For IT solution providers, the biggest dent of this lockdown has been on the sales cycle. Sensing its effect on the projection figures, Jitesh Dave, Director, Systech Technocraft Services, talks about how his organisation is taking feedback from customers and tweaking the strategy accordingly
As a security solution provider, how do you assess the current scenario, amidst the complete lockdown and businesses facing difficulty in maintaining continuity of their operations?
The current circumstances have really impacted our business. The sales orders that we were expecting during this period either got stalled or delayed. There is no doubt that the overall channel business of the Indian IT industry will suffer due to the COVID-19 crisis.
From the security perspective, enterprise customers have always had technologies, solutions and infrastructure in place to tackle emergency situations, where people could work from home to either manage any last moment or 11th hour changes in any project or complete any non-essential work.
Having said that, they would not have envisaged that the crisis would be of this magnitude. Right now, the situation is such that people are meant to work from home like the way they used to operate from office, having access to all kinds of applications.
Meanwhile, we are seeing a lot of webinars being conducted on how to use applications and various tools effectively in this evolving scenario. However, we are forgetting that approval cycle in most of the organisations is a tedious task. If I have to recommend a solution to one of our customers on how the current scenario won’t affect their security framework, it will take a lot of time for him to get the solution validated internally, tested, do PoC, and take approval from finance among other processes. Hence, the conversion rate will be very slow for solution providers.
Every company might have earlier budgeted for a particular technology or technologies. But now, they have to move that budget to the recommendations coming from different corners. Most importantly, the customer will see whether a solution is going to help him in the long term or not. Nobody would like to invest for a short period. A few of the companies might adopt the new tools suggested by the vendors or OEMs, but this can’t be seen as a large turnkey solution. Hence, this is a good opportunity for companies to think from a different perspective, take different approach, and get prepared for situations like these.
What’s the lesson learned and your preparedness to handle such unprecedented situation?
The lesson we have learned from this crisis is that we need to have a fool-proof plan in place if a similar situation arises in the future. Being a security solution provider, we always had this approach to first deploy any solution within our network, test its performance, and then offer it to the customers. However, it may not be of the scale at which our customers would implement. Before going to the customers, we adopt these tools within our organisation.
In terms of the support structure, we are operating in the same way as we used to do earlier while working from office. There has not been a single case of breakdown in terms of providing support to our customers. The biggest dent of this lockdown has been on the sales cycle and we have done huge iterations in our projection figures.
With the sudden rise in cyber threats and attacks during this period, how are you ensuring that your customers’ data is safe and helping them mitigate risks?
The reports that we are seeing on a day-to-day basis are actually isolated incidents. These would not have otherwise happened if people were working from offices. To an extent, customers are taking the required measures to ensure their sensitive data is not getting compromised.
For instance, in the BFSI sector, where we are primarily operating, organisations have already ensured that there would be times where certain percentage of their workforce would be working remotely. Since they were prepared for it, no such incidents have been reported yet.
However, we are witnessing that hackers have targeted the collaboration tools. The reason is that these tools, which were earlier used within the enterprises, are now being leveraged widely in the home environment, where the employees are not taking necessary precautions, their systems might not have been hardened, etc. Since companies are giving access to data which was not earlier available remotely, the chances of attacks increase in such cases.
Unlike the BFSI segment, none of the other industries looked at security as a ‘must-to-have’ technology within their premises. Now I assume this approach will change and they will invest in security solutions, tools, and software which will help them remain secure while facing this kind of situation in future. Security will now become a mandate rather than being seen as a privilege by most of the vertical industries.
Please highlight some of the challenges being faced in providing service or support to customers during this period?
While we have engineers, who could harden the systems remotely, customers are asking us to come to their premises and configure the systems in such a way that their employees cannot use the external devices on their laptops. However, in the current scenario, nobody is able to travel on-site. Even though customers are providing pick-up and drop services, our engineers are not ready to take the risk and travel.
For the banking customers, we have to sign SLAs related to turnaround time for on-site support in case of severity of level 2 situations. There have been instances, where customers had raised tickets and expected on-site support, however, due to this lockdown we had no option but to give support remotely. In both the cases, customers had to involve their in-house teams to tackle the situations with remote support from our engineers. And here, they ensured that our team does not have access to their sensitive data.
Soon we will witness business models changing, wherein there will be far more remote workers in any organisation. In such scenario, what are the best cyber security practices that your customers should adopt? How would you, as a security solution provider, compliment in such a scenario?
As mentioned above, now even non BFSI companies will start investing heavily into security solutions. Across all the industries, people are going to get used to the work-from-home scenario and there will be less investments in creating infrastructure towards a swanky office. This lockdown will give a different perspective to most of these companies where their businesses did not suffer while their employees were working from home; and I believe they will continue doing it.
For a country like India, this will bring a paradigm shift in the way organisations operate. They will now adopt OpEx model where there will be big demand for subscription-based services, as we know services can be accessed from anywhere as long as you have an internet connection. More and more companies will take this as an opportunity to cut down on capital expenditures.
The new businesses will certainly slow down, wherein companies will not make investments in the areas which are not ‘must-to-have’. Instead, they will look for a long term and sustainable revival. Considering the current situation as an experience and a learning curve, enterprises will allow employees to work from home with a proper mechanism and tools to monitor their work.
What’s your message to customers, so that they are assured of full support today and in the days to come?
Like the way media is gathering information from industry thought leaders, IT vendors, and channel partners, we would also be doing a similar exercise and connect with our customers. Here, we would take their feedback in terms of where they would be making investments this year. While we had the idea about their approach basis on the projections made before COVID-19 crisis, now we will witness a sea-change in their investment plans. Hence, we will ask customers to share their roadmap on IT investments and then accordingly, we will tweak our strategy to service them.
We, as a company, will look at things from a long-term perspective, wherein we will be investing in those technologies that will help customers in a sustainable growth. We will not form alliances with vendors who are offering solutions to make this time gap arrangement. We are looking at sustainable as well as scalable solution which is easy to adopt and manoeuvre.