South African Government's COVID-19 Information Page at sacoronavirus.co.za.

Being ahead of the curve prepared Sasria for the many COVID-19 lessons

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the business world like never before, forcing companies across all geographies and industries to swiftly adopt remote working practices. When the first case was reported in South Africa in the first week of March 2020, Sasria, like most companies had to be proactive in anticipating the announcement and impact, thereof, of the national lockdown as countries began to implement extraordinary restrictions on the movement of people in an attempt to curb the spread of the infection.

With over 40 years of special risk management experience, Sasria’s ethos and approach is about being proactive. Our ability to anticipate and plan for the unforeseen has placed us in an enviable position. Thanks to the buy-in from our Executive Management and Board in 2017, this much needed investment ensured that we are prepared for the disruption including equipping our workforce with appropriate technologies and the necessary support that enables us to deliver remotely. Our visionary long-term strategy to embrace digitalisation and to realise it through investment in digital technologies including cloud technology and replacing legacy systems long before the pandemic is one of our key successes.

The benefits of Sasria having the right digital tools in place mitigated the impact that suspended operations or working with skeletal staff would have had in business continuity and delivering to clients. Throughout all levels of lockdown, the organisation’s productivity was not affected, in fact, in some areas – it increased drastically. With no interruption to day-to-day operations, no one could tell that we were all working remotely, even service like switchboard were operating from homes of our proud staff members. We were able to deploy the ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) project and fulfilling business processes, including making payments to beneficiaries through the system on the first day of going live seamlessly, with everyone working remotely!

This came as no surprise as in 2019, as we vigorously progressed our digitalisation initiatives, striving to ensure that our operations became more intelligent and that as an organisation, we were well positioned to embrace the constant changes and opportunities that come with emerging technologies and fourth industrial revolution. At the beginning of 2020, our sights were already set on continuous innovation, simplicity, and seamless execution.

The “forced overnight” transition has not been hassle-free. The disruption to our normalcy by the pandemic has been enormous and we had to adapt to many new ways. In the past two years our employees were enabled to work anywhere, anytime through easy-to-use, cloud-enabled integrated solutions. Appreciating the increased risk this poses on cyber security, we invested considerable time, effort and resources in creating a security-conscious culture and tightened cyber security and strengthened our technological fences. A Security Artificial Intelligence Software that has the ability to stop an attack or any suspicious and malicious activity was deployed, however, a fundamental challenge we faced during lockdown transition as a result of the pandemic, was how secure will our networks be if they are accessed by numerous parties from several locations at the same time? This was addressed in the short term including amongst others the development of security control measures and identity access management (IAM).

Our focus on reinventing Sasria network and infrastructure has paid dividends. So far, Sasria has been successful in creating a digital workplace that has sought to address the skills shortage in the workplace – technologies that were not suitable for the desired digital workplace and not conducive for remote working are being redesigned. This will positively impact the future readiness of other digital platforms that we are busy with.

The support from all our business units within the organisation were instrumental in ensuring that we successfully migrate onto digital platforms speedily to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. The technological support teams included our Marketing, Change Management Office and the Project Office.

In the long term we intend to develop digital product extensions, expanding to new channels and enabling new business models to increase business resilience and prepare for growth. The future of business has been altered forever by this pandemic and ours is to adapt. This will require Sasria to adequately prepare for cyber-attacks by strengthening security measures whilst monitoring productivity of our employees who are working remotely.

We will achieve this through a collaborative approach from all our stakeholders as we seek to improve and adapt accordingly with the new normal. At the heart of any adaptive strategy should lie a dedicated workforce that will ensure that new methods are implemented accordingly, and in this regard – I’m pleased with our management team and employees for acclimatising to the new normal of working from home since March 27 when we began the lockdown.

Sasria is an authorised FSP registered under license number 39117