The pandemic turned "normal" on its ear virtually overnight, sending businesses and other organizations scrambling to find ways to keep operating. The ones that could pivot quickly to remote work and other solutions suffered the least disruption while others struggled.
The situation showed the value of being nimble and adaptable, but pandemics don't come along every day, so what's the long-term lesson for the future of work? While we've not seen anything as universal as the effects of COVID-19 before, more limited disruption in business is nothing new. The last few decades have seen plenty. Some of the most commonly used examples are Kodak falling to the popularity of digital cameras, ride-sharing companies grabbing market share from traditional taxis, and the impact of on-demand video on traditional TV and movie theaters.
Being nimble and adaptable is consistently useful in business. It helps insulate you from disruption and often leads to innovation and new business opportunities. That's why companies planning their post-COVID strategies are putting a heavy emphasis on digital transformation.
In a recent insights piece around the return to the office, McKinsey suggests companies rethink their entire business models, saying "the moment is not to be lost: those who step up their game will be better off and far more ready to confront the challenges—and opportunities—of the next normal than those who do not."
What Does Nimble Look Like Going Forward?
A big challenge is that in a time of uncertainty and economic downturn, businesses don't exactly have a lot of cash laying around for new strategic investments. IDC predicts worldwide IT spending to decline by 2.7 percent as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. So, which digital transformation initiatives are most likely to get you the most bang for your buck? I believe efforts that focus on user experiences (UX) have some of the highest values.
1) Even More Reliance on Data to Drive Business Decisions
Making business decisions based on data is nothing new, but COVID-19 has put new emphasis on it for many reasons. Some of the pivot to remote work is expected to be permanent. The pandemic has also influenced consumers' attitudes, behaviors, and purchasing habits. That, too, is expected to be long-lasting. It means that collecting data at edge locations and quickly processing it to gain insights into business processes and UX becomes all the more important. The faster you can see what's going on, the faster you can solve problems and find new opportunities. Solutions like artificial intelligence will help speed and automate insights into business-critical systems and processes.
2) More Automation
A recent Forrester report shows that the pandemic has forced companies to speed up their plans to replace jobs with automation. But automation isn't only a chance to lessen dependence on human resources. It can also improve UX. Some of the best use cases for automation are repetitive tasks. Introducing automation creates opportunities for so-called hybrid employees who are freed to focus on more strategic work. IBM says bot helpers alongside humans increase efficiency and deliver better experiences to both workers and customers. "The hybrid workforce of the future will allow human employees to focus on inherent human strengths (for example, strategy, judgment, creativity, and empathy)," writes IBM's Kramer Reeves.
3) More Cloud
Part of being able to successfully pivot to remote work for organizations was the ability of employees to connect with the data and applications needed to do their jobs. Many companies quickly found they didn't have the necessary VPN capacity and had to upgrade or move promptly to cloud solutions.
But the push to the cloud goes beyond improving the remote work experience. It also enables nimbleness with more ability to quickly scale up or down based on demand. Increasing customer UX expectations can be met with best-in-class cloud solutions for smoother experiences, more features, and higher service availability.
4) More Security and Monitoring
While a silver lining of the pandemic is potentially new business opportunities, unfortunately, it's meant fertile new ground for hackers too. Criminals have exploited work-from-home strategies to target corporate networks with sophisticated malware.
The race to stay ahead of bad actors now and post-pandemic will mean increasingly sophisticated defenses. For example, CompuCom's strategic partner Cisco has developed Advanced Malware Detection featuring real-time threat intelligence, advanced sandboxing, and real-time malware blocking to help prevent breaches. It continuously analyzes file activity across extended networks, to quickly detect, contain, and remove advanced malware. Once a file enters the network, AMP watches, analyzes, and records its activity. If malicious behavior is spotted later, AMP sends an alert explaining where the malware came from, where it's been, and what it's doing.
Remote Lite to Remote Right Drives Nimbleness
There's a reason large tech companies are making some remote work permanent, and it's not just because employees like the improved work-life balance. The business advantages include finding the talent needed to solve specific challenges more easily and lower traditional office space overhead costs.
When the pandemic forced offices to close, businesses focused on "remote lite," where they got the minimum equipment and support to employees to keep them productive. But because a distributed workforce gives organizations new nimbleness, it's time to figure out "remote right."
Some considerations for remote right include:
- How best to provide IT support for your distributed workforce
- Seamless connectivity to collaboration tools, other apps, and data
- Defending against the increased security risks associated with remote work
- Providing user choice for mobile equipment and peripherals, including allowing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
The Speed of Change is Here to Stay
Long before the pandemic, business leaders recognized the importance of digital transformation, but many organizations reported their initiatives weren't moving quickly. The pandemic changed that. IT leaders had to push through changes at a higher speed to keep critical business processes running. Now that CEOs know that such speed is possible, it will be the expectation going forward as they chart the future of work. The upside is that organizations that embrace digital transformation gain the nimbleness to succeed in the post-pandemic world.