The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted virtually every area of our personal and professional lives. The virus has changed everything from the way we shop for groceries to the methods used to perform our jobs. In some sectors like the restaurant and retail industries, the immediate effects on businesses and the workforce have been devastating. If these establishments can continue to operate, many new restrictions and practices need to be adopted to keep both employees and customers safe.
Many businesses that do not rely on face-to-face contact with their customers were able to rapidly shift and continue operations by instituting remote work. These companies have not been negatively impacted to the same degree. This is not to say that there haven’t been substantial challenges to implementing and supporting a remote workforce. In many cases, flourishing corporate cultures were upended overnight by travel restrictions and social distancing guidelines put in place by local governments.
As the initial panic over COVID-19 settles down, businesses are faced with navigating a new normal if they hope to survive. From the look of the current global landscape, it appears like this new normal is here to stay and that we are not likely ever fully return to a pre-pandemic mindset. There is a strong possibility that the new normal will just morph into the regular normal leap-frogging the way things were in the past into a future full of virtual collaboration, global cloud platform enabling business processes and expecting the unexpected.
Winning Technology Enablement Strategies for the New Normal Virtual Organization
We were well on our way to virtual organizations before the pandemic; however, COVID-19 certainly accelerated us further down this path. There are tremendous technology options available to assist companies that have transitioned to a nearly 100% virtual organization. Major business application cloud platforms such as MS Dynamics, Salesforce and ServiceNow enable global collaboration and business process enablement.
Analytics platforms such as Azure and AWS provide robust solutions that enable improved visibility and better decision-making. Collaboration suites like MS O365 and Google’s G-suite allow global teams to operate effectively. However, these platforms all have very different capabilities and require a robust implementation and support plan. Selecting the right platform that is the best fit for your needs and proceeding with a robust implementation and support plan can make a huge difference in the business outcomes. At the very least, using the wrong solution will require retooling at some point to address a lack of features or provide enhanced functionality. This type of change can adversely affect productivity, as everyone needs to become familiar with new tools and processes.
Three characteristics are critically important when implementing technology solutions in the business world. Ensuring that these criteria are met will go a long way toward allowing a business to compete during a pandemic or economic downturn and handle the uncertain times that lie ahead. These characteristics are essential in providing the tools for a remote workforce and will continue to demonstrate their value as the future unfolds.
1. Flexibility and Scalability
Solutions that are adopted to meet the challenges brought about by the pandemic should be flexible enough to handle the current circumstances, as well as any permanent changes in the way business will be conducted. They also need to be highly scalable, in order to scale up and down efficiently to handle the possibility that offices may reopen and then be forced to close again in favor of remote work. Employees should be able to use the same set of tools to get their jobs done whether working from their cubicle or a home office. As business needs evolve, so too should the toolset used to meet new requirements.
Technology solutions are always important. This importance is heightened by the difficulties of supporting a remote workforce. Unreliable tools will hinder productivity and hurt morale as businesses and employees struggle with negotiating the challenges of the new normal. The beleaguered IT departments of small businesses will be hard-pressed to address the problems of applications that fail to provide the promised functionality to a workforce spread out over multiple locations.
Security needs to be the top priority in any technology solutions that are introduced to enable a remote workforce. There are the normal concerns associated with having data resources available remotely. These include the increased potential for misuse of sensitive data and providing new and possibly unsecured access to enterprise IT systems.
An additional security risk is that hackers are actively using COVID-19 as a lure for phishing campaigns designed to gain entry into corporate systems by preying on the reduced defenses of remote workers. A breached network can lead to ransomware or other forms of malware that can cripple a business.
Evaluating Technological Solutions and Choosing the Right IT Partner for Your Business
While some companies were well-prepared for the shift to the new virtual organization, many had to scramble and implement ad-hoc solutions to keep their businesses running. In many cases, this resulted in less than optimal security and choosing software tools that may be inadequate for long-term enterprise usage. Stop-gap measures and decisions that needed to be made quickly may now need to be reevaluated and modified. Since it seems as if COVID-19 and its impact on society will be with us for the foreseeable future, now is the time to conduct this evaluation.
Public cloud providers offer numerous solutions that furnish the security, flexibility, and reliability needed to successfully negotiate the challenges of operating a business in these challenging times. Their expertise can help augment a company’s IT resources or provide them to organizations that lack technical skills. Making wise use of cloud computing services enables an enterprise to be ready for whatever the future holds. As the corporate world attempts to cope with COVID-19, taking advantage of cloud computing offers a promising strategy.
While these enabling are robust solutions, it’s not just about the product you select, but also the implementation methodology you follow. For example, Salesforce and MS CRM are both great CRMs, one which may be a better fit for certain types of businesses than the other. However, the most important key to success is choosing an implementation partner that has a robust methodology that will enable the changes you seek. Most failure happens due to a poor implementation process, not because an organization chose the wrong product.
Tim Britt is the CEO and co-founder of Synoptek, a global consulting and IT services firm focused on delivering results for its customers. Britt has served as a strategic executive in the capacity of CEO and CIO for the past 25 years. He has provided strategic consulting both in his current role at Synoptek and with dozens of prior strategy and operational consulting firms serving Disney, Levi Strauss, Home Depot, Jusco, and others.
Britt holds an industrial engineering degree from Georgia Institute of Technology and an MBA from J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University. He lives in Irvine, California with his wife and four children, and enjoys skiing, hiking, biking, running, fishing, and other outdoor activities as well as dedicating himself to philanthropic interests in the areas of conservation and education.