COVID-19 creates ‘new level of urgency’ for Australian tech projects

Business models will need to be rapidly revised and changes made to some areas almost overnight, according to IDC.

Technology projects across Australia will be delivered with a ‘new level of urgency’ and probably a revised scope as organisations seek to deploy solutions that address challenges related to COVID-19.

This was a finding in an IDC report on the impact of the pandemic on Australian organisations and their suppliers as business models, particularly those associated with consulting, deployment and traditional outsourcing, will need to be rapidly revised and changes made to some areas almost overnight.

One organisation that has clearly risen to the challenge is NSW Police, which has shifted thousands of its staff to remote working environments in only a few days. The organisation has scaled up its remote access capabilities from a few hundred to around 10,000 users, Gordon Dunsford, chief information and technology officer at NSW Police told CIO Australia last week. NSW Police also rolled out a few thousand additional devices to support much larger numbers of people working from home and in other remote locations.

Dunsford and his team also rolled out ‘command post IT’ or technology services for police who are managing around 4,500 people in hotel quarantine across more than 20 hotels in Australia.

A bespoke people management system has been put in place to manage individuals from the moment they land in Australia. As soon as they arrive at immigration, data on arrival cards and other forms is ingested into an optical character recognition system. This information includes what hotel room they are staying in, the welfare and health checks they may need and any other information that is used by police to track their status during a 14-day lockdown period.

Meanwhile, the Australian National University (ANU) configured a crisis management platform that protects and informs 25,000 students. The platform broadcasts critical information that needs to be shared with students, staff members and the wider community such as building closures and health alerts. It also enables crisis management teams to store, manage, and analyse data to better assess future risk.

ANU formed a crisis management team in January to respond to the impact of bushfires and smoke and then Canberra’s hail storm and floods.

Large projects on hold

Technology services contracts, often spanning multiple years, will generally be adhered to, IDC said. But this is not always the case as some Australian organisations have already put large projects already well underway on hold.

For instance, Australia Post recently said it would pause or stop its IT projects and stand down contractors.

“Given this timing, this is also likely to have a substantial impact on Australia Post’s rebuild and migration of the legacy core layer in a public cloud environment,” IDC said in its report.

IDC said an immediate priority for customers is the movement of resources away from IT towards new areas to respond to COVID-19. The analyst noted that some senior leaders, with IT services contract sign-off power, have been reallocated towards COVID-19 business risk mitigation.

National Australia Bank has announced it would stop work on more than 100 programs, standing down its contractors and consultants to direct all its resources and focus on assisting its customers struggling with the crisis.

“Others are taking a ‘wait and see’ approach, pausing only new contracts or upcoming projects until better insight is gained about the impact on the business and whether the focus of the business will change,” IDC said.

As organisations move towards the cloud with haste to address business continuity and resiliency, there will be a heightened demand for managed cloud services, IDC added.

In the cloud services sector, many providers are working with healthcare organisations and government to address COVID-19 areas that require resources and capacity that cloud solutions enable. For instance, the Australian government is using Google Cloud’s services to provide citizens with real-time information on how COVID-19 is progressing across the country, IDC noted.

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