In the first quarter of 2020, the world changed in a way that no one had ever seen before. The situation that all of us have to face now is often referred to as “Black Swan” or less frequently “Grey Rhino”. The first term describes an event that can’t be predicted and has a major impact. The second defines probable, high impact yet neglected thread. That might make “Grey Rhino” more accurate in some countries, but in the end whatever definition we choose, one goes without saying – the impact reached everyone. Covid-19 pandemic forced us to change our habits, lifestyle, and the ways we do business.
If we were to find a silver lining in this crisis that would be the growth in technology use among companies of all types and sizes. Whether it’s in order to provide their employees with safe conditions or to virtually reach their customers to stay afloat, the vast majority had, or still has to, expedite their use of technology. It will also boost the companies’ competitive advantages once the crisis will end, making your employees and customers’ lives easier and better. Keep reading to find out how to embrace the world of digital operations and keep your business secure in these uncertain times
Around 4 months have passed between the discovery of the first Coronavirus cases in China in December 2019 and the global lockdown. During this time, almost everyone, who was able to work remotely, left the office and started, the still ongoing, remote work in order to flatten the curve of infections. In the United States alone, it is estimated that at least 16 million people are currently working in this manner. Even for the IT sector, which for the most part had some experience with remote work, it was a challenging process, not to mention those who never before managed distributed teams. Illustrating this on our own example, many of us have been working partially remotely for years and our cooperation with clients was always run over long distances. However, most of us used to come to the office nearly every day and thus use the infrastructure prepared for onsite work. The decision to move the whole company to a completely remote environment was made soon after the first confirmed cases in Poland and even before the toughest restrictions were imposed by the government.
All of the company’s employees, more than 700 people, moved from the office to their homes in a single day, and still operate in a remote manner. Since the ways of working, allowing to operate from anywhere in the world, were already established, the main focus was to provide the necessary infrastructure and most importantly – maintain the safety standards. Moving all the processes outside of the office increases the need for effective security policies and data protection. Password policies, antivirus software, access control and vulnerabilities management are all designed to eliminate network threats, but each one of us and our awareness in this area has always been, and still is, the foundation of security. After all, it is up to us to decide which networks we can use, what software we should install, whether we choose to open a suspicious attachment or click an unknown link. Remember to get your employees thinking even about the basics like blocking their devices every time they leave them out of sight.
Back to the main topic though – COVID-19 has shown that many companies can operate this way. Even though these processes now had to often be introduced in a hurry, once the world comes back on track, remote working will be something completely normal. This will broaden the hiring possibilities for the employers and became an important factor for the candidates. Therefore, companies for which remote work is a novelty should not approach it on a wait-and-see basis, but rather prepare themselves for including it in their long–term strategies.
The social distancing and remote work recommendations limited the possibilities of reaching the customers for all organizations that relied on face to face meetings. Further restrictions resulting in closing many stores, restaurants, and service points forced complete change in the ways these organizations provide their products and services. COVID-19 accelerated the digital transformation and showed that in 2020 it’s no longer possible to operate solely offline. Starting with the biggest like healthcare providers, financial and insurance institutions, government entities, through all of the non-essential goods stores and service points ending up with the small, family run shops with handcrafted products – everything that could have been done remotely had to be moved online. Those who haven’t worked out the possibility of providing their services remotely yet will have to do it in the following months.
Let’s illustrate that with a few examples, starting with a sector that performed really well before COVID and had to radically pivot their business model. Event industry in less than a week had to stop all their operations and change their plans. In order to stay afloat many event agencies have rapidly started to transfer their events to the digital world. The opportunity to participate in various lectures and meetings from the safe space of our homes allows us to keep a resemblance of normality, and for the organizers, it’s the only thing they can do right now. However, in many areas, the changes that are taking place in response to the lockdown not only make it possible for companies to operate during quarantine but also to do so more conveniently for the end-user. It doesn’t matter if we focus on restaurants that have started to deliver the meals, shops that either focused on their already existing e-commerce platforms or create the possibility to buy their products online or fitness clubs that introduced online training programs adapted to be run inside the apartments. Even the largest like financial or healthcare institutions have not proved to be immune to the situation, and despite the high share of digital services in their portfolio, especially in the case of banks, greater digitization is observed.
Apparently, not everything can be done in a 100% remote manner but it’s best to prepare various potential points of contact for the customers. Let’s consider healthcare services. Since it’s impossible to run the test and medical examination without physical contact the only way to uphold social distancing now was to broaden the service portfolio and offer primary consultations with a specialist online. That could resolve simple doubts and provide the basic recommendations for the customers. And obviously, if needed, the patient could be directed to further face to face examination.
Diversifying the service portfolio and potential points of contact for the client made it not only safer but also more convenient, which would attract new customers during the pandemic as well as once it is over. Those who can get through the current situation with only minor problems are those who were prepared to operate in the digital world or were able to adapt quickly. Staying within the above-mentioned areas only – current statistics clearly show that sales via online store doubled or even tripled when compared to the same period from last year and that the importance of telemedicine and health-related apps is only going to grow. The crisis will end but the convenience of being able to deal with various issues from the comfort of your living room will continue to be crucial for the customers. Summing up – if the digitalization had been on your road map before, now it’s time to get around it. If it wasn’t – you shouldn’t wait any longer and work it out.
As the example of the last months shows for the rapid kick–off of digitalization you need to work with people capable to run the process. Such projects require specific skills, depending on the particular needs, and experience. What’s more, even if you’re already employing people qualified to manage digitalization it might not be enough. If your internal teams are busy with ongoing work and systems maintenance, it’s clearly not possible for them to manage additional tasks at the same time. Given the unexpected COVID hit the first question you should be asking is not “should we digitalize our product/service portfolio or some of its parts” but rather “how fast can we start”. However, before you open new recruitment processes, you should also consider how to rapidly ramp up but at the same time remain secure, maintaining the necessary flexibility in case things go south.
Just as it was impossible to foresee the world-wide lockdown a few months ago, now we can’t predict what the future holds. Although the pandemic seems to be weakening, we can’t be sure when it would be completely gone or if we won’t have to deal with a second wave. While hoping for the best we need to prepare for the worst. That makes the flexibility of ramping up/down according to the particular situation an essential element of the risk mitigation strategy.
Whether you need to fill some gaps in your internal teams or get guidance and rely completely on external teams – launching cooperation with a software company that already possesses the domain knowledge due to previous projects/cooperation they had run is probably the fastest and safest choice. Clearly, there are no two identical companies nor tasks to be done but our experience from the former project shows that having worked within a certain business domain makes it much easier to find yourself in other projects from the same industry. That makes the onboarding faster and more effective when compared to recruiting and introducing people not familiar with your business environment. After the kick-off, you can benefit from the flexibility of such cooperation, and since we can’t predict how will the situation develop its much safer choice than recruiting internal employees. Cooperation with outsourced developers allows fine-tuning the teams to circumstantial needs so whatever happens when it comes to developing software your business will be secured. Furthermore, such a partnership is followed by many additional benefits that help your company grow – both during stable as well as difficult times. Nevertheless, remember to pay attention to your potential partner country of origin and response to lockdown as recent crisis have shown that not all countries are equally safe from the business continuity perspective. But this is another story that we will address soon…
Although we’ve been operating in the new reality for a few months now, outsourcing software development is still at your disposal and if you manage to find a suitable partner they will help you with all the software development related challenges that the “Black Swan” has pressed upon you.
2020 showed us that it doesn’t matter how powerful we feel we are. There always might be a “Black Swan” hiding around the corner. Once the world deals with the COVID, and we strongly believe that it’s only a matter of time, we will rebuild what we lost but there’s no point in losing time now. Rather than laying low and hoping to ride out the storm somehow, you should look for new opportunities and ways of reaching your customers like the companies we mentioned. There’s no silver bullet but if you want to dive deeper into the matter and consider how can you digitalize your actions – we’re at your service. Even if what you’re looking for is simply getting pieces of advice rather than launching a new partnership, we will do our best to help. That’s the best we can do for each other now.