Technology as Covid Warrior - How IT is helping various sectors function smoothly from home

Leveraging technology to adapt to the new normal

Welcome to the third installment of our CIO Extreme IT Strategies to Navigate the COVID-19 Pandemic webinar conducted by Cloud4C, where IT Leaders from reputed organizations in the Middle East region participated as panelists and shared their experiences and views on the above questions raised by the audience.

In the first blog post, we spoke about the measures taken by these IT leaders to deal with the new world order. Cost optimization measures and value optimization decisioning were also discussed. You can read the first part here. The second post discusses the likely outcome of the COVID-19 crisis in terms of cost reduction vs cost optimization here

No one had thought that we would all be working from home one day. It was an exception to be working from home, but working from office was the default normal. However, it is time for us to consider the new normal: remote working. 

In the fight against the crisis, technology has been the strongest tool at the disposal of businesses. Those who have leveraged it well have been able to face the challenges of disruption much better than those who didn’t. In the recent weeks, organizations have used technology for business continuity, and in some cases, leaders have been quick to recognize this opportunity to firm up their infrastructure so as to accelerate growth for their companies.

Piyush Kumar Chowhan
Group Chief Information Officer at LuLu Group International

Our large retail group has two verticals: Supermarkets/ hypermarkets and hospitality/ malls. 

Supermarkets are deemed essential services since they have to be available to the public to access their daily needs. As such, we had to keep the business running smoothly even in the face of weak supply chains, restricted resources, uncertain transport, etc. For us, the challenge was not just the functioning of the organization but also maintaining uncompromising standards of employee safety without interrupting our services. Forecasting warehouse stocks for food in the new normal has also become a new exercise. 

We had to increase our warehousing capacity by over 30% overnight. Stocking them required mobilizing flights from all over the world within tight timelines, and coordination with multiple organizations and governments. We were able to pull it off successfully only due to the agility of our technology, and also our people. 

Overnight we came up with new SOPs for sanitization, customer interaction, and more than 12 other such initiatives to restore our customer confidence to shop safely with us. Even these small steps required a lot of behind-the-scenes preparation and adaptation from our employees.

For employees, we rented laptops that they could carry home so there wouldn’t be any disruptions to business continuity. We upgraded our network solutions, security policies, and even VPNs to ensure that we are completely in compliance with the regulations. 
From the industry perspective, this situation can also be an opportunity to prioritise digital transformation at every level. The focus should be on moving to open source, nimble architecture that reduces dependency on legacy infrastructure. With time, expenditure on legacy infrastructure has to be tapered off, so that there will be greater investment in new technology and solutions that will accelerate digital transformation. 

Priorities will be on investing in new technology, and chart a new roadmap to business that will focus on value optimization for digital transformation. 

Shafique R Ibrahim
Group IT Head - AL FARDAN GROUP

In a way, IT departments and CIOs are used to this kind of a journey. We moved to Cloud to be able to adapt faster to change. 

From the IT perspective, we have seen organizations, industries, and even customers change over time. This has helped us be agile in many ways. We were able to cope up with various turbulences which has given us the flexibility that protects our investments. From convincing our customers to walk into our branches when we started to empowering them with app journeys, the IT department has always kept pace with change. 

Even our business meetings deal mostly with what went wrong with the plan rather than the plan itself. There are always surprises when it comes to real world deployments, and IT teams today are agile enough to come up with solutions on the go. 

Damodaran Raman, 
Chief Technology and Innovation Officer, Bayanpay, Saudi Arabia

Businesses post-Covid will be different in how they function. Business decisions will be taken, not as IT or business decisions, but as holistic decisions. Essentially, layers between such distinctions will be dissolved. 
There will be a greater focus on value optimization in the short-term, medium-term, and the long-term scenarios. With greater emphasis on value at every step. 
Not just for organizations or departments but even for roles within the organization. CIOs will be expected to deliver more value and carry deeper responsibilities for the organization. For example, organizations will rely more on auto-healing rather than maintenance, or adopt risk-based testing. 

Conclusion:
B2B organisations have been quick to adopt technology to enable their businesses, but it is a whole different ball game with B2C companies. They have additional challenges in delivering their services when the entire world has been forced indoors. 

Yet, leaders in these organisations aren’t behind in using technology. In fact, according to the panelists, they have utilised this opportunity to explore new solutions to streamline their processes and offer better solutions. Some organisations have had to reinvent new ways to even reach out to their potential customers. But with technology, they have been able to get on top of the situation while strengthening their brand.

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