Businesses with experience of cloud computing are coping much better than those without, as the massive shift of knowledge workers from office environments to home working rolls out at unprecedented scale and speed.

In a new APAC leader technology video panel produced by Which-50 and Boardroom Media this week, we interviewed the Asia Pacific chiefs of Nice, Slack, Box and Okta about how their customers are coping with the transition, and the mistakes they need to avoid.

According to Graham Sowden, APAC GM for zero-trust security platform Okta, “My customers are telling me different things from my prospects. My customers are typically further along the cloud adoption path, and so they’re finding it somewhat easier.”

Prospects, on the other hand, come in with quite some haste at the moment. It’s all because they’re struggling to get that many people in through their existing firewall – they need an alternative solution, he says.

“They’re struggling with the scale, and the velocity of all of this and they are seriously worried about compromising security. So they’re telling me very different stories to the customers.”

We asked Nice Systems APAC president Darren Rushworth about the issues his customers — large contact centres with significant populations of agents — are facing.

Darren Rushworth, Nice.

“You have two things happening at the same time. One is you’re trying to move people to a new environment at home, which provides tremendous technological challenges because you want to make sure that the connection is going to be safe, secure, and you still have the data protection issues.

“At the same time, what we’re seeing is that the scale and the ramp-up of inquiries [businesses face] are over the top. People are calling in their banks about mortgage refinancing. They’re calling into social services, they’re calling into utilities saying I have bills to pay. So the demand is going up significantly.”

Rushworth said cloud computing is essential to solving this problem. “The only real way to do it is to move to a cloud infrastructure as quickly as you possibly can. That gives you the benefits of being able to scale very, very quickly and provide people the technology they need at home.”

He also stressed that technology is just one issue that managers need to consider.

“You need to think about how you manage business updates and training in an environment that’s moving so quickly as this, this wasn’t planned. Nobody’s knowledge base was able to support Covid viruses. It just didn’t exist.”

This requires strong flexible systems and processes, he said. “You want to make sure people are turning up and doing their job. You need the ability to actually check-in and manage schedules and conflicts and, [to check that] people are actually doing what they’re supposed to do.”

Messaging platform Slack has seen a huge increase in demand on its platform.

Its APAC boss Matt Loop said, “The spike we’re seeing and usage is really coming from a couple of different areas. I’d say first, it’s our existing customers who have Slack in place who have an understanding of how the platform works. For them, it’s about enabling a broader set of their employees and best practices around how to manage through this crisis.”

Next, he said are the not-for-profits and the service providers who are on the front lines right now, and who are trying to help with aid. “Urgency is first and foremost since speed, in this case, is saving lives. So we’re trying to activate and allow for information flow between employees and volunteers.”

The final group is the new customers, who are unfamiliar with Slack but need a tool to help them through these times.

Immediate needs 

Across all three groups, the common driver is immediacy. “They want to provide transparency to their employees and make sure they’re communicating with them effectively. They want to maintain productivity and keep their business afloat. And last, it needs to be of course secure and reliable. They want to make sure that this is going to continue to run and not go down over the course of these weeks.”

Box’s APAC regional vice president Scott Leader said the urgency with which companies are shifting to homework environments means it is crucial that platform providers like his make it as easy as possible for businesses to get up to speed.

“I think one of the challenges, whenever you’re rolling out a new system, is the user behaviour. How do people bring on a new application and really let it enhance what they’re doing?”

To meet this need Box has invested heavily in online education services.

“If you’re a new user coming on Box, you can actually go on there are a lot of pre-recorded courses. And with the current environment, we’re actually offering free courses. as well as the live courses with one of our experts.”

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