail, Calendar, Zoom, Asana, etc). Other than that, we stay connected on Whatsapp and Zoom for quick chats and video meetings. We are constantly trying to find the right mix of technology and culture to ensure a collaborative work environment.”

Sousthav Chakrabarty, CEO, and Director, Capital Quotient

Finally…

The role and responsibility of a technology leader today is more critical than it has ever been before. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has suddenly turned the spotlight on to the CIOs, CTOs, CISOs and the likes, as they now occupy the centre stage facing perhaps what will be the greatest tests in their corporate career. They are now tasked to becoming enablers of business operations in a time of crisis and the caretakers of employee experience. 

“The channel community depends upon interaction, information sharing, discussion, demos and a host of interactive elements that form their arsenal. However this has been halted completely due to the nature of the current pandemic. Realizing their need, IT Companies have rapidly pivoted and focused efforts towards digital solutions that promote business continuity through online/virtual touch-points and experiences. These span web-sessions, VPN, video conferencing, etc., as the basic lattice. Many have quickly packaged their software into downloadable, trial or subscription versions. This makes it easy for Channels to fulfill a customer request online rather wait for a person or demo to be sent (after the curfew) is over. Many have also nimbly switched to Cloud based subscriptions making it easier for customers to get on-board without having to wait. On the hardware front many companies have quickly offered certain business essentials on rental. Items like laptops, routers, printers and other essential are easily available on rent, thus ensuring that the workforce is fully equipped to work from distant locations.”

Satish Kumar V, CEO at EverestIMS Technologies

Now more than ever, CIOs have to largely focus on ensuring how employees can be as engaged as possible when working in a remote scenario. They need to ensure that employees have data access, productivity technologies and the right collaboration to enable a baseline remote work experience, suggests Ravindra Kelkar, Area Vice President, Sales and Services, Indian Subcontinent, Citrix.

Having a business continuity plan in place is essential to any organization’s success, as this is what comprises the difference between sinking or sailing for them in the face of a crisis. 

Now that the only way to continue working is to work from home, one certainly hopes that by the time things get back to normal, working remotely will have shed some of the baggage it has gathered over the years. The shift in the digital normal would be towards a hybrid, convenient, evolved and an emotionally productive work atmosphere.

“We are in the business of providing cloud computing which we believe is the key to practical business advantages including quick turnaround time and reduced cost. In times like the current pandemic, these solutions are acting as a savior in terms of continuity of work. We, our customers and their customers, all conveniently continue doing their work from remote locations, without hampering the productivity much. Our team has instituted the knowledge and skills to meet market disruption challenges across Data Storage, Data Backup & Recovery or Cyber Protection, with which they are supporting our customers well.”

Prashanth G J, CEO, TechnoBind

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