The New Normal Is Here. Are We Digitally Ready For It?

COVID-19 has thrown the world in a turmoil. Economies are grappling to stay afloat, people are overwhelmed with the pace with which their everyday life is changing, workers in “frontline industries” are battling with uncertainties, and there is a loss of normalcy. As the pandemic unleashes its wrath, organizations and consumers alike are making dramatic and swift changes to face the challenges that are unfolding in front of them.

With a growing sense of loss of personal “connectivity,” organizations are swiftly adopting and validating that the digital technologies they have deployed are able to support a remotely-connected workforce. Many sectors, including healthcare, grocery stores, restaurants, and education are adapting to this forced change, and some of their innovations may become the “new normal” for everyone. But the question remains – are we digitally ready for it?

Healthcare is the first of many areas that comes to mind during a public health crisis. Our frontline defense includes doctors, nurses, and paramedics, but also the supply chains for essential tools and supplies that keep these defenders safe. With the growing scarcity for protective gear in today’s current climate, the healthcare sector is focusing on a solution that mitigates their risks. Telehealth.

Telehealth services enable healthcare providers to see, speak, and in some cases, monitor their patients remotely without being exposed to contagions. The remote communication solution not only provides safe and secure medical communications for staff, but it also limits the risk of infection spreading to the more vulnerable sections of the population – the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. The key to successful telehealth is flexible, secure connections that provide high-quality voice and video conversations. Optimal telehealth usage by medical staff requires a fast and reliable network connection that can prioritize traffic to ensure crystal clear voice and video quality.

Within the retail sectors, supermarkets and restaurants are also going through an accelerated digital transformation. To avoid disruptions in our food supply, these businesses have stepped up with innovative solutions that allow customers to conform with social distancing mandates. Online ordering combined with curbside pickup or home delivery options are helping minimize the risk of spreading the virus. These types of clicks and mortar services have been trending in recent years based purely on customer convenience, but now COVID-19 has greatly accelerated adoption rates. Customers appreciate the ease-of-use when they can place their orders online through a website or phone app without the challenge of avoiding others who are also searching aisles for staple goods. With an always-on network connection, retail and restaurant workers can keep track of and fulfill orders while maintaining a safe social distances between themselves and their customers. Once customers embrace "clicks and mortar" experiences, many of them are likely to expect it long after the current crisis is over.

The pandemic has also caused a huge disruption on the home networking front due to mass closure of schools and office buildings. These closures have driven a sudden surge in online learning and telework needs, which means that residential internet access is under extreme pressure all day long. As parents are conducting video business calls, their children are simultaneously using remote learning apps and participating in online classrooms. Even during breaks, the typical family is playing online video games, binge-watching Netflix, and conducting personal video calls on Facetime or Zoom. All these digital quarantine activities are consuming unprecedented levels of residential bandwidth. When the home network gets overly congested, real-time sensitive applications like teleconferencing are typically the first to suffer. To optimize work-from-home productivity, professionals need smart connectivity that manages congestion and protects their business-critical applications. Telework is likely to become part of their new normal for those who can sustain their productivity and sanity while working from home, especially once the kids return to school.

Digital transformation is not new, but the sudden and massive changes caused by the pandemic highlight the need for businesses to be “digitally ready”. Organizations using cloud managed software-defined networks (SD-WANs) have greater agility, which enables them to quickly adapt when network traffic patterns change. SD-WAN makes it easy to scale bandwidth for existing sites whenever you need it, or quickly add new sites wherever you need them. With the right solution, user quality of experience is automatically protected during times of peak network congestion and network downtime is virtually eliminated with link failover.

Our world got hit by a black swan event. The sudden and massive changes caused by the recent coronavirus outbreak is a wake-up call for many businesses to deeply investigate their digital readiness. Telehealth is helping us stay safe, clicks and mortar shopping is helping us stay fed, and telework is helping us stay productive. As we cope with the current crisis, millions of us are collectively trying new connected experiences that allows us to keep our distance. Many of these solutions are here to stay as part of the new normal. Business leaders should recognize connectivity is the backbone of any digital strategy, and SD-WAN is one component of a digitally ready business.