Digital transformation is no longer a ‘nice to have’, with the recent Cisco Live APJC Virtual Event outlining how businesses can leverage recent technological expansion to gain long-term advantages.
MANDATORY working from home has already started to shake up the workplace; themed video conference backgrounds have made meetings more interesting; people can bring their pets to work every day of the week and blazers have been swapped for… more comfortable attire.
From virtual meetings and messenger apps, to online platforms enabling instant document collaboration organisations are now having to navigate new digital ways of working - many for the first time.
And it’s easy to see this rapid digital transformation at play: in March alone, technology multinational Cisco hit an all-time record of 324 million attendees on its video conference software Webex.
But as the race to digitally upskill continues in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, will this period of enforced remote working actually have a lasting impact?
Live streamed worldwide earlier this month, the Cisco Live APJC Virtual Event shared insights on some of the effects, opportunities and efficiencies businesses could leverage post-crisis survival mode.
“In recent years organisations have taken steps to accelerate workplace transformation,” Ms Suzuki told event attendees.
“But this business environment has never before seen such challenges.
“We have to make sure we learn the lessons from this period and make lasting changes which will benefit businesses, the markets and our communities at large.”
For many businesses, the digital world has been the only option for continuity during COVID-19 and Cisco’s response to provide free use of Cisco Webex collaboration technology, its security software and Cisco Meraki (a solution for cloud-managed IT and security) has been a welcome lifeline.
“We as tech leaders have a duty to support all segments of the market - enterprise, small to medium businesses, the education and health sectors and governments - to achieve business continuity so they can strive through this very difficult period,” Ms Suzuki said.
“Empower your teams - make sure they have the right tools to collaborate and make decisions.”
In just under two months, Cisco shifted more than 140,000 employees from 498 offices across 94 countries to remote work.
Cisco Customer and Seller Experience IT vice president Bailey Szeto outlined the power of flexibility in IT and the importance of breaking down department silos in order to implement change swiftly.
“Planning can’t be done in a vacuum,” he said.
“It can’t just be IT to ensure the company continues, there has to be a partnership between IT and all the business functions.”
Since the coronavirus outbreak, Cisco has assisted hundreds of partners and customers to embrace a new period of ‘connected’ isolation, working with healthcare providers to enable information dissemination as well as creating a secure platform for governments to communicate, all via Webex.
Cisco has supported the West Australian Department of Education with access to Webex for all public schools to enable remote learning, making it easy for students and teachers to meet virtually, and has also done this for the Victorian, and South Australian Education Departments.
Telecommunication companies now face increasing pressure, with Australia’s National Broadband Network recording a 70 to 80 percent data demand increase during daytime hours in March.
And although Australian retail service providers are now able to increase the amount of capacity they purchase from the NBN by 40 per cent, is it a long-term solution?
Cisco Australia and New Zealand chief technology officer Kevin Bloch said the world needed to rethink the future architecture of the internet from both a technical and commercial perspective - not just for now, but to compete with the existing predictions for growth in internet-driven user experience and video.
Transforming the network
Mr Bloch said emerging technologies and ICT trends in cloud capabilities, edge computing, artificial intelligence and the development of a ‘cognitive internet’ would pave the way for the necessary network transformation.
COVID-19, he said, had also emphasised how critical security measures needed to keep pace - with other branded online platforms recently experiencing gatecrashing and phishing attempts.
“That (security) perimeter is no longer sufficient, especially now as we’re in lockdown,” he said.
“Workload is no longer on your premises, your server or your machine, it could be on any public cloud.
“A hacker only needs to get in once.”
Mr Bloch said a complete systems approach including AI, cloud, identity management and zero-trust security solutions, like Cisco Duo, was becoming integral for the front line of cyber defence both in the home and at the office.
The future office
What sort of office will people return to once the lockdown is lifted?
For Cisco distinguished systems engineer Vanessa Sulikowski, the future offers the best of both worlds.
“Workplace transformation in the past decade was heavily focused on the physical workplace… but did we really change the way people were working?,” she questioned.
“Workplace transformation for this decade needs to involve both the physical workplace and the workforce experience.”
Ms Sulikowski said this involved creating a space that, “... enabled connection, collaboration and co-creation in the physical workplace, but also remotely” - driven by virtual platforms, collaboration and communication tools like Webex Teams, programs many of us have now become accustomed to at home.
With a 16 per cent increase in employee engagement and a 14 per cent lift in workplace productivity since implementing these tools companywide, Cisco has already experienced the benefits.
And we can only imagine what further advancements in AI and cognitive workspaces (helping organisations to automate tasks that ‘waste time’) could do to create even more efficiencies.
“People aren’t afraid of this technology, they understand how to use it.
“And we’re using it more effectively than we ever have.”
To find out more about how Cisco can help your business, visit