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New Ways of Working: adapting to reality through digital resilience

Elizabeth Hackenson, Chief Content Officer of Schneider Electric, discusses the changing workplace in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

New Ways of Working: adapting to reality through digital resilience

Look around you—our world, as we knew it, has changed rapidly. Gone are the days—well, at least this Spring—of joining with family and friends for graduation celebrations, music festivals, large scale events, international travel plans, and side-by-side working with colleagues. Norms are challenged, rituals are reshaped, and digital resilience is redefined when we find ourselves adapting to new ways of living and working.

January 23, 2020: That was when the crisis response hit, and our first wave of employees in Asia moved to remote working. Shortly after, like a tidal wave of rippling response, the rest of global enterprise followed, and we were in full swing Business Continuity crisis management for our 135,000 employees.

In these instances, CIOs can choose to be either reactive or, take proactive measures by preparing a solid business continuity plan. Choosing the latter may be the difference between riding the wave or being swallowed by it.

Digital resilience

According to IDC, it’s estimated that by 2025 there will be 41.6 billion connected IoT devices, including machines, sensors, and cameras. In hospitals, data centers, critical manufacturing plants, and industrial sites, continuous uptime is non-negotiable, especially during catastrophic events.

“So how do we ensure business continuity when the workforce suddenly becomes completely remote? Both technology and people need to be in place to adapt quickly.”

Building the foundation with four key pillars:

1. Scaling IT infrastructure for business continuity

A modernized, digital backbone and infrastructure has been the gateway to resiliency, ensuring the ability to remotely monitor and conduct critical operations throughout server rooms, data centers and manufacturing floors. EcoStruxure– our IoT-enabled architecture and platform include connected products, to managing at the edge, to apps, analytics, and services. In 2019, our portfolio grew Assets Under Management by 50%, with a 3% increase in products and over 480,000 EcoStruxure installations globally. As a digital-first organization, we extend the same ambition internally, using our own digital technologies to operate efficiently, build products, and enable digital services. Currently, we have approximately 19,000 EcoStruxure connected devices within Schneider Electric facilities to accelerate our own digital transformation.

With EcoStruxure Asset Advisors, Schneider Electric seamlessly receives data center alerts while server rooms are vacated and manages inventory while factory-based employees remain at home. Today, with EcoStruxure IT, our technicians work behind the scenes to ensure business continuity and realize at least a 50% improvement in site restoral time.

With this digital infrastructure foundation already laid, we can seamlessly deploy business continuity plans ensuring digital resilience. We focused on three main areas:

  • Keeping our customer’s priorities at the forefront with continuous customer engagement.
  • Ensuring minimal disruption to our supply chain and employees and
  • Adapting to our new normal with an augmented workforce

2. Remote Working: a new normal

A Gartner, Inc. survey of CFOs recently revealed that 74% will move at least 5% of their previously on-site workforce to permanently remote positions post-COVID 19.

“So how do you ensure your enterprise is equipped to empower its workforce remotely?”

As our CEO, Jean-Pascal Tricoire shared in his recent blog, as the whole workforce dispersed to their homes, the enterprise was fully operational in less than two days. Within a week, almost all our customer care center services were performed from home, to manage the 110% increase in call volumes.

At the onset of the pandemic, we had roughly 30,000 concurrent connections daily. As more and more countries instituted lockdowns and work from home mandates, that number then increased to 60,000, to 90,000, and now over 100,000 today. Our marketing organization pivoted overnight to 100% digital, increasing to 115% in virtual events YoY.

For employees to collaborate digitally the digital services and platforms like Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, and Box made it possible. With Teams, we were easily able to scale up support for the entire workforce with minimal intervention. By the end of March, we were seeing a peak of nearly 26M minutes of virtual meetings monthly, a 73% increase since December of 2019.

3. Navigating the changing market conditions

At Schneider, we privilege people, partners, and partnerships in everything we do to ensure life is on – from the executive floor to the supply chain to the ecosystem. From simplifying and harmonizing our digital touchpoints to anticipate customers’ needs, to working with our suppliers to capitalize on their value, to digitizing our supply chain. With change being the only constant, enabling a seamless flow of data from our suppliers to our inventory management applications to instantly adjust changes in taxation or delivery date was critical in mitigating any disruption to the supply change and ultimately our customers.

In 2017, we started to deploy our EcoStruxure Smart Factory program to automate manufacturing and digitize our supply chain. With EcoStruxure Plant and Machine in place, our manufacturing operations could continue, even with some factory-based employees such as Planning, Logistics, Inventory and Manufacturing Engineers with remote working.

4. Keeping Cyber Security Top of Mind regardless of the environment

According to recent reports, their world has seen a 400% increase in corona related attacks with hackers developing websites, apps, and tracking tools that claim to provide real-time information about the virus. We know that even under normal conditions, 95% of all security incidents involve human error. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) cautions “Organizations should assume that malicious parties will gain control of telework client devices and attempt to recover sensitive data from them or leverage the devices to gain access to the enterprise network.” With this in mind, education and awareness are even more critical. This can include:

  • Promoting the use of the secure VPN
  • Enforcing the use of approved digital conferencing tools
  • Reminding employees of secure file sharing protocols
  • Changes in password policies mandating stronger combinations
  • Mandatory completion of training
  • Digital Transformation Fast-Tracked

At Schneider Electric, we believe access to energy and digital is a basic human right. Our digital transformation started decades ago on the factory floor. For companies that may be just embarking on their journey, we can expect to see a rapid acceleration based on necessity. Technology and digitalization are the crux of what the world is reliant on today. Ensuring your enterprise is ready will help you stem the tide and set your sites on new shores will make the difference. And, as we establish new norms and capitalize on our collective digital resilience as a global community, may we all come out stronger and better together.


Article first appeared on Schneider Electric

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