Covid-19 shutdown tests readiness to work from home in Malaysia

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 24 — Malaysian businesses are struggling to enable their staff to work from home during the Covid-19 movement control order, discovering that remote working goes beyond having a laptop and a broadband connection.

 

One of the most common issues? “Windows updates,” said senior consultant Vincent Choy.

 

To install Microsoft’s suite of Office365 tools, for example, Windows systems on laptops and PCs must be up to date, and many are not.

 

There are other issues, but this is perhaps one of the most frustrating, slowing down the ability of Choy and other consultants to help businesses keep going while the two-week movement control order (MCO) is in place.

 

“Very often, it’s the first thing we have to help them with,” he said. “It’s a simple thing but many don’t get it done.”

 

Cloud services providers like Choy are struggling to meet a flood of interest and demand. Referrals have jumped as software providers such as Microsoft and Google are inundated by inquiries, said Choy and other consultants.

 

One Petaling Jaya-based consultant said she has seen a jump in interest from private schools, in particular.

 

“In some ways, they are more advanced and have already got systems for homework to be submitted online for example.” Now, they are looking to expand the system to include teaching or delivering virtual classes.

 

Choy said he saw referrals and direct inquiries rise from late February as some companies started to prepare themselves for staff to work remotely.

 

“People are beginning to accept that this is the new normal,” he said.

 

His firm Fedelis Sdn Bhd helps businesses migrate to Microsoft’s cloud services, such as OneDrive for cloud storage, Yammer for enterprise social networking and Skype for Business, a voice and video tool to drive team communications.

 

Meanwhile, Choy is trying to work around the same constraints imposed by the MCO. Shifting to running workshops and meetings online for customers, he has discovered there is a learning curve.

 

“We thought it would be easy to replicate an in-person meeting, just stand there with a microphone and a camera. But the sound was echo-ey and boom-y and a single camera wasn’t enough. We’ve had to invest in a mixer and we’re looking like a semi-professional studio outfit now.

 

“It’s a different set of requirements, and different skills. We have to experiment and learn quickly, because this is the future, this is the new normal.”

 

Choy’s advice for small and medium sized businesses is to take advantage of free offers and trials from software providers and vendors. Microsoft, for example, is offering some Office365 and Teams software for free for six months.

 

“Use these to ensure business continuity for now. When the all clear is given, do a proper implementation and adoption exercise to ensure that you are not caught the next time around,” said Choy.

 

“The next time around is probably not an ‘if’ but a ‘when’. Be ready.”

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