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Leadership during a crisis: Amit Midha of Dell on responsibility and opportunity

The president of Asia Pacific & Japan and Global Digital Cities, Dell Technologies, shares his thoughts on steering a company during the Covid-19 pandemic.

No business has been left untouched by the effects of the global Covid-19 pandemic — although the extent of its effects vary from industry to industry. While those which depend on the physical presence of people like events and aviation have been devastated, others like the tech or video game industry, have managed to — if not thrive — stay healthy. One of these has been technology giant Dell, which isn’t just weathering the storm, but providing customers with the solutions to transform digitally. 

The Peak speaks to Amit Midha, President, Asia Pacific & Japan and Global Digital Cities, Dell Technologies on a leader’s responsibility — towards your own people and wider society — the opportunities of a crisis, and the nuances of remote working. 

Have the right infrastructure

Even before the pandemic, remote working was already common practice at Dell. “What we’ve learnt so far is that many team members consider being able to work anytime, anywhere a good thing. Before Covid-19, we had anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of team members doing this on a regular basis.” Shares Midha.

To do this effectively though, a company needs to ensure that the proper policies and infrastructure are in place. Team members need to be given the appropriate tools and training, and the infrastructure has to work. Explains Midha,”The notebooks have to work well, the bandwidth has to be there, the applications they use have to be fast enough.

 Companies also have to think about data security and compliance… If you’re a banking customer and you’re asking one of your customer support associates to work from home to support calls — now you run the risk of that data going out in an environment where it potentially could be misused. It might not be by the employee themself, but there could be a third party accessing that data. 

These are the new challenges people need to think about. For example, many of our customers are choosing to go with a VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) solution. This means the information doesn’t move to the device, a screen just moves to the device. So it can be visualised but the data never moves to the device.”

(Related: How to transform your business digitally)

 

 

Take care of your people

It still rings true no matter how many times this is said: a company’s most important resource is its people. For Dell, keeping its people healthy is its first priority when dealing with the pandemic. “Every crisis is different. For this, We have to ensure that we are keeping our people safe — that’s the first thing we did globally. Even with the lockdowns ending and we are returning to site, that remains our biggest concern.” Says Midha. Beyond distancing measures, this also means taking care of employee’s psychological well-being. As people begin to work from home, they’ll be presented with a new set of challenges — and regular engagement is important. Midha, who leads the Asia-Pacific and Japan team for crisis management — one of 11 spread globally — regularly assesses and discusses the situation, tracking the progress that’s been made in each country. “We make sure we are listening, we have done things like provide additional leave for employees to make sure they can be there for their families, and team members have to be asked to work from home until it’s considered safe.”

This also extends to customers. In Dell’s case, this is particularly important since many businesses have faced an urgent need to transform digitally during this difficult time. Midha continues, “We have to make sure we are of help to customers. We are providing flex payment options, extended payment terms, and other financial solutions for many customers that want to accelerate their digital transformation. Beyond that, we are asking ourselves: how do we support those who may not have been as fortunate as us in this industry? How can we be part of the solution and contribute to the recovery of society?”

(Related: This is Singapore’s first AI-enabled fish farm)

This is a chance to be better 

To this end, Midha brings up Dell’s moonshot goals for 2030. Announced at the end of 2019, the need, and ability to achieve some of these goals have, in a way, been accelerated by the pandemic. One noteworthy example is increasing diversity in the company — which, beyond being a moral decision, improves business outcomes (with the World Economic Forum citing evidence as “overwhelming”). Dell’s goal is to have 50 per cent of its global workforce, and 40 per cent of its leaders be women; and have a quarter of its U.S. workforce leaders African American and Hispanic — an objective that has been hastened with the adoption of widespread remote working, which has given groups like stay-at-home mothers the flexibility to work. “[Remote working] has improved our ability to attract new types of talent — segments of society who may not be able to contribute in a 9 to 5 environment,” shares Midha.

“I think we have an opportunity as a global society to be more human. To make our economic model more sustainable. This current pandemic has led to faster digital transformations. It leads to more technology acceptance in everything we do and has been an acceleration for the path that many of our customers were on.”

(Related: Artificial intelligence: are machines capable of creativity?)

 

More from The Peak’s Leadership During a Crisis series:

The Great Room CEO Jaelle Ang

The Lo & Behold Group founder Wee Teng Wen

Hexogon Solution group MD Adrian Goh

Safe Space CEO Antoinette Renee Patterson

Ninja Van CEO Lai Chang Wen