Upgrading IT Infrastructures for the Post-COVID19 Normality

Upgrading IT Infrastructures for the Post-COVID19 Normality
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by Sanjeev Kapoor 02 Jun 2020

The recent COVID19 outbreak has revealed the great importance of IT infrastructures for modern businesses. During the pandemic, digital leaders took advantage of their investments in advanced IT infrastructures to sustain some of their business operations, while other enterprises were shut down. Moreover, digitally mature enterprises were effective in supporting policies like teleworking and the implementation of paperless and contactless processes. In this context, the COVID19 era has created new obligations not only for companies with low-to-moderate digital maturity but for IT leaders as well. The former realized that they need to accelerate the pace of their digital transformation. At the same time, IT leaders must seek ways to sustain their competitive advantage. In the post COVID19 era, all companies need to upgrade their digital infrastructures and to revise their business processes accordingly.  This upgrade is in-line with historical experiences about investments in the ICT sector, which tends to attract significant investments following the crisis (e.g., the 2008 financial crises). Hence, it is highly likely that enterprises will increase their IT spending as a means of boosting their productivity in the post COVID19 era. Even though this remains to be seen, we can already make some educated guesses about the focus of emerging IT investments.


Upgrading IT Infrastructures for the Contactless Economy

The post COVID19 normality will incorporate elements of a contactless economy. For example, teleworking and work-from-home practices are expected to remain at the foreground of human resources policies. Moreover, the number of digitized processes that do not involve physical procedures will proliferate. For instance, chatbot and other AI-based automation applications will be increasingly deployed in the front office of banks and other organizations, towards reducing the number of physical interactions between customers and employees. Likewise, the business collaboration will happen to a large extend electronically, and hence, a rise in remote outsourcing activities is highly likely. Overall, in the post COVID19 era, the network traffic, and the number of IT applications that are operated by modern enterprises will proliferate. Therefore, existing IT infrastructures such as enterprise networks, cloud computing, and storage infrastructures will have to be enhanced to accommodate a growing number of data volumes, users, and their interactions.

The upgrades and expansion of IT infrastructures must be also accompanied by investments in their security and trustworthiness. Following the COVID19 pandemic, organizations will depend on their digital infrastructures more than ever before. Hence, security attacks that lead to very costly downtimes and disruption of operations must be avoided. Enterprises will, therefore, attempt to upgrade the security and resilience of their digital infrastructures, through deploying state of the art cyber-defense solutions, while increasing their investments in risk assessment and compliance auditing technologies. Emphasis must be also paid in the adoption of privacy and data protection solutions, as some COVID19 related applications (e.g., contact tracing) can compromise end-users’ civil liberties. In several cases, resilience and privacy trade-offs will have to be resolved.

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Supporting Healthcare Resilience

Many enterprises have invested in their cyber-resilience, even before the COVID19 crises. However, very few companies had planned for their healthcare resilience. COVID19 has unveiled the importance of healthcare resilience as a critical element of business continuity plans. It has also proven that most enterprises were completely unprepared to confront a healthcare crisis. The aftermath of COVID19 will lead enterprises to invest in healthcare resilience as part of their digital investments. For instance, they are likely to invest in apps that boost daily hygiene practices for employees such as hand-washing and frequent use of disinfectants. Likewise, other enterprises will be deploying applications for COVID19 spreading estimation such as AI-powered tools producing forecasts about the COVID19 infections inside an organization. To this end, several companies will be operating a set of new applications such as privacy-friendly contact tracing applications via smartphones or physical tokens (e.g., wearable devices). By modeling and estimating the transmission of COVID19 and other infectious diseases, organizations will become able to create credible business continuity plans that consider healthcare resilience aspects. Likewise, upgraded enterprise IT infrastructures could provide the means for supporting employees in healthcare issues, by linking them to medical experts. Overall, IT infrastructures will be upgraded in ways that boost the healthcare resilience of modern organizations i.e. meeting new requirements that were completely ignored prior to the COVID19 outbreak.


Outlook and Recommendations

In-line with these general guidelines, enterprises should consider the following more specific recommendations:

  • Adoption of the next generation of telecommunication infrastructures such as the firth generation (5G) of mobile communications. 5G infrastructures can ensure access to abundant bandwidth as needed to support the emerging wave of bandwidth-savvy IT applications such as massive teleworking.
  • Integration of proven contact tracing solutions such as the joint Google/Apple solution for smartphones. This will provide access to a robust, universal, easy to maintain and easy to integrate tracing solution. Nevertheless, as smartphone-based contact tracing solutions have limitations, it is advisable to consider solutions based on physical tokens as well.
  • Attraction of IT talent in emerging technologies like mobile computing, cloud computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and cyber-security. Internal IT talent, along with collaboration with competent subcontractors are key to accelerating the pace of digital transformation.
  • Ensure interoperability across infrastructures that are essential for healthcare resilience, such as epidemiological databases and employees’ electronic health records.
  • Invest in new business processes that take advantage of the upgraded IT infrastructures, such as new working policies, travel policies, and customer service processes.
  • Benefit from state funding (e.g., grants, enterprise aids) for COVID19 business solutions, which can increase the innovation capital of modern enterprises while supporting the upgrade of their digital infrastructure in-line with COVID19 requirements.

COVID19 is paving a very interesting landscape for enterprise digital infrastructures and services. Some of the current projections about the upgrade of enterprise IT infrastructures might be however over-hyped. Nevertheless, enterprises should be prudent and get prepared to accelerate their digital transformation in ways that could set them apart from their competitors.

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