05 May 2020

IT in COVID-19 Times: The Invisible Heroes of the Pandemic, in IT Insight


Closed nonessential establishments, and all functions that do not require face-to-face intervention to be performed remotely. Companies that previously did not contemplate any model of remote work went from one day to the next to having nearly 90% of the employees at home. In a matter of weeks, activities such as medical appointments, classes and grocery shopping saw a digital transition that would otherwise have taken years. Most impressive of all: except for the occasional and inevitable scare - and even considering the businesses that unfortunately will not reopen - all this has been done, at least in the short term, successfully. And this did not happen (only) because Portuguese organizations were more prepared for this transition than previously foreseen, but due to the work of IT, both in-house and by service providers, to ensure business continuity in this highly disruptive situation.


Regardless of future consequences, or even the economic crisis that lies ahead, one thing is certain: the IT business will never be the same again. This is immediately evident in how different IT strategies are achieving radically different results.


On the one hand, there is of course a big difference between the impact felt on systems that support maintenance and remote operation and those that require the physical presence of IT professionals.

Claranet, for example, reports that it has not experienced any type of dysfunction in the operation of most of its services, since it strongly favors Cloud and aas models. On the other hand, António Miguel Ferreira, Managing Director of Claranet, explains "all IT services that involve the physical handling of infrastructures (...), although they are also being provided, have some conditions, related to the lower availability of customers to open their facilities, which causes some delays".

The same is reported by Noesis, which dind’t suffer no particular impact on areas such as Quality Management, Enterprise Solutions or Data Analytics & AI, but was forced to reinvent the way it collaborates with its customers in the field of on-premise services, according to CTO Nelson Pereira. Thus, companies in a more advanced phase of digital transformation have, for the most part, achieved a fast and safe transition to this new reality, while those that have remained in a traditional and on-the-go IT model premises are facing greater challenges both in the transition to teleworking and in infrastructure maintenance, whether done in-house or by service providers.

Ricardo Lebre, Head of Technology of Everis Portugal, also points out a second division: the most conservative companies, which are assessing the impact on the economy before taking future decisions, and the best prepared, for which this moment serves as an accelerator for digital transformation process. These are the companies, he concludes, that will take advantage of the situation to develop new business models, work and communication for the future.


Since all these trends are applicable to any organization, they gain additional relevance in telecommunications. On the one hand, the services of a single operator are vital for the maintenance of the activities of a huge percentage of the country. On the other hand, the need for telecommunications services has grown in an unprecedented way in this period, completely changing the dynamics of network management.
"The high volume of population at home and the consequent need for active use of telecommunications services have brought some changes in the management and supervision of networks, namely the need for rapid adaptation to a new reality and above all, to the challenge of having millions of Portuguese simultaneously using telecommunications networks", explains Luís Alveirinho, CTO of Altice Portugal - ensuring, however, despite the unprecedented nature of the situation, this is an area in which Altice is accustomed to being resilient and in which there is rapid adaptability. Proof of this is the maintenance of the availability of the service that has been verified during this period - result, in part, of the investment that Altice has been making to bring fiber optics throughout the Portuguese territory. Additionally, Altice Portugal’s Global Operation Center (GOC) has been responsible for managing the operation, and the national telecommunications network in order to ensure its optimization, as well as to keep communications functional 24 hours a day with adequate performance. "In many cases, there was even a completely voluntary reinforcement by Altice Portugal to increase the capacity of its networks, which also allowed a greater response capacity of critical services for the country during this period", adds Luís Alveirinho.


On the other hand, this sudden pressure on the technological resources of companies can also bring with it a new perspective on the role of IT in its processes, highlighting the importance of digitization, not only as a mere tool, but as a vital safeguard of business continuity.
"A happy consequence of this unfortunate situation is that the process of digital transformation of companies has been accelerated. We did in 2 to 3 weeks what would normally take 2 years to be done, "reports António Miguel Ferreira (Claranet).

Similarly, Abel Aguiar, Executive Director Partner Channel & Small, Medium, Corporate Markets at Microsoft, predicts that IT will change its vision from something that supports the business to something that is critical to its operation. "This may have been the greatest moment of acceleration of digital transformation, in which many myths and cultural or psychological barriers were broken, where regression to the starting point will not be possible", ensures. The responsible also foresees an explosion in the adoption of Cloud First or Cloud by default models in organizations, regardless of size or sector, as well as possibly Robotic process Automation technologies and internet of Things, in order to enable companies to reduce the need for their employees to intervene on the ground. 

Ricardo Lebre (Everis) adds that the current situation represents an opportunity for companies to differentiate themselves within their sectors by offering digital services. "It is through offering optimized digital experiences that companies can take advantage of the current situation as a lever to capture new customers and build loyalty in new digital channels, which, from the operational point of view, can be highly optimized," he says.

For example, in the retail area, Sonae foresees that the explosion of the use of digital channels may strengthen the loyalty of more customers to these channels, replacing more traditional forms of consumption. 

*Published in IT Insight.

Covid-19, IT, IT Impact, IT Insight