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Google’s Sundar Pichai: ‘The Future Of Work Will Be More Digital’

‘We are already seeing the long-term acceleration of businesses moving to digital services, including increased online work, education, medicine, shopping and entertainment,’ Pichai said during the keynote of Google Cloud Next ’20: OnAir. ‘These changes will be significant and lasting.’

Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai says the coronavirus pandemic has reaffirmed what the technology giant has believed since its early days: Employees don’t have to be at their desks to get work done, and work is not defined by a physical place.

“It can happen anywhere,” Pichai said, noting that, in a recent survey of U.S. chief financial officers, most said the coronavirus will have a lasting impact on improving their work flexibility.

“As we adapt to new models of working, it will be important to create moments for serendipitous encounters,” Pichai said during the keynote of Google Cloud Next ’20: OnAir, a nine-week digital event that started today in lieu of the cloud provider’s annual in-person Next conference that was cancelled due to the pandemic.

“Knowing that some of the best innovations start from a conversation over lunch or while making coffee in the break room, as work becomes more digital collaborative and flexible, customers will turn to the cloud to innovate for future growth and to navigate economic shifts,” he said. “They'll need a technology partner who can deliver security, flexibility and solutions. We are tried and tested for this moment.”

Google Cloud’s growth reflects that, according to Pichai. Its revenue increased more than 50 percent year-over-year to $2.77 billion in the first quarter that ended March 31, giving it an annual revenue run rate that exceeds $11 billion.

Additional work flexibility is one of three technology trends that Pichai sees emerging and having a lasting effect as economies start to reopen amid the coronavirus. The others are the long-term acceleration of businesses moving to digital services, and work of the future also becoming even more collaborative.

“As economies start to reopen, it's clear we are returning to a world much different than the one we left,” Pichai said.

The future of work will be more digital, and Google Cloud already is seeing the long-term acceleration of businesses moving to digital services, including increased online work, education, medicine, shopping and entertainment, Pichai said.

“These changes will be significant and lasting,” he said. “More than 75 percent of companies say they plan to accelerate their digital transformations. That means more investments in cloud. Recent estimates show public cloud penetration increasing to 20 percent by 2022.”

The future of work also will become more collaborative, and companies are now investing to keep their teams connected and create community virtually.

“As large teams and organizations know, collaboration is key to success,” Pichai said. “Using tools like cloud productivity suites and video conferencing, we've all been able to successfully transition to work from home. But we are still working from a foundation that was made around conference tables just a few months ago. The next phase will be more unstructured, requiring us all to invest in creative solutions and evolve our tools to facilitate collaboration.”

Like its partners and customers, Google has been trying to figure out how to be helpful amid these changing times, Pichai said.

“The pandemic, combined with the racial justice moment happening all around us, has made us look at the world with new eyes,” he said. “It's been an opportunity to challenge our established ways of working and chart new paths. This is something we've experienced over the last few months at Google.”

While building products across distributed teams wasn’t new for Google, doing it during a pandemic, with teams working from home, brought additional challenges, allowing Google to put its own tools to the test and make good use of its infrastructure investment, according to Pichai.

“In the process, we gain deeper insights into what tools will be helpful to others -- from building exposure notification technology and helping public health authorities monitor and allocate critical resources, to deploying Chromebooks to underserved populations to help bridge the digital divide, to making our Meet video conferencing available to everyone,” he said. “I'm proud of how Google and Google Cloud have stepped up in these moments. I'm equally proud of how our customers have met the moment, and I'm honored that he could assist.”

Google Cloud helped customers including Colgate, Twitter and Netflix make the work-from-home transition easier for their thousands of employees; retailers such as Lowe's and Target scale to meet increased demand; and hospital systems such as HCL Healthcare take better care of patients, according to Pichai. It also helped millions of children -- from Italy to Indonesia to Indiana -- learn online, and assisted governments delivering a range of social services, from processing millions of unemployment inquiries in Illinois and New York, to keeping the judicial system running in Peru, he said.

“The world may be changing, but our commitment to helping you innovate for the future is stronger than ever,” Pichai said.

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