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Facing COVID-19

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Four Elements of an Antifragile System in an Uncertain World

Sumedh Waikar
Head - Platform Team, Cloud Apps, Microservices and API

“Antifragility is a property of systems that increase in capability to thrive as a result of stressors, shocks, volatility, noise, mistakes, faults, attacks, or failures.” From the book “Antifragile,” by Professor Nassim Nicholas Taleb

The coronavirus outbreak has created disruption across more than 200 countries and territories, with millions of confirmed cases around the globe. Mandates for social distancing and to work and learn remotely have forced us to change the way we interact, deliver services and consume services. The pandemic has required organizations to adopt more efficient ways of operating and accelerating productivity programs already in motion. We are continuing to adapt to the evolving situation, but as soon as this pandemic recedes, all of us around the world need to be ready to adapt to seismic shifts in business models and workplace cultures with an accelerated path to digital transformation.

Digital Evolution Matters More Now Than Ever

Most companies have some level of digital transformation initiative in place, with some more mature than others in their digital journey. Scale-on-demand technology (such as cloud) and technologies like automation, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are enablers to laying the foundation of an antifragile infrastructure. One of the benefits of building “antifragile” into your operations is that it gives the ability to accelerate your digital transformation initiatives to embrace new paradigms that are redefining every aspect of business.

These paradigm shifts for the “next normal” for business will almost certainly include the following:

  • Remote work will become the default option for many jobs, with greater emphasis on data security, privacy and ethics policies
  • Agile teams will be operating remotely, creating the need to deliver a consumer-grade experience to employees
  • Digital tracking of "last mile" delivery (movement of goods from a hub to final delivery destination, especially important for retailers) will become even more critical, impacting logistics and supply chain
  • Digital will be the only business model for many sectors, with emphasis on improving customer experience

Recommendations for a Truly Digital Business

While COVID-19 has impacted businesses everywhere, of every size, it is also providing incentive and impetus to embrace a new, totally digital reality—prodding firms to accelerate their digital transformation initiatives that in turn, accelerate business results and build in resiliency for the future.

Thriving in this new digital economy will require a laser focus on better security, an open cloud and API environment, and virtualization to support a digital workforce, including:

  1. Tighter Cybersecurity with Zero Trust Security Model. According to a report prepared by Cyber Security Insiders, Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is now a priority for 59% of enterprises. A Zero Trust model implements “never trust, always verify” as its guiding principle. This model represents a dramatic change from traditional perimeter security model and requires a well-planned transition toward application-level security and how they’re being accessed rather than just network security. Along with remote workers, proliferation of multiple devices (including IoT devices) necessitates revisiting traditional security models and the notion of network segmentation as the primary mechanism for protecting sensitive resources. Zero Trust Model also provides protection against zero-day malware attacks as compared to traditional approaches.
  2. Scalability with an Open Hybrid Cloud. Open Cloud has open application programming interfaces (APIs). Customers can freely choose which combination of services and providers will best meet their needs over time. This also leads to orchestrating infrastructure more effectively across hybrid-cloud environments. Container platforms (like Kubernetes) provide this flexibility by using a hybrid cloud environment in a cost-effective fashion, along with a benefit of on-demand elasticity provided by hyper-scale providers. This not only improves the digital experience for your customers, but also allow for the ability to seamlessly switch providers in the event of failures.
  3. Faster development with Open API. APIs have been around for a while; in fact, Forbes declared 2017 as “The Year of the API Economy.”  With increasing digitization and intertwined ecosystem, open APIs provide a good choice to enable faster go-to-market time with better quality apps and a better developer experience. Banking and healthcare industries have already adopted open APIs to cater to their partner ecosystem in many regions. Adopting open APIs will help in tracking “last mile” delivery even when it occurs through multiple service providers. In fact, open APIs would provide a mechanism to a competitive and thriving ecosystem of partners, apart from multiple channels of digital interaction with customers.
  4. Flexibility and a Digital Workplace. As the workforce shifts to remote working, it becomes imperative that collaboration happens seamlessly. Today, there are many cloud-based collaborations tools as well as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions available that can satisfy the security needs of the enterprise while giving a consumer-grade experience to employees. Coupled with AI and machine learning, these virtualized systems are able to offer a better overall end user experience. With on-demand subscriptions to these services that does not require heavy upfront investment in hardware or capacity planning, a company is better equipped with the fluidity and flexibility required to scale up or down in order to fulfill demand.

Advantage of Antifragile Systems

Antifragile systems are more than adaptive, they actually become better when stressed. Using advanced digital technologies (like AI, cloud, automation) gives them the ability to adapt, improve and to respond to the unpredictable, including random events, unexpected disruptions and unplanned changes in business models. Digital technologies help lay the foundation for companies to build an antifragile system—to go beyond resiliency and be ready to respond to new opportunities and growth in every environment.

1.Zero Trust Security Model, Accessed April 20, 2020. https://info.zscaler.com/resources-industry-reports-zero-trust-adoption-report-cybersecurity-insiders

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