Open email, access calendar, click link, join meeting - and repeat. Amid the regular daily routine, now viewed as a business necessity, one virtual meeting stood out.
Conducted via Google Meet - for obvious reasons - 30 minutes with Rick Harshman offered an on-the-ground insight as to how businesses in Asia Pacific are responding in real-time to Covid-19, whether grounded in Kuala Lumpur, Sydney, Jakarta or Taipei.
Speaking as managing director of Asia Pacific and Japan at Google Cloud, Harshman outlined a three-step exit strategy for customers and partners, centred around “recover, adjust, then build”.
“Asia Pacific was at the unfortunate front-end of what has become a global pandemic but we have seen a tremendous shift in behaviour,” observed Harshman, speaking to Channel Asia via remote link from Singapore. “Companies all the way up to the CIO level are thinking about a shift to digital in a much deeper way in light of the current circumstances.
“It’s a misnomer to think that nobody is talking about digital transformation, we’re seeing the reverse. Companies now think they can move more quickly because they are forced to change which is resulting in faster cloud adoption.”
Naturally, executive commentary from any market-leading vendor can be taken in the context of sales motivation. The primary aim of Google Cloud - like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, IBM et al - is to drive product sales and make money, a reasonable requirement of a multi-national corporation.
But unlike most, Harshman can back it up - GovTech in Singapore; the Ministry of Education in Malaysia; the Department of Health and Southern Cross Care in Australia; Ruangguru in Indonesia and the Centres for Disease Control in Taiwan, to name but a few.
“In that first recovery phase, we experienced organisations navigating the initial pivot to quickly enable remote working,” he recalled. “Businesses and the education sector were concerned about uptime and reliability, especially for essential services. There was a huge increase in demand as stay at home orders were rolled out across countries, placing demands on delivery, citizen services, media and e-commerce.”
As reported by Channel Asia, Google Cloud ramped up efforts early to help mitigate rising coronavirus concerns across the region through increased collaboration at public and private sector levels.
In Singapore, the technology giant worked with the government to implement an online chat bot to help answer citizens’ most common questions. This was in addition to joining forces with governments worldwide to help promote "authoritative public information" about Covid-19 through the Google Ad Grants crisis relief program.
The vendor also enabled productivity for thousands of remote workers and students in Vietnam and Hong Kong - due to school closures - through the deployment of products such as Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Classroom, Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat, as well as G Suite for Education.
“Google Cloud has been hosting daily webinars for teachers and educators through our work with the Ministry of Education in Malaysia,” Harshman added. “In Australia, Southern Cross Care is using Google Meet to speak with patients and in Singapore, we’re collaborating with Doctor Anywhere, a telemedicine service which allows people to opt for virtual consultation with virtual doctors. We’ve seen that take off on Google Cloud Platform [GCP].”
Likewise in Indonesia through Ruangguru. While the start-up was already up and running as an education specialist before Covid-19, when the pandemic hit, they rolled out a free online school offering via Google Cloud in addition to existing services, due to nationwide school closures.
The second phase, as outlined by Harshman, centres around businesses delivering medium-term value to employees, customers and partners.
“The market has weathered the storm and now a change of mindset exists at enterprise level,” he said. “We’re seeing more conversations around GCP adoption and moving to the cloud, whether GCP-first or multi-cloud. This pandemic has made businesses move quickly.
“Every CIO I talk to is prioritising driving more cost out of the business, alongside moving to an OPEX model. Cloud works well in both regards and we’re seeing this resonate from a net new customer perspective, not just in our existing base.”
For Harshman, such an approach opens the door for partners like Accenture, Deloitte and NTT - among other regional and professional services providers - to help customers “assess, plan and execute” new-look cloud strategies.
Finally, the third phase of the evolution process prioritises the long-term aspirations of businesses, in recognition that the market will eventually return to some degree of normality.
“Senior leaders are focused on now but they are also responsible for thinking about what things will look like as they come out of the other side,” Harshman added. “What measures will be in place to bring employees back to the office? What will a remote workforce look like in the long-term? How will this impact infrastructure and security?”
Pre-pandemic, Harshman acknowledged that whether operating in Southeast Asia, Australia or Asia Pacific, a number of digital native companies already had services and workloads running in the cloud.
“But that being said, lots of enterprise customers have had to go through the different phases of Covid-19,” he summarised.