COVID-19 has made one thing abundantly clear: Business as usual isn’t possible. As social distancing measures have taken shape and work-from-home policies have gone mainstream, cloud computing has emerged as an indispensable tool, fueling demand for online desktops, videoconferencing services, and workload migration projects. It’s a trend that isn’t likely to abate anytime soon, and cloud-assisted remote work could very well become a permanent part of the business landscape.
“There’s a growing recognition that organizations can and must operate differently going forward,” observes Jeffrey Kaplan, managing director of THINKstrategies, a strategic business and IT consulting firm.
Operating differently doesn’t just mean a heavier use of clouds, however, says Michael Goldstein, president of technology consulting firm LAN Infotech, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Rather, he stresses, it’s also about a more strategic use of the technology and the way it impacts everything from the devices workers use to the software that connects people and fuels e-commerce.
“We’re entering a new era of business and clouds,” Goldstein says.
As a result, channel pros must work with their clients to raise their digital readiness, he adds. “While some businesses have been on the vanguard, many have adopted a lackadaisical attitude and fallen behind the adoption curve. They are now being forced to face a new reality and rethink things about business operations and continuity.”
Helping Businesses Make the Shift
A starting point for this new era is to understand that consumers have different expectations as a result of COVID-19, particularly surrounding safety, and businesses must address these needs. This has repercussions for remote workers, supply chains, and e-commerce, Kaplan says. Moreover, many of these changes will persist even after the pandemic ends. An April 2020 Gartner CFO survey reveals that 74% of respondents intend to shift some employees to remote work permanently.
“Many organizations will need … cloud-based services to give them maximum flexibility,” Kaplan says. Bandwidth to support Zoom and WebEx meetings is just the start. Organizations must now support remote teams—or an entire remote workforce.
Doing so requires a coherent strategy. Otherwise, employees may wind up using personal accounts for email, Dropbox, and Evernote to get their work done. This introduces massive inefficiencies and security risks.
To help their SMB customers safely and effectively navigate a post-pandemic business world, channel pros should focus on a few key issues. One is directing clients to platforms that support a broad array of functions for communication and collaboration. This may mean consolidating various functions on Microsoft 365 and Teams or G Suite (both of which have seen adoption spike as the pandemic took hold), but it also extends to other cloud functions and services that deliver bandwidth and more advanced functionality, such as analytics and machine learning.