The coronavirus outbreak that has driven millions of workers indoors is opening up new vistas for companies in the technology industry, as remote work boosts demand for virtual networks, software-as-a-service (SaaS) and security firewalls. Many organizations that have invested in these technologies to tide over the crisis are expected to continue using them even after the pandemic is past.
According to a Gartner survey of chief financial officers, released earlier in April, 74% of companies surveyed plan to permanently shift to more remote work even after the crisis is over.
“Of course, the exact increase will vary as per the industry requirement. To enable work-from-home, enterprises will be investing in areas such as VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure), DaaS (desktop as a service), connectivity, networking, cloud-based services coupled with virtual private networks and security firewalls," said Naveen Mishra, senior director analyst at Gartner.
A global IT Buyer Sentiment Survey released by the International Data Corporation (IDC) this week found the technologies to support work-from-home may differ across regions, particularly because enterprises across geographies are on different technological levels.
Enterprises in developed economies such as in North America and Europe already had capacities around enabling virtual workspaces, video conferencing, and data analytics, due to greater work flexibility. “However, enterprises in the Asia-Pacific excluding Japan (APeJ) region are focused more on building capacity to support virtual workspaces, remote learning/training, and video conferencing," said Vinay Gupta, research director, IT spending guides, customer insights and analysis, IDC.
Vikas Arora, vice-president for cloud and cognitive, software and services at IBM India and South Asia said that when remote workers do not have the ideal computing setup at their end, companies turn to SaaS solutions. “Customers are looking for SaaS versions of existing services like communication, security and access control beyond firewalls more than ever, because they can be up and running remotely without extensive deployment efforts," said Arora.
IBM is providing services like virtual environment on cloud, high-speed file sharing and team collaboration for up to 90 days free to its customers to help them keep businesses running in the absence of physical server access due to the lockdown. “Customers are certainly calibrating risk assessment but the spend to manage operational health will continue," added Arora.
Collaborative applications, which include conference applications, email, enterprise social networks and team collaborative applications, had a worldwide market size of almost $18.5 billion in 2019 and is growing at an annual pace of 13% during 2019-2023, according to IDC. Of these, IDC expects conference and team collaborative applications to see a y-o-y growth of over 15% in 2020 alone.
John Gaunt, chief human resources officer at /IT and consulting company/ Synechron, said telecommuting is here to stay, and the outbreak has prompted many big brands, who were earlier reluctant about remote work to experiment with it. “Employees who know their way with handhelds, personal digital assistants, smartwatches, tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, or Alexa and Google Mini, can help in collaborating, conducting research, switching between video conferences, generating dashboards and even scheduling meetings and to-dos," added Gaunt.