Covering Disruptive Technology Powering Business in The Digital Age

Home > Archives > News > Reflecting on the Impact of COVID-19 on Businesses Beyond 2021
Reflecting on the Impact of COVID-19 on Businesses Beyond 2021
January 5, 2021 News


While many choose to forget the events of 2020, caused by the global pandemic, we must remember that 2020 is also the year whereby the pandemic impacted on all corners of society, bringing about a stark reality change to almost all organisations.

For John Lombard, CEO for Asia Pacific at NTT Ltd, the depth and breadth of transformation in the current situation has helped many organisations acknowledge the promise of technology, appreciate the benefits of digital transformation and adopt sustainable practices to achieve their business ambitions. Now, more than ever, IT needs to be willing and able to respond to what the business needs.

“While it’s difficult to define precisely how the future will take shape, we believe that the key factors of success for businesses that we’ve identified in recent years will continue to prevail, evolve and accelerate even post-pandemic, with the reimagining of the workplace to better suit the employee needs of tomorrow”, said John.

These include a ‘digital-first’ mindset; secure, cloud-optimised networks and infrastructure; smart use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), automation, open Application Programming Interface (APIs) and analytics; and data management. Collectively, these lay the foundation for creating and sustaining a positive employee and customer experience.

According to John, NTT’s predictions go beyond 2021 and reflect the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on accelerating the digital transformation of society. NTT believes there are three key technology trends that will help businesses in Asia Pacific embrace the new year confidently:

  • Proactive and bold digital transformation is imperative, not a choice. In 2021, NTT expects the link between business value and investment will become amplified. According to NTT’s 2020 Managed Services Report, only 21% of respondents say that aligning with business objectives by exploring new technologies and workflows is a major workload. Lack of alignment with the business could make the successful outcome of IT projects more difficult to achieve. Now, more than ever, IT needs to be willing and able to respond to what the business needs.
  • The ability to leverage public and private clouds to be agile and responsive to changing market requirements is now essential. NTT believes that the only way to tangibly link technology investment to real business value is by embracing digital IT infrastructures that allow for agility and responsiveness – and therein lies the value of public and private clouds. Businesses that were much more responsive and resilient were those that had already made these investments and transitions. For example, NTT recently announced the successful implementation of its Cloud Management Platform to streamline Hash Code Book’s (HCB) multi-cloud environment in Malaysia. The Cloud Management Platform was designed to provide efficient control and management of cloud services from various hyperscale cloud providers into a single platform.
  • Automation will increasingly lie at the core of successfully transforming digital businesses. Let’s consider automation in the realm of customer experience, by way of example. According to NTT Ltd’s 2020 Global Customer Experience Benchmarking Report, only 12% of Asia Pacific organisations are delivering a fully functioning experience, yet more than half (64%) consider customer experience to be a primary differentiator driving their digital transformation. NTT foresees greater adoption of chatbots and AI-driven natural language processing bots – which will increasingly undertake businesses’ first- and early-stage interactions with customers.

John also pointed out that automation will also play a critical role in employee experience initiatives. There may be advances in and adoption of robotic process automation, machine-learning and AI. Helping people stay connected and keeping their data secure is key to looking after the workforce and maintaining productivity and effectiveness.

This aligns with findings from NTT Ltd’s 2020 Intelligent Workplace Report, which found that 92.1% of the respondents in APAC believe employee needs will be at the heart of the future workplace design. Yet this must be underpinned by a long-term strategy for digital transformation, with the roll-out of new technologies, policies and of course training so employees feel comfortable with new platforms.


Investing in the Right Technology

“We understand that profitability is at an all-time low in many sectors and organisations around the world have seen budgets stretched to their limits. Businesses that hope to successfully persuade their shareholders to approve new investments will need to demonstrate tangible business value immediately and iteratively”, said John.

At the same time, John believes that organisations will also need to look for creative ways to address the most commonly cited barriers to successful digital innovation and transformation, including the lack of skills in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and digital programmers, data analysts and scientists and cybersecurity experts. They also need to address siloed implementation and a lack of fruitful collaboration among discrete functional areas, as opposed to a unified, organisation-wide approach.

John highlighted how quantum computing, which is still in its early days will usher in a new era of computing. He predicts quantum computing to cause a wave of disruption regarding how businesses encrypt data. In the world of remote working, threat actors know that humans are the weakest link in security and more so once they’re outside of the traditional perimeter.

There has also been a growing interest in digital twin computing, which will make it possible to integrate people’s minds, thinking, habits and attitudes into their digital twins. While this innovation is likely only to be introduced into the mainstream in a decade or so, as a matter of ethics and social responsibility, companies like NTT are collaborating proactively with an ecosystem of academic research institutions to make this technology readily available.

In 2021, John predicts digital transformation to be an imperative for businesses, not a choice. However, changes to business practices will need to be sustainable in the long run.

“As we are faced with the reality and impact of climate change, we must appreciate the urgency with which we must pursue and adopt more environmentally sustainable practices from both our personal and business endeavours”.

For instance, current levels of power and energy consumption by IT equipment and networks have a severe, detrimental effect on our environment and society. That’s because they rely on electronic processing and chips that require high levels of power. The good news is that pioneers in networking research and development believe that they have the answer – ‘All-Photonics Networks (APNs) – which involves the use of optical and hybrid cabling. They’re capable of transferring large volumes of traffic while keeping quality high and latency low. Importantly, All-Photonics Networks will allow us to operate in a more environmentally sustainable way.

“APNs are just one of the few disruptive technologies that hold promise to help businesses realise safety and security, support sustainable growth and reduce environmental loads. At NTT, we are excited to be embarking on new discoveries, opportunities and innovation with our customers and partners, that have yet to come in 2021 and beyond”.