COVID-19 has been front and center for everyone for the past 60 plus days and the impact of the lockdown on us as individuals, businesses, and as a country has been overwhelming. The future remains uncertain as we scramble to ensure our economic and personal survival while the country gradually unlocks. Many businesses have had to adapt very quickly to ensure continuity by equipping some or all of their staff to operate remotely while other enterprises, due to the nature of their industry or their limited access to technology, have been forced to halt trade entirely. The fallout has included some high-profile business rescue applications, business closures, staff retrenchments, downsizing and salary cuts. B2B trade has been jolted as suppliers and customers have been forced to close their doors permanently or have had to freeze their spending and projects to ensure that they can weather the storm.
Agora Tec has been in the fortunate position to have serviced our customers uninterruptedly, and it has been business as usual since the very first day of lockdown. What we have witnessed over the last two months has spoken to the determination, versatility and resilience of our customers. Many customers responded to the looming lockdown decisively, ensuring that their teams were able to connect, communicate and work remotely. New data packages, dongles and data SIM’s were distributed to our customers in the two weeks that led up to the lockdown. The period of two or three weeks that followed was relatively quiet as the new workforces adjusted to their new remote working environments familiarised themselves with new tools and became accustomed to a new work routine.
Businesses breathed a sigh of relief as the transition although rushed was for the most part a success.
What was empirically evident from the data sourced from our platforms was a massive growth in data consumption compared to pre-COVID, and a peak decline in voice traffic.
These increases are naturally expected with employees working from home, but the increase in connectivity costs has highlighted the challenge and necessity for companies to manage data consumption in a virtual working environment. Many of our customers have identified exceptionally high data consumption within small pockets of their workforce, with as little as 25% of the workforce comprising 80% plus of the communications costs each month. Creating clear work data usage policies is the next obstacle which businesses need to address to ensure that communications costs are proactively managed and don’t spiral out of control.
Since lockdown began many of our Active Management Service customers have benefitted from having our dedicated team monitoring and managing their connectivity daily. This has enabled customers to keep an eye on their business during the transition to a remote workplace while our team works to contain costs, report anomalies and ensure that team members remain topped-up and connected at all times.
Our SmartView platform has also been enhanced to report on out of office hours data and voice usage. This feature provides an indication of the cost and volume of activity by users that occurs outside of office hours and identifies possible abuse of business infrastructure when working remotely. In a few analyses conducted of office hours usage, we found that as much as 35% of data consumed by employees occurs outside of working hours, which in turn adds a considerable avoidable cost onto employers. While people starting work early and working a little overtime is commonplace and isn’t a behaviour to discourage, excessive usage becomes incredibly expensive and can now be easily managed.
Many of our customers have equipped their teams with Prepaid SIM cards for use during lockdown as this provides for easier cost management, but it also presented some administrative challenges. Responding to these new challenges the SmartView Prepaid service was launched at the end of March. The SmartView Prepaid service is a “fire and forget” add-on that allows you to load Prepaid lines on the SmartView platform which are configured with recharge, alert and report parameters. Once configured a daily usage, balance and recharge report is generated and emailed out providing insights into Prepaid activities. Employee Prepaid lines are also automatically recharged in accordance with customer-defined rules, and recharges are paid from the customers’ Prepaid wallet account.
There is no doubt that the world has changed quickly and dramatically in many ways and will continue to redefine itself in the time ahead. As our customers adapt to the new environment, we will continue to ensure that our services and systems address the new challenges being faced and support your changing business needs. Please feel free to contact our team at any time should you wish to enquire about any of the new services and modules.