Australian businesses planning for next year may take heart that even the biggest and most connected corporates need to reorganise, replan and rethink their strategy as the pandemic unfurled across the world.
When COVID–19 struck at the start of the year, Optus Enterprise reverted to Australian contact centres as overseas services were sidelined.
“We thought we had our risk mitigation in place; who could have foretold they would go offline instantaneously? And some customers were in a world of pain, so we retrained [their staff] to be [our] contact centre agents,” said Optus Enterprise managing director Chris Mitchell during an iTnews virtual roundtable to mark the Australian expansion of ICT services provider, NCS.
Mitchell said organisations that consumed cloud services were ideally placed.
“Clients who had cloud move into that [remote] world very seamlessly and quickly,” he said. “Those that had largely on-premise [IT], found it very painful. The technology is underpinning moving very quickly to this much more flexible, virtual world we now live in.”
NCS NEXT launches in Australia
While Optus Enterprise ran remote employee appreciation programs to recognise staff working from home and started a weekly radio program to reinforce social bonds at a distance, NCS’ Head of NEXT Growth and Strategic Initiatives, Eddie Kaul, was setting up its digital and innovation services arm NCS NEXT in Australia to support enterprises’ growing demand for solutions for digital transformation initiatives and transition to cloud.
During the lockdown, Kaul hired people remotely and on-boarded them using remote digital collaboration tools.
“We grew from 2 to 45 people in the last four months, and so I haven't met any of them,” Kaul said.
The shared experience forged bonds between staff: “Everyone is ‘leaning in’ and it's not as hard as everyone thought it would be”.
Contactless technology puts the human touch back into healthcare
Singapore was one of the first countries to have a contact-tracing app. This was one of many ways its healthcare sector experimented with how to deliver services in a contactless environment.
Wynthia Goh, Head of NCS NEXT Digital, said NCS experimented with artificial intelligence to lift the burden from the shoulders of vulnerable hospital patients.
“So we were looking at computer intelligence to evaluate if a patient is in distress” to alert medical staff, Goh said. “And we also introduce inpatient devices so [patients] retrieve information about their treatment, request services and items when, in the past, they would have triggered a lot more trips back and forth and be exposed to a lot more people within the hospital environment.
“We are seeing increased conversations about how [to] use technology to reduce unnecessary contact but also to maintain the human connection with your customers or with your users.”
COVID-19 business survival tips from the ‘Red Shark’
The roundtable explored how the traits, behaviours and activities of thriving businesses will be deployed as Australia speeds out of lockdown next year. While many businesses that successfully managed sudden digital transformation were already built on cloud, sustaining culture through distant social connections was essential.
Noted Australian entrepreneur and ‘Red Shark’ on TV’s Shark Tank, Naomi Simson observed successful businesses in her Red Balloon Group “led with intention” and communicated often.
A healthy appetite for ambiguity, experimentation and failure is important. Simson related the story of a gin distiller that pivoted into hand sanitiser, only to learn it was more complicated than expected. It ‘pivoted’ to 400 virtual gin tastings a week — a 50-fold increase on the number of people who previously attended tastings in person.
“So geography was no longer a limitation and while every other experience and activity company or marketplace went to a standstill, we went into growth because people still want experiences,” Simson said.
Congratulating the Australian team, NCS’ CEO Kuo Pin Ng said NCS’ partnership with Optus Enterprise would accelerate Australian enterprises’ digital transformation.
“We see tremendous opportunities to support both commercial and government sectors’ digital transformation journeys, especially in a post-COVID world. [NCS] will partner with Optus Enterprise to bring integrated ICT and digital services to Australian clients,” he said.
Want more? To watch the full webinar and hear Naomi Simson’s six-point framework for strategic success in 2021 as well as how NCS transformed Singapore’s healthcare delivery during the pandemic, visit attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/8700295184460718599