The future of connectedness – a VFM perspective

Author: Leon Starker (IT Manager)

At a recent (virtual!) conference aptly titled “The future of connectedness: Collaborating in the New Reality”, Carrie MacGillivray, Group Vice President and General Manager of WW Telecom made several interesting points, to wit:

  • Even pre-COVID, digital transformation was a top priority with 3.7% of a  company’s revenue being spent on it.
  • The number one priority management  had amid COVID-19 is business operations resiliency programs
  • There is a huge focus on the human element in the current “work from home” environment.

She also pointed out the following as the top technologies that will see increased adoption in the near future: video conferencing, remote learning/training, secure connectivity, virtual workspaces and cloud computing.

MacGillivray identified the following cycle linking business focus to the economic environment created by the COVID-19 crisis:

Companies making targeted investments around digital transformation are positioning themselves for the “next normal” and will see a blend of virtual and real events as well as “evolved workspaces” for employees. Even though no-one can tell the future, it does not require a crystal ball to know that no company can go back to doing business the way it was done in pre-2020.

The technology to work from home has been around for quite a while, and indeed forms a significant part of the Vunani Fund Managers (VFM) Disaster Recovery (DR) strategy. When the lock-down commenced, we literally sent everybody home and continued working, almost seamlessly.

There is an adage “if it does not itch, don’t scratch”. While it is common sense that one should not try and fix things that aren’t broke, it is also true that that is probably one of the main reasons why there is a huge resistance to change in the way we do things and to adopting new technologies.

At VFM we introduced Microsoft Teams – it was adopted with incredible speed and turned out to become a brilliant tool for enhancing communication within the various teams.

Another example of Covid-19 forcing the adoption of new technology was the reliance on printing documents and signing them manually. Secure digital signatures were created and implemented making the printing and manually signing of documents obsolete.

From an IT Manager perspective the most exciting development that might come because of Covid-19 is the possibility of either moving the server environment to the cloud or adopting a hybrid system. The success of work-from-home is paving the way for seriously looking at other cloud options.

There can be little doubt that work-from-home has resulted in higher productivity. It was very encouraging to hear Mark Walter (Associate Vice President Sub-Saharan Africa for IDC) mentioning that organisations they polled are, on average, “getting back” 1.7 days per employee per month as productivity improved. At the same panel discussion Simon Dudley (Head of Business Strategy for Logitech) mentioned that “low level social experiences are important for staff mental health” and that one of the downsides of working from home was the lack of “water cooler interaction”. He gave examples of companies implementing online “social experiences like spin classes, yoga classes and pub quizzes”.

The “new normal” working environment will be very different from the pre-Covid days. From an IT perspective that is very exciting – resistance to adopting new technologies is as low as it will ever be and companies that use the current crisis to position themselves well will be at the forefront of the 4IR.