Kathy Gibson reports – The economic impacts of the current pandemic are unprecedented – but this has driven a dramatic increase in agility.

Adel Al-Saleh, CEO of T-Systems, points out that his company was no different, deploying quick solutions in a matter of days when the crisis hit.

These solutions range from VPNs to new applications, to supply chain solutions and even simple issues like being able to sign documents electronically.

Customers also had to move quickly in increasing network capacity and getting workers set up to work remotely.

“It was great to see how some public sector organisations also moved quickly to react to the crisis.” Al-Saleh says. In many instances, network capacity and even data centre capacity had to be doubled, tripled or quadrupled literally in days.

To aid in the first against the virus, T-Systems is making public cloud capacity available to R& D institutes that need capacity, together with services, free for three months.

The world of work is not going to go back to normal, Al-Saleh believes. “Companies are going to look at some of the things they do during he crisis and they will keep some of these in place.

“I believe the digital agenda of companies will be adjected, and dramatically accelerated.”

Executive are having to do a lot of work to adject to economic realities, but they are also looking to take advantage of the situation to deploy things differently.

“We have learnt over the last weeks that we are can engage with clients without having to drive or fly there.

“We have seen how supply chains have been impacted. If another crisis comes and we are impacted again it means we haven’t learned the lessons.

“We have to create a new normal for when the crisis goes away.”

Al-Saleh believes there are three phases that organisations go through in  crisis like this.

The first is in securing current operations, increasing capacity and engaging differently. The second is adjusting to  the new reality, increasing agility and automation to create financial stability.

The third is to accelerate the digital agenda to ensure they are ready to drive business in a new way going forward.

Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMware, points out that customers have successfully scaling from a couple of hundred to thousands of users in a very short timeframe

“These projects could have taken months in the past, and now they are happening in a few days.”

This phase is typically followed by one where it becomes the new normal and should then work toward accelerating the change, Gelsinger says.

“We need to not only enable multi-cloud, but look to the reliance factors of multi-cloud,” he points out. “We see the multi-cloud as modernising the data centre, enabling true hybrid cloud and then the true multi-cloud experience.”

The explosion of new devices on the network could create additional complexity down the line, Gelsinger adds. “In the first phase, companies are doing what they need to get people working quickly.”

The next phase will be to “clean up” the environment, adding management and security across the newly extended network, he says.

In the new world order, cloud becomes a more attractive proposition, and many organisations are looking to deploy cloud services quickly, with hybrid cloud and multi-cloud coming to the fore.

Once companies have adjected to the new reality and stabilised the new working environment, Gelsinger says there are many opportunities for organisations to use those platforms to be more agile.

“The ability to change fast is now unquestionably proven. The capacity of the business and workforce are now ready for that.”

VMware’s priorities are changing too. “We embrace the philosophy of don’t waste the crisis. We are looking at how to go faster to the future.

“Some of our remote working options have taken off, and we need to figure out how to make them faster. We also need to work more with our customers to help them do the same.

“But our strategy is the same: help our customers to build next generation solutions.”

The industrial sector has been particularly hard-hit by the crisis.

Dr Jan Mrosik, chief operating officer: digital industries at Siemens, says the virus has disrupted economic momentum and will disrupt businesses for some time.

At Siemens a crisis team has been set up to assess and mitigate the effects of the crisis as far as possible.

The company is working with organisations at the front line of the pandemic, Mrosik says, adding that digitalisation and automation can play a big role in helping operations to continue.

“In responding to a crisis like this, mutual support and collaboration between business, politicians and society is essential.

“They are not separable: only together can they master the crisis.”

Digitalisation offers organisations the opportunity to be more transparent, flexible and predictable, according to Mrosik.

Transparency adds value by providing realtime data on customer needs and end to end transparency in the supply chain; flexibility gives the ability to work remotely based on digital workflows, while refocusing asset utilization; and predictability adds value in quality and performance, which is especially valuable in times of crisis.

“The current crisis offers compelling reasons for digitalisation,” Mrosik says.

Currently, all of Siemens’ factories are up and running, and it has put in place alternative supply chain lines in case one of the plants has to close.

Mrosik says the company is able to do this because it has digitalised all the steps in the production process. “A high degree of digitalisation and automation mans that productivity is minimally disrupted.”

Automation means that people fewer people need to be physically present, and decisions can be made remotely; while predictive maintenance means that factories can be properly maintained with minimal physical intervention.