COVID-19 Expediting IT Modernization as Remote Work, Tech Resiliency Become Imperative

Raman Venkatraman of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), talks about how software-defined IT systems help different industry leaders thrive in unpredictable times.

By Michael Brenner

By Michael Brenner July 16, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a new normal for organizations that not only need to survive a state of constant change but must restructure themselves for the long-term to respond quickly to ongoing unpredictable events. Organizations that will be positioned to succeed in this new normal of perpetual change and disruption will be the ones with a mindset and technology foundation that are flexible and scalable to react to extreme events.

According to Raman Venkatraman, global head of the HiTech and Alliances & Technology Unit at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), COVID-19 has ushered in a new normal of constant change that must be met with a resilient response. A recent industry survey by TCS revealed that the pandemic is validating CIO’s digital transformation initiatives, as remote work becomes essential.

“COVID is a very unique situation,” Venkatraman said. “You need to think on your feet.” 

He said TCS and other companies first needed to figure out how to keep employees connected to working as offices were forced to close during the pandemic. 

“We have 448,000 employees globally across multiple countries and each country is in a different state of lockdown. Each country has got its own set of rules and regulations in terms of how it is operating.”

TCS has plans to move much of its global employee base to a remote working setup over the next five years. By 2025, only 25% of its total workforce will need to work at an office site at any point of time. TCS used what it calls Secure Borderless Workspaces (SBWS) operating model to swiftly transition to remote working during the COVID-19 lockdown. This model includes a cybersecurity framework, project management practices and systems to deliver reliable, continuous remote worker access, monitoring and reporting.

For a company as large and global as TCS, supporting employees and customers with reliable business technologies is no small feat.

“We have customers in all these different regions,” Venkatraman said. “Our business is about supporting those customers who are providing essential services in those respective countries, whether it is in financial, healthcare or government services.”

The pandemic is so pervasive across the globe, with systems and supply chains deeply intertwined, that Venkatraman said global companies can be affected by disruptions far outside of their geographic area.

“Today, we have global companies that are operating in multiple geographies with supply chains in different countries,” he said. “From that perspective the scale of impact for each one of those companies are very different,” he said. “They may be a company that is based in the U.S. but has manufacturing facilities in China and sources materials from Vietnam. They will distribute and sell maybe in Latin America. So the impact for a company is very, very global.”

Resilient and Adaptable Companies Will Thrive In Uncertainty

According to Venkatraman, organizations that will not only survive through COVID-19 but also thrive in unpredictable situations are ones that prioritize and invest in digital transformation.

“Companies that are heavily investing in their digital roadmap, whether it is adopting the cloud or liberating intelligence or automating and embracing risk, will be leaders in the future marketplace,” Venkatraman said.

In addition to building out a digital roadmap around IT adaptability, organizations must be resilient to up and downs, he said.

“Make sure that you are building resilience within systems to withstand an economic or supply shock,” he said. “A strong company that has already invested in their digital infrastructure is going to lead in a significant way in this new world.”

Resiliency is about more than reaction, according to Venkatraman. It is about identifying opportunities that make the company better suited for the future.

“Looking at challenges as a new opportunity is what separates a leader from being a follower,” he said. 

Software-Definition Can Accelerate Adaptability

Venkatraman believes it’s up to IT leaders to accelerate a company’s ability to adapt to these events with the appropriate future-proof, software-defined technology foundation.

“Software definition [infrastructure] now can accelerate adaptability,” he said. “If I invest more on cloud, most of the elements in hardware can be software defined.”

Venkatraman said those firms which were modernizing their IT prior to the pandemic can take leadership positions in their verticals. Plus many are becoming total solutions companies. For example, in the pre-COVID world, an energy company may have simply produced energy. In the post-COVID era, those companies must be responsible and provide power in smarter ways than ever before.

It is important for companies to plan beyond any crisis, he said. They must think long-term but act promptly. Agility and focus on customer experience are essential.

COVID-19 has profoundly changed how companies prioritize remote work, and this is causing a rift in traditional hierarchical structures, according to Venkatraman.

“We see massive transformation happening at many of our customers right now,” he said. “Work still needs to get done when no one is on-premises, which means businesses need to invest in collaboration tools. You don't have levels of hierarchy anymore due to the way people are collaborating directly.”

Looking into the future, Venkatraman has a distinct vision for what it takes for businesses to be successful post COVID-19: being able to manage customer experience and service management with a single pane of glass. 

“This is one thing that I've always been interested in,” he said. “The second thing I envision is a complete hybrid kind of a cloud environment to support adaptability and resilience.”

He said this hybrid private and public cloud IT approach can accelerate transformation and allow data and services to live anywhere, accessible from any device. 

Brian Carlson is a contributing writer. He is Founder of RoC Consulting and was Editor-in-Chief of CIO.com and EE Times. Follow him on Twitter @bcarlsonDM.

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