It's no secret that we're working from home, and that we're likely to continue to do so into the future. According to Gartner, close to half (41 per cent) of employees are likely to continue working remotely at least some of the time into the future, even as concerns for social distancing ease. Furthermore, 82 per cent of company leaders plan to allow employees to continue to work remotely, at least some of the time.
Underpinning that transition has been the need for enterprises to accelerate their digital transformation strategies, so that they can adopt a "cloud-first" approach to work. For many companies this was done through gritted teeth, but now that they've done it, they're discovering a new world of opportunity opening to them. Enterprises are now realising that all this transformation can also be tuned towards delivering a superior customer experience. "Many changes brought on by Covid-19 are starting to look permanent as customers, workers and companies actually prefer the new ways of doing things," a Wall Street Journal report states. "The shift to Internet commerce, already underway before the pandemic, will stay. Companies who sent workers home may keep the arrangement because it can raise productivity and cut costs."
At Optus, we have been right in the trenches with our customers in finding ways to deal with COVID-19, and we have been able to help the hardest-hit enterprises in building strategies that have allowed them to cope with the disruption.
What we noticed right at the start of the disruption was that a large portion of organisations did not have adequate business continuity plans in place to support remote working for the majority of their workforce, so had to scramble to adapt and implement solutions to support the impacts of COVID-19. From what I've seen, contact centres were particularly impacted with this change and we helped many of our customers to rapidly implement solutions to support remote agents.
However, there's a positive side to this. Now that COVID-19 has proved that employees can be just as productive working remotely with modern collaboration tools and secure network connectivity solutions, we're advising our customers that the next step, and areas for improvement, include having a more comprehensive strategy for their business continuity plans. So far, what we've seen is that our customers are very receptive to that.
For an example of this in motion, Cisco recently published its 2020 APAC SMB Digital Maturity Study, which showed that nearly 70 per cent of SMBs across APAC are accelerating the digitalisation of their businesses, and that the top three investment priorities were cloud, security, and upgrading the IT infrastructure – all of which contribute to establishing a remote communications environment. That study was focused on SMBs, but the research applies to the enterprise end of town as well, as they have the same basic priorities. What we are seeing is that the majority of new enterprise solution requests are based on migrations from legacy on-premises platforms to modern cloud-based equivalents, particularly collaboration and contact centre.
Those companies that have been successful in making these shifts enjoy, on average, a 50 per cent increase in revenue and productivity, the Cisco study found. They also then become truly resilient, agile companies, able to quickly adapt to any further changes in situation.
We're already seeing the contact centre being revolutionised via the advanced new chatbots and AI capabilities that are available. Increasingly, they are able to support the humans working at the contact centre by playing the "first contact" role, before moving more complex tasks to the human experts to manage.
For many businesses that's just the start of the kind of innovation that we'll see underpinned by the cloud over the next few years.
For more information on Optus cloud solutions, in collaboration with Cisco technology, click here.