Posted on July 7th, 2020 by Ellen Wilkinson, Partner Communications Manager
When reports of the COVID-19 outbreak in China’s Wuhan province started emerging, you, like I, probably dismissed any immediate cause for concern. After all, it was “too far away” to encroach on our daily lives. We’d already lived through Swine Flu and Bird Flu, which although serious, turned out to have largely been fabricated by the media to create newsworthy content. Now, almost 6 months later, with what’s close to being 3 months of total lockdown under our belts, it’s time to re-examine our thought processes. Not only has our day to day existence drastically changed but it’s set to stay this way long into the future. The question that remains to be seen, is the impact of this impressively quick technological shift on our workplaces and the economy at large.
When the pandemic first took hold, it wasn’t just its scale and social impact that we underestimated. We also failed to recognize the implications it would have on our economy and the significant role tech would play in retaining some sense of normality throughout the crisis. In the workplace, the big question was how to successfully manage the transition to a remote workforce. Gartner reports that almost 88% of businesses were starting to work remotely by April 2020, a figure that increases to 91% when you look at Asia-Pacific. It’s no mean feat when you consider that remote working was the preserve of elite silicon valley tech firms previously! Now if you were one of the lucky ones, with a reliable remote working solution already in place, your organization may have found its remote rhythm instantly. Lucky you! For everyone else, setting up took time, money and several large headaches.
Lesson 1: You Are Only As Strong As Your Continuity Plan
It shouldn’t take a pandemic to highlight the importance of business continuity planning but sadly, when the unexpected happened, many organizations found themselves without a plan, without supplies and without proper guidance for employees. The result was 54% of HR leaders declaring that poor technology and/or infrastructure was the single biggest barrier to switching on remote working in their organizations. In some cases, businesses literally ground to a halt as such plans were made, leaving colleagues furloughed at home and the C-Suite in a frenzy trying to keep cogs turning.
All organizations, regardless of size, should have considered, achievable contingency plans in place to guard against any potential disruption, be it political, economic, environmental or yes- you got it- an international pandemic. Having robust plans in place will not only ensure that your business can continue operating in the face of unexpected challenges but will also serve as a navigating point for colleagues managing the stress of such an upheaval. After all, there was enough to get used to without confusing workplace practices adding to the list.
Following the crisis Gartner has reported that 81% of businesses in the US now have crisis management teams in place, to manage future upheavals. If you’re one of the 19% who hasn’t, prioritize contingency planning moving forward and re-visit yearly to ensure it remains implementable.
Lesson 2: Choose Your Tech Wisely
When the world first started going into lockdown, organizations without continuity plans had to make investment decisions that ordinarily require months of scoping, in a matter of days. The result? The technology used to lead the remote revolution was ill-considered and didn’t always meet organizational requirements. It’s understandable. If you had to get your entire team online tomorrow and had no prior budget allocation, you would reach for free public apps too! It’s only retrospectively that we’re uncovering the financial and security implications.
Let’s take video conferencing as an example. Video Conferencing usage skyrocketed during the pandemic. By February one conferencing provider was already reporting stock price increases of 15% and 3CX’s WebMeeting usage was up 400% from February to March 2020. Whilst this is great news for vendors and resellers, it’s important to take stock of the bigger picture. Usage was on the up, but so were security infringements, ‘zoom bombs’ and hack attempts. At the same time, the unprepared were hit hard financially. Whether it was forking out for an emergency UCaaS migration or the last-minute discovery of a hefty ‘activation fee,’ hidden costs were everywhere. Then there’s the cost of security breaches and downtime on company performance, given the known impact they can have on CX.
When we go through periods of rapid change, we tend to instinctively enter panic mode and we end up making quick, pressured decisions. If you’re in panic mode and are approached by a salesperson claiming to have the solution to the cause of your stress (aka. a quick to deploy remote working solution in this case), you’re more likely to agree to the sale and require fewer touchpoints to get there. It’s one of the oldest sales tactics in the book! That’s where your continuity plan comes in. Having a plan that specifies the Tech your organisation requires to remain agile will enable you to remain calm when the unexpected happens. It’s essentially a crisis roadmap that guides your decision making through unexpected situations so that you don’t have to make in rash decisions with your budgets or compromise security.
When writing your plan, consider any new platforms that would need to be purchased for your organisation to adapt. Then run a preliminary scoping exercise so that you have an awareness key market players and your preferred choice upfront. Also include any upgrades, updates and additional licenses that would be required so that you can budget accordingly.
Lesson 3: Don’t Be Afraid to Challenge the Status Quo
Continuity planning needs to become a central component of the conversations we, as SaaS developers and resellers, have with our customers. But that’s not to say there haven’t been major successes during the remote working experiment. The ability for organizations around the world to instantaneously transition to remote working is a testament to technological progress. By a large, cloud providers, SaaS vendors and MSP’s were able to support the increased demand on infrastructure at a global scale.
Under these circumstances, thousands of workers have had a unique opportunity to discover a new approach. The commutes have diminished. We’ve had more time to spend with family. We’ve become more productive. All due to a mindset change that took 3 months. Who says we need to go back to the old way when we can keep moving forwards?
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