After months of looking to stay afloat amid the uncertain climate caused by the coronavirus this year, many businesses are seeking to not just survive but thrive in the new normal, says Tata Communications.
And going digital will be a key part of the effort, seeing how many of them have been forced to accelerate their transformation plans ahead of schedule, according to the India-based IT service provider.
In August, it unveiled a suite of solutions, called Secure Digital Connected Experience, that promises to enable businesses to carry on with operations as normally as possible.
The deliverables include a zero-trust platform where users are checked and authenticated whenever they access a protected resource, as well as enough bandwidth to enable a smooth experience while working from home.
Andrew Yeong, vice-president and head for Asia Pacific at Tata Communications, tells Techgoondu that in future, tools such as augmented or virtual reality would be more common and integral to collaboration in businesses.
For this to happen, though, they will need a solid foundation that is both robust and secure, he says, in this month’s Q&A.
Responses have been edited for brevity and style.
Q: What kind of increases have you seen in terms of the volume of traffic created by remote working, or work-from-home arrangements?
A: Much of the world’s IT infrastructure was never designed for this level of usage. Enterprise platforms and collaboration applications, for instance, were overwhelmed.
At Tata Communications, we witnessed a surge in traffic across networks coupled with an increase in enterprise voice traffic – with 1 billion minutes recorded in March, largely due to the work from home measures.
By March 2020, we delivered over 650 customers orders corresponding to 1.35Tbps of additionally provisioned bandwidth. We also saw a 30 per cent growth in Internet traffic on our network in March compared to January 2020.
Within a short span of time from lockdown being implemented, we enabled tens of thousands of employees globally for remote working across more than 150 organisations with many more under deployment.
Thanks to our on-ground and on-field teams that worked round the clock to keep services running, we were able to assist our key customers to adopt working from home models in 48 hours, ensuring regulatory compliance and enhanced end user customer experience.
Additionally, we managed to offer solutions for our customers in a record time – in some cases, deploying changes, upgrades and relevant solutions such as secure zero-trust network access in less than six hours in order to ensure customers have the right services and solutions needed for business continuity.
Q: How does the Secure Digital Workplace you just launched differentiate itself from other rival solutions in the market?
In the new normal, about 50 to 60 per cent of employees are likely to continue to work from home. Enterprises want a more robust, secure and scalable work-from-home solution to be able to support this shift.
The Tata Communications Secure Connected Digital Workplace enables employees – those typically working from the office as well as those working in the field – to work seamlessly and securely from anywhere through industrialised, scalable and high performance remote workplace solutions for complete workplace readiness.
They need secure access performance, so this means empowering employees with secure access to enterprise applications over public Internet by enabling zero-trust secure connectivity to cloud or data centres.
They require productive collaboration, which means empowering employees with our omni-channel collaboration solutions. With a robust Global SIP, enterprises can now enable a secure agent and customer experiences seamlessly.
Finally, we need a safe and secure workforce. Our solution will enable employees to work seamlessly by enabling conditional access to their workplaces. Our IoT connected-worker offering will be able to ensure the safety of customers’ workforce is never compromised.
Q: What type of collaboration tools do you expect people to use in future? Will the e-mail thread be consigned to the past, as some have predicted?
A: Having the best collaboration tools is just the first step. Even when employees return to office, many of them – for safe distancing reasons − will rely on video collaboration sessions from their desks rather than share a single common session from a meeting room.
When that happens, unified communications and collaboration tools coupled with in-built augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR), may become integral to all business meetings.
This means even if you are physically sitting next to a person, you will still do the meeting with him or her through AR or VR to collaborate on projects, to make it more productive.
For this to happen, businesses will need to better equip and improve their underlying infrastructure to enable sufficient bandwidth allocation and support the new work model.
Many organisations are also rethinking the need for desk phones or IP phones in a world of BYOD (bring your own devices) or mobility devices to support remote working.
Some companies are already redesigning their employee desk environments, consolidating costs and redeploying to faster, agile devices or cloud applications that mirror how the employees work in the future.
There will be vast improvements to a user’s ability to complete tasks on a mobile device. This could be achieved through a combination of mobile-first design, predictive text, artificial intelligence, and improved speech recognition software.
The benefits of collaboration tools are undebatable, especially the amount of productive teamwork it enables, versus time spent on monitoring emails. There is certainly more that artificial intelligence (AI) can do with bringing in the right level of intelligence to make e-mails more manageable.
Q: Zero-trust is a security approach you have advocated. Do you see businesses shifting to that approach during this period of transition?
A: With more people getting online to work from home in the past few months, the risk of cyber-attacks has increased.
This adds more pressure for organisations to ensure that security is ingrained in everything that people do, especially when the workforce is spread out.
Zero-trust network access (ZTNA) is increasingly replacing traditional technologies to enable employees and partners to connect and collaborate on an adaptive trust model, granting access on a “need to know” basis.
This ensures end-to-end security across the network, applications, and environment, thus protecting the work, workforce and the workplace.
This is aligned with what Tata Communications is offering to customers. We believe that it is important to provide secure services for enterprises to safeguard employee experience.
With our Secure Connected Digital Workplace offering, we are able to provide secure and high-performance ZTNA through a partnership with NetFoundry, a subsidiary of Tata Communications.
The zero-trust solution provides employees secure access to applications and data in the cloud, regardless of location, device or broadband connectivity, with 3 to 10x performance acceleration.
This is essential for companies that want to digitally transform and embrace higher levels of remote working but need confidence that employees can access documents and apps securely and with an enterprise-grade experience, even on their home broadband connection.