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The cost of “Can you hear me?”

November 10, 2021

Song Toh   

VP Global Network Services, Tata Communications

While remote working has become the new normal, there’s been a no-one-size fits-all experience. Some enterprises adapted quickly; others struggled with IT and technical issues. And the echo that was universal was: ‘My network is bad” or “Can you hear me”?. In this blog post Song Toh, Vice President of Tata Communications Global Network Services, discusses the challenges faced by remote workers, and how enterprises can help to alleviate these challenges for employees. 

As most people shifted to work from home, they were not alone in this predicament. It was a testing time for enterprises to ensure business continuity in real-time survived. While the move was embraced with optimism, the work behind the scenes was much more gruelling than one could imagine. CEOs had a tough decision to provide a seamless and secure experience to their employees; right from understanding the demands and nature of their operation to choosing an adequate network partner who could enable unified connectivity. They deliberated on questions that would decide the future of the company, the future of work and what happens when things go wrong? Is the network secure enough, or what happens if the Internet fails?

The answer to that came with a hefty price. When applications fail or a glitch occurs during work hours, the resultant downtime pauses ongoing business operations, and directly impacts the bottom line.

“According to ITIC, 98% of firms affirmed hourly downtime costs exceed $150,000 and 88% of respondents estimated hourly downtime expenses exceed $300,000. In extreme cases, data and monetary losses from outages can even cause a company to go out of business!”

In terms of numbers, the interruption often takes an average of 28 minutes every time there is an IT-related problem. A recent study by Nexthink looked at the technical problems during the pandemic and learnt that about 38% of employees had issues with Virtual Private Network access to critical software, 37% had issues with Wi-Fi connectivity and reliability, and 35% had challenges using video conference apps.

In fact, according to a report, 51% of companies in India feel that connectivity needs to improve and collaboration with other businesses is critical. So far, only 19% say they have enabled their workforces to be productive wherever they are, compared with 31% globally. While the numbers reveal a dismaying picture, the concern is much more layered than meets the eye.  As we know, enterprises both big and small rushed to stay ahead in their digital transformation during the pandemic, however, the adoption was done in a fragmented manner. What many don’t realise is that network is a precursor to digital transformation, and that traditional networks are no longer agile enough to manage the current demand. The hardware-centric model used limits the scalability required to deal with the effects of this pandemic.

So the next step that companies need to do is approach their network as their employees.

“Just as employees today need to upskill to be ready for the future, companies need to upskill their network and build it around their teams and users to make the perfect collaborative ecosystem.”

That’s why the next stage in network evolution is to make them interactive, user-friendly, and simplified communication that it’s almost like talking to an employee. Users should be able to use voice-assisted devices with commands or drag and drop their requests. It’s almost like the network is saying, “Is your network weak today? Let me help you.” The future not only promises voice assistance but translates the intent of a person into policies that will address a businesses’ present challenges.

“As enterprises are moving towards intelligent, agile, dynamic, and more business-friendly networks, they now want to experience flexibility and control of their network, and possibly have a pay-as-you-go model for days where they expect an increase in traffic.”

The pandemic taught one lesson to enterprises; always be in control of your operations and understand the traffic requirement, to gauge which business division creates the most traffic, on which day etc. For example, a company that is looking at hosting a virtual global townhall for employees globally can request for a network feature, where additional bandwidth for just that particular event is available on demand, when needed. The users in turn enjoy a seamless and secure experience. This is what an intelligent, intent-based network will provide with the help of AI, and Machine Learning (ML) to drive network on demand services for enterprises.

Now whether a company decides to continue with legacy infrastructure or take a page out from last year and make their digital transformation future proof for unforeseen situations, agile and secure will define their existence in the coming years. In the end, an enterprise that can balance business priorities, save money and provide a seamless experience without people repeatedly saying, “Can you hear me” will be the stayers.

To learn more, read this blog on hybrid-workplace digital transformation.