By Drew Ianni
January 25, 2021

How are companies managing through this crisis? What is changing in the definition of “work”? And where are automation and cybersecurity going? Corporate digital transformation seems to be accelerating in every industry, as companies confront COVID-19, the pandemic, and the much-altered economy. To close its BMC Exchange 2020 event with a bang, BMC gathered leading industry executives together from around the world for a candid conversation about current business challenges and the lasting impacts of a months-long, ongoing pandemic.

BMC CEO Ayman Sayed, speaking with the group, recalled how BMC responded at the beginning of the crisis: “I sent a memo on March 9 to everybody at BMC saying we are going to transition to working from home…Overnight, we flipped the switch. All 6000 people started working from home. The good news is we were able to make that transition with little or no disruption. We actually saw a spike in productivity for the first few months.” But now, he says, the company’s engineers and employees are fighting “COVID fatigue.” “None of us expected this to go this long,” he said. “We were bracing ourselves for maybe two to three months.  The last seven or eight months have taught us that the new normal may never be just the way it was before.”

A CTO of a large payment processing firm described how his company was impacted, emphasizing the resiliency of its cloud infrastructure. “The cloud saved our rear ends,” this executive said, “in our ability to continue to collaborate as an organization. Cloud-based services have evolved significantly and enabled the organization to withstand this ongoing work-from-home situation.”

The COO at a global software and services firm explained how the crisis impacted budgeting and the company’s innovation and transformation investments. “Fortunately, we started planning in January and I am part of the pandemic task force here,” she said. “We were prepared, and when the first lockdown came, we put every one of our 100,000-plus employees into a home office overnight. It worked very, very well.” Echoing what several others said about their organizations, she said her company’s initial focus once COVID hit was operational stability and business continuity.  “The IT organization gets credit for providing stability for our employees,” she continued.  “Looking ahead, automation will be key. But the human factor remains critically important. How can we make sure that the technology and collaboration tools are there, at scale, for our customers, partners, and employees? How can we shift that mindset to empower our employees to interact with customers in the virtual new normal?”

As the discussion shifted to how things have permanently changed, and the future of work and innovation, all the participants talked about the need for automation across their operational frameworks and businesses. But many added that we should not forget about the human factor as well. The CTO for a global defense and national security consultancy remarked, “From an automation and management point of view, it’s been a very interesting time. We have hardened our processes and understand that some of those processes – because there is a human being involved and that human is overloaded – can be augmented by automation. You need a clear view of where you can leverage AI and RPA (robotic process automation) to start modernizing.” He added: “We’re absolutely pushing our people to the limit at home at the moment, so everything we do now puts the human element at the heart of the end user.”

Another topic of universal interest and concern for this group was security. Moving entire workforces of thousands or tens of thousands to at-home and remote environments brings obvious security challenges. But there was also concern about the parallel increased reliance on the cloud. The defense consultancy CTO said, “You need your security wrap. You need your Darktrace type of activity underneath so you understand who’s on the system and who’s not on the system and are able to act upon events that potentially you wouldn’t normally act upon. You just don’t know, because you’re creating new environments for employees and customers with new security challenges.”

BMC’s Sayed closed the discussion: “I’ve learned a great deal listening to this very diverse group of business and technology leaders. Clearly, common themes are emerging. I am so excited about the potential of the discussions and chatting more about what lessons we take and the insights and knowledge we carry forward.”

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