IT management, Telecom cloud

What Working From Home Tells us About Cloud Services

COVID-19 is the greatest disrupter the world has seen in decades, and one of the greatest disruptions I and many others have ever had to our daily routines.

But it's not affecting everyone equally. Many businesses are struggling to maintain operations and keep their people employed. Yet others are transitioning to remote work with relative ease.

My team shifted to working from home with few issues, and some organizations have found remote work so successful they are considering making it permanent. Research firm Valoir estimates that productivity loss is less than one percent for remote work. And Twitter, Square, Facebook and other companies have announced long-term plans to continue working from home, even after the pandemic is over.

Michael Biltz, Managing Director, Accenture Technology Vision
Michael Biltz, managing director, Accenture Technology Vision

Moving to cloud amid the pandemic

So what’s the difference between adapting to new circumstances and struggling to stay afloat? The answer is in the numbers.

In just two months, Zoom had added more videoconferencing users than in all of 2019. In April, Microsoft Teams daily active users jumped 70 percent, reaching 75 million. And Nvidia’s data center sales topped $1 billion for the first time ever. All this is happening because agile organizations are ramping up their use of the cloud to face the new normal.

Look at Sesame, a healthcare startup and graduate of the Google Cloud for Startups program.  Sesame had developed a direct-pay marketplace to help patients and health providers connect online. At the beginning of 2020 they were partnering with healthcare organizations in Kansas City and Oklahoma City. Almost all of its business was about in-person appointments.

But when the virus began to escalate, Sesame quickly built a new telehealth solution on Twilio and Google Cloud. The solution helped partners transition to remote appointments and helped them reach wider networks of patients than ever before. The company now operates in 48 states and 86 percent of bookings are for virtual consultations.

Another example of a swift move to the cloud is the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The DoD deployed a temporary remote work solution called the Commercial Virtual Remote (CVR) environment via Microsoft Teams. DoD workers now can chat, video call and collaborate on documents. The solution is accessible on personal and mobile devices and approximately 900,000 new user accounts were created in less than a month.

New cloud solutions for a new kind of normal

Cloud computing is behind many of today’s success stories. Thanks to the cloud, people can collaborate with coworkers, communicate with clients and develop products as if they were working and meeting in an office. But this isn’t just a lesson in the value of flexible work. It’s a sign of the growing need for agility across the entire enterprise.

Even after the pandemic is over, there will be lasting uncertainty. Possible resurgences of the virus and unpredictable markets mean that most companies are looking to innovate and adapt faster, and build flexibility and resilience into their strategies. Cloud is the tool that makes all of this possible.

As businesses update their strategies to drive value in a post-COVID world, their first step should be identifying where in their organization cloud services and infrastructure can increase resilience and agility.

Consider this: Factories and manufacturing plants have closed due to sinking or changing demands or to protect employees from the spreading virus. Cloud technology can help them identify new demand and maintain safe operations, with fewer or no shutdowns in the future. For example, Salesforce announced Salesforce Care for Manufacturing, a solution to help manufacturers update operations and reallocate resources to produce critical supplies for COVID-19 relief. The solution offers better visibility into current and can forecast demand with greater accuracy.

Cloud technology can also help workers maintain safe distances from each other. It can collect information from many on-site systems, giving workers a real-time view of operations Cloud can also unlock artificial intelligence (AI) solutions that spot defects and maintain quality without people needing to be physically present.

Google Cloud’s AI and machine learning products include a development environment, building blocks that make it easier to create AI applications, and even plug-and-play AI components. This kind of agility and access to new technologies will be critical in the coming years.

The value of cloud is indisputable

Cloud is the ticket to greater flexibility, more experimentation and faster reactions to changing market demands and circumstances. It can lower costs by eliminating or reducing on-premises servers, and lets businesses scale data storage and computing power on demand. And for many, cloud is the simplest path to experimenting with, testing and adopting new technologies.

The COVID-19 pandemic has indisputably proven the value of cloud. It didn’t just make working from home possible for me and my team — it made our entire company more agile in an extraordinary situation.

The next major challenge you and every other business face could be another wave of COVID-19 or something entirely different. Now that we have seen the value that cloud can provide, everyone can use it to prepare for tomorrow.

Michael Biltz is a managing director responsible for leading Accenture's annual Strategic Technology Visioning efforts. Read more from Accenture here.