Data security, videoconferencing and cloud enterprise solutions have become the top tech focus for companies in Australia, which saw the APAC region’s highest rate of focus on enabling a remote workforce in the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research by Plantronics, Inc.

The research was conducted in partnership with advisory firm Ecosystm in July this year. It surveyed 128 Australian senior business leaders from predominantly large businesses and enterprises across a range of industries, including financial services, retail, the public sector, manufacturing, and telecoms.

 The survey found to support remote working, nearly half of Australian organisations (49 per cent) implemented VPN infrastructure with 43 per cent rolling out collaboration software, and 42 per cent making changes to data protection and compliance procedures. Managing larger, disparate fleets of devices has in turn led to increased helpdesk function (26 per cent), with 16 per cent of companies actually hiring more IT staff.

Due to COVID-19, 38 per cent of firms were forced to refocus their digital transformation initiatives, with 34 per cent having to start or accelerate initiatives. 27 per cent had to put them on hold – higher than the regional average of 22 per cent.

“One of the main areas that businesses struggled with in the pandemic was the scale or capacity of existing IT solutions: this was a top challenge for companies in Australia. Not having the relevant IT processes and governance or IT skills were also significant issues. Several large organisations have also announced that working from home will be a common feature, continuing even after the pandemic,” said Andy Hurt, Managing Director, ANZ, Poly.

“Now, businesses have an opportunity to challenge current thinking and shape a new future of work. Beyond the pandemic, we believe the next normal will be all about hybrid working — flexible working across multiple locations, with immersive, productive workspaces that accommodate the workstyle of every employee.”

Going forward, the biggest retained change for Australian businesses will be the increased use of digital technologies for process automation (72 per cent), followed by digital technologies for employee experience (61 per cent) and customer experience (55 per cent). Collaboration platforms and tools, new online sales channels and virtual meetings are other enhancements that look set to stay.

For Australian companies, the top business priorities going into 2021 include improving customer experience (39 per cent), increasing business agility (38 per cent) and winning and retaining customers (34 per cent). When it comes to IT budget spend, data security is a top area of increased spend going into 2021, with Cloud Collaboration, Cloud HR and Cloud CRM among other areas of increased investment. Spending on video and voice conferencing is also set to increase.

“The face-to-face dynamic of video has proven to be engaging with employees working from home, employees on field, external suppliers, and customers. While physical interactions are still important, the pandemic proved how effective remote communication and collaboration can be.

“For hybrid working to be successful, remote workers need to be supplied with the right technology and given appropriate support. This means deploying professional grade conferencing devices, security solutions, collaboration platforms and HR policies that ensure those working remotely don’t end up “second tier”. With virtual meetings replacing face-to-face — something that many organisations predict — audio and video quality become paramount,” said Mr Hurt.

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