Business Leaders Seek High-Impact IT Value and Features Post-COVID
Business Leaders Seek High-Impact IT Value and Features Post-COVID
Across the world, the business landscape has changed dramatically. For companies getting back on their feet, high-impact value and practical features in the products and services they purchase are essential considerations for leaders over the usual strategic approach that vendors, service providers and buyers have taken for granted.
From the trillions of dollars of business property plans currently on hold to the billions in planned purchases and acquisition of services, every company is having to rethink its future. Gone are the 10-year sales forecasts, the three-year tech migration plans and even those already-written 2022 strategy documents.
Here’s one example from Aaron Levie CEO of Box who tweeted recently, 'Spoke with multiple Fortune 500 CEOs who have been implementing a fundamentally different IT strategy than they would have had a year ago. More cloud. More digital. More automation. Years of IT acceleration being compressed into months.'
As companies seek to get their workers back on-site, factories or services operating, their sales teams back into first gear for the much-reduced opportunity and realigning their plans to what is generally being termed a “new market reality.”
On the positive side, the reset does provide many of the surviving businesses with the chance for a fresh start and to focus on addressing their immediate needs, with most of their grander, longer-term plans on hold.
And at a personal level, it has helped leaders see how their workers cope or need help in their lives, as well as providing useful insights. Like how games or game platforms enable youngsters to socialise, compete and seek rewards, something that may change collaboration, gamification and communication tools for business in future.
From the Large Scale to the Individual, Everything Changes
The unpleasant truth behind the Coronavirus is that our world is becoming more uncertain and unpredictable. Asian weather or geologic shifts can cripple supply chains, one volcano can ground the airline or tourist industry, and a political spat can throw global business plans into chaos.
For major enterprises with factories, supply chains and tens of thousands of staff in limbo, emerging from the coronavirus gives them pause for thought. Why build another factory in China, when Mexico or Romania are increasingly competitive to broaden their footprint?
Why build a traditional factory when a robotic production plant is more efficient? The arrival of 5G and IoT sees solution services provide a complete package including software, sensors and for advanced automation and decision-making, with huge productivity and revenue savers. And all the vendors from telcos down to robot builders are all offering bargain terms and packages to get their own markets back on track.
From AI factory robots to quality-control inspectors and automated transports to forklifts, to whole factories that can reconfigure themselves to meet new production needs,
Beyond manufacturing, new offices can be built to a smaller scale to cope with remote workers and reduced the need for buzzing server farms as companies switch from on-premises to cloud solutions. As evidence, Microsoft’s recent earnings saw its commercial cloud revenue hit $13.3 billion, up 39% from a year ago, with CEO Satya Nadella noting “As COVID-19 impacts every aspect of our work and life, we have seen 2 years' worth of digital transformation in 2 months."
And, at the individual level, as rehiring starts, why should a company limit itself to local talent when the global market is so clearly available from technical support to design and creative services, global is just as good, if not better, than those limited to your commuter belt.
Flexibility will be the keyword as businesses rebuild and from the large to the small, every company can make substantial savings and long-term benefits by doing things differently, however long their rebuild takes.
Artificial Intelligence and Bots Stake Their Claim
During the crisis, chatbots and AI garnered huge numbers of headlines as they were adopted to help get the key messages out and to help hunt for virus cures, fake news or COVID hotspots among the big-data-pools.
The crisis saw large numbers of CEOs talking directly to customers via Twitter, email, video and other methods, an effort many will want to keep up now they are the more public face of their business, addressing customers and clients about how they are getting back to regular service.
Many business leaders are looking to see what chatbots can do to help boost their messaging. Bot have long been helping businesses communicate, but now they can take a fresh step into the limelight helping business leaders provide updates on their new direction and progress. That’s especially as the usual events that act as meeting places for CEOs, their peers and clients remain canceled for the foreseeable future.
Bots can provide a new platform that won’t overwhelm business leaders inboxes with messages but provide a direct link in the minds of customers and partners who are now used to these types of engagement, without a trail of publicly visible negativity, which is often a risk on social media. And their use in ecommerce, customer services and other areas is well-proven but still growing fast.
Perhaps not during this crisis, but certainly for the next one, AI is also taking a big step forward in helping decision making during time-critical moments. Decisions that have taken vital hours or days during this crisis can be made by AI working on live analytics data to help secure stock or supplies, provide supply chain routes and smartly deploy services or align factories to meet spikes in demand.
Business leaders need to look to AI as another tool in their arsenal and not a threat to their power in future, and humans will always have an override or be able to choose from a range of options that the AI provides. Looking back on the lessons of COVID, many will see where AI could have helped or wasn’t listened to and be more receptive to digital advisory services next time.
Welcome to the Remote Work Era
The sudden rush to remote working may have come as a shock to many businesses, but there were plenty of firms already in on the secret. It is perfectly possible for key business teams and departments to function from home, as every business leader now knows. And it is not just the happy few selling this dream, the likes of Ernst Young are also guiding business leaders in this direction.
Workers can process documents, craft plans, create orders and negotiate just as well from a home office, even with the occasional child yelling or dog barking in the background. Some manufacturing can also be done from home with flexible tooling, and in many cases, automated tools and services can be monitored from anywhere.
As our CEO, Henri Ben Ezra, puts it: 'Beyond COVID, more firms will accept the inevitable and allow workers to avoid the commute, to provide a better work/life balance and encourage digital working with cloud office suites, collaboration tools and task/market-specific tools to get jobs done. Many tools are available for free or low-cost per-user subscriptions, deploy instantly and only a few users may require additional hardware to get going. Instead of cities with polluted skies, we can sustain the beautiful fresh air we've been enjoying by cutting down on the car culture. Not only can people work from home, but they can work more creatively. During this crisis, businesses have discovered that chatbots can handle much of the routine activity that had commuters heading in to their offices in the mornings. And there is a lot more can be done by chatbots to break the traditional patterns of work.'
What companies must avoid is the rush to surveillance-state keyboard loggers, always-on webcams and other traps that will breakdown the required level of trust between the business and workers. If the CEO, CIO or MD doesn’t want to be watched at home, they shouldn’t expect any other workers to be surveilled. Instead, building milestones and objective deliverables achievements into all tasks and roles to encourage success and to help avoid the inertia that many home-workers feel at first. A steady stream of goals will keep most on targets and highlight those who need further training or encouragement, or the removal of what can remain a perk.
As remote working becomes normalised, the business midset, led by CIOs, will need address and ramp up security through VPNs, security-inspection tools and other methods to secure data, encrypt communications and limit access to unsafe or frivolous websites on company hardware.
New Rules for Business in Post-COVID19 times
One of the overlooked successes from the lockdown is how well much of the technologies businesses had to rely on performed. Most of the cloud service meeting and collaboration tools work as advertised, there was no sudden downtime for the likes of Google, AWS or Microsoft services, and while a few local or national broadband issues arose, people took to their 5G or 4G connections to pick up the slack.
Business leaders challenged to find solutions to pressing problems could find a service or solution online that they could launch within a day, not weeks or months. From virtual reality for training in healthcare to instant ecommerce tools, leaders can find what they need and launch them instantly.
There will be losers, notably those selling high-ticket monolithic services or complex tools that require many moving parts. But those selling and buying quick-to-deploy flexible tools with proven business success that fit into existing business practices will find a receptive audience.
Sure, 2020 and beyond will be strange times for business with many casualties, but the way forward will lead to more flexible businesses that can adopt and deploy tools faster to address whatever crisis comes next.