Strong business continuity plans, resilient systems and security - the key for successful digital transformation

Digital transformation has become the new normal for businesses. At the ‘Future of Work’ webinar, hosted by YourStory and powered by Cisco Webex, leaders from across sectors discussed their key learnings on empowering productivity, staying connected and creating value as an organisation.

Countries are under lockdown, movement is restricted, a majority of employees are working from home and business plans made a few weeks ago are now redundant. In times like these, businesses across the board have had to rethink their short-term and long-term strategies to cope with the new realities, particularly how to respond to new challenges, empower productivity, stay connected with workforces and keep them engaged, and how to create value as an organisation. To understand the implications, challenges and opportunities in achieving this digital transformation across businesses, YourStory hosted the second episode of the webinar series ‘Future of Work’, powered by Cisco, on April 24.

Moderated by Shradha Sharma, Founder and CEO of YourStory, panelists for the webinar included leaders from various sectors: Brian Roche, CIO, Bangalore International Airport Ltd (BIAL) ; Renald Abel, Head & AVP, Systems Technology Group, Hexaware; Vivek Saha, Director & Head, Digital Transformation & Industry 4.0, NASSCOM CoE and Sudhir Nayar, Managing Director- Commercial Sales, Cisco. Each of them offered their own perspectives and learnings.

The webinar started off with Renald talking about how Hexaware transitioned to a work from home model almost a week before the 21-day national lockdown was announced.

“Hexaware was closely monitoring how COVID-19 was impacting our business continuity plans. All organisations have some kind of business continuity plans, but none which could have foreseen everyone working from home.” Increased productivity is the main objective, Renald said, and while they had the infrastructure for it, all they needed was scale and security. So, they went back to the drawing board and spilt user groups into categories based on their work profiles and needs.

“We were leveraging cloud-based infrastructure, so that it made it easier for us to transform and helped securely onboard 65,000 user groups remotely. We broke down our teams strategically - and started testing the systems as we had to migrate 7000 projects. We also did some simple network routing that helped us move 90 percent employees to work from home in less than 48 hours,” said Renald.

With the Indian government banning international flights from March 23 and domestic flights from March 25, BIAL felt the heat of the coronavirus’ impact on its its business early on. Talking about how they handled the situation, Brain said the biggest factor was reacting swiftly. “We reacted swiftly to get a screening process ready, and carried out passenger separation. We got a team that was dedicated to the screening of passengers. Acting with authorities from an early stage helped immensely. We got a good reputation for handling it well,” said Brian.

Apart from ensuring screening and checks, BIAL went a step further to ensure that the thousands of migrant workers on site that were engaged in the construction of a new terminal were also taken care of. “Once the impact was felt, we had thousands of workers in our labour camps. Many stayed back, and so we’ve been sending 1000s of meals to them. Our catering services are being utilised for their meals.

Transforming businesses digitally

Speaking about how business has transformed digitally for BIAL, Brain said that their strong business continuity plan, coupled with services like Cisco Webex has helped them smoothly transition.

"Almost everybody is working from home [at BIAL] and we have a hybrid system to ensure productivity. Webex has been phenomenal here. Because of resilient systems like Webex, we’ve managed to work well."

Elaborating on what the future looks like for the company, Brian said that finding the highest common denominator across processes adopted by different airports across countries will be crucial. “Every airport in the world will have different regulations, different measures. Communication will be essential. We are working to find out all of those regulations for other countries and put it together as a process. We find the highest bar and reach it,” he said.

The biggest change that NASSCOM’s Vivek Saha said he noticed in the new normal is that the healthcare sector has become a supplier of solutions.

“The next wave of patents will come from India. Innovation has been sitting inside labs, but this unprecedented time has forced all of it to come out.”

Vivek added that his advice to all businesses is to complete building a thorough business continuity plan. “Everyone is on their final stages of it. Along with it, have the right emergency response teams. The situation might relax tomorrow, but might return again. Secondly, since most of the interactions are going to be online, the collaboration game is changing. So businesses need to have the right collaborative measures.”

Sudhir Nayar of Cisco echoed Vivek’s sentiments. “Cisco stands for connected, integrated, security, and always on. That is the architecture we have implemented. Around 40 percent of our team would work from home on Fridays or Mondays. So, it took us only two hours to take work home to 100 percent,” he said. Sudhir also gave an excellent example about the way video adoption has changed in these last few weeks.

“We have seen unprecedented usage of video recently. Between January and now - we have been running a 3.5x load worldwide.”

Sudhir added that Webex’s application goes beyond just business use as well. “I got a call from a friend, who is part of a church committee. They wanted to do their mass on Webex for 800 people. We did enable this! Imagine 800 people praying on video. There are 60,000+ students that are studying on Webex.” Moreover, all new onboarding is also taking place smoothly at Cisco, he said, despite the fact that delivering laptops is a hurdle. “We are telling new employees to get their own devices and our IT team will make your device secured. Everything has shifted to working remotely and we are witnessing unprecedented collaboration from customers, partners, governments.”

Collaboration is key

Renald agreed that collaboration was key for their successful transition. “Our approach was to leverage what we had -- capability -- and what can be added on in terms of infrastructure. So we quickly connected with our partners and they came through to help us.”

However, with increased online collaboration comes the question of security and privacy. At airports, we now have details of all passengers for health and security. How do you secure all this information is going to be something we need to figure out, said Brian.

“This is something we have never had to think about. They (passengers) have trust in us that when they come to the airport, we will move them safely. If they want us to look after their data - we will do it, if they want it destroyed, we will do that too. This is gonna take another way of thinking and all the governments of the world will have to find a way.”

The security conundrum

Security concerns were a common theme amid the panelists, with discussions around privacy and secured connections.

Speaking about the security features of Webex, Sudhir said, “Any and all communication has to be encrypted and ensure sound management of customer data. This is basic. Today, Webex is being used unlike ever. Board Meetings are crucial to any company and we are running board meetings of 20 banks on our platform. We have people stand by to make sure everything is going fine. We had the G20 meeting happen on Webex, the Prime Minister of India and Bangladesh were talking on Webex. We always had security, we have just augmented it better today.”