COVID-19: Are Indian IT leaders equipped for lockdown extension

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New Delhi: After implementing a 21-day lockdown that ended on April 14, 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced its further extension till May 3, 2020, which means that 1.3 billion Indians have to stay at home. As most of the employees have been asked to work from home, IT heads are being challenged to provide seamless connectivity and ensure business continuity of their organisation.

To provide their workforce with uninterrupted IT services and help them stay connected to their teams as well as global clients, IT leaders in most organisations are leveraging several tools and technologies that can enhance remote work capabilities as well as secure their critical assets.

“With thoughtful strategy and Business Continuity Plans (BCP), we scaled our infrastructure with enhanced network bandwidth and Virtual Private Network (VPN) capacity that enables the employees to work without any disruption,” says Harnath Babu, Chief Information Officer (CIO) at India.

“Our IT support team has played an instrumental role in helping the business promptly address any technical issues by providing necessary guidance whenever required just in time,” he says.

With over 10,000 employees in India, the multi-national management consulting firm with a major focus on financial audit, tax, and advisory has leveraged cloud-based audio and video conferencing platforms that would help its employees to communicate and collaborate efficiently, thus maintaining consistent productivity.

“We have taken a slew of measures that largely focus to ensure sufficient internet bandwidth and accessibility to the corporate’s network through VPN, we are in a good position to support the business for the extended lockdown,” avers Babu.

While ensuring uninterrupted connectivity is highly important for the business continuity at the time of the pandemic, safeguarding organisation’s critical data and security is equally crucial. As a CIO, Babu has a strong focus on creating awareness amongst employees with regular emails and training to maintain cybersecurity vigilance and follow best practices while handling critical data.

In addition, the Technology team has been constantly monitoring user endpoints and updating them with the latest security patches that help protect the information stored in the devices.

Another well-known entity with a diversified portfolio in several businesses has taken security very seriously during the lockdown. Puneesh Lamba, SVP & Group CIO, believes that organization becomes a more attractive target for hackers and outside threats in these situations where a large number of employees have to work from home.

With over 25,000 employees, the $2.4 billion business conglomerate has ensured that all machines desktops/laptops are updated with the latest security patches, all application access is through VPN and using two-factor authentication etc.

The group has around 200 IT professionals with around 11 CIOs that have paved the way for such a business transformation. Lamba that in scenarios like this where the entire workforce has to work from home, it is imperative that users can connect to applications, collaborate with peers, can hold meetings online and all of this in a secured manner.

“We already had online collaboration tools in group companies and these came handy in this situation. However, the challenge was to ensure that all users know how to use these tools easily and the learning curve is as small as possible. This was required since the adoption of online collaboration tools was limited and not everybody was using them,” says Lamba.

The group organised a series of sessions for users so that they can understand fast and become productive from day one.

According to Lamba, they were well prepared for this newly announced extension of the lockdown but “the bigger question would be the sustainability of businesses everywhere in the long run,” the top CIO says.

He says that these are ‘testing and unpredictable times’ for any business conglomerate. Demand and supply both will start drying up fast and handling large fixed costs by organizations may become more and more difficult with time.

As per World Health Organisation (WHO) emergency dashboard, as on April 14, India has a total number of 10,363 confirmed cases of covid-19 with 339 deaths.

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