The world’s response to COVID-19 is fundamentally and irrevocably changing the nature of business operations. This is not some temporary disruption but a sea change.
Whatever your business sector, meeting this ‘new normality’ will involve organizational and financial challenges – and opportunities you have never encountered before. Over the last months, organizations have already been forced to reinvent their working practices, often by implementing quick fixes and using technology not always developed for the task in question. These short-term measures are often sub-optimal and can’t be left in place for too long.
So, as social distancing measures are eased, if organizations are to move forward, they need to accelerate their digital transformation by moving to business models that include, among other things, enabling a significant element of dispersed working.
The sudden and enforced movement towards wholesale home-working has reassured many
business leaders and managers that their fears about reduced productivity and loss of
oversight were unfounded. Not only that but by allowing those who would relish the
opportunity to forgo their daily commute permanently, they can create a more engaged and loyal workforce.
While some organizations will reject physical office space completely and become virtual
entities, most will look to develop a blend of remote and office-based working. However,
that is only possible if all employees have access to accurate and up-to-date information
they need, wherever they are and whenever they need it. As long as people can do their job effectively, it should no longer matter where they are.
The same thinking applies to your customers, who also increasingly expect to be able to
access the information they want when they want it easily. But ensuring the location is
irrelevant to performance necessitates having in place the right technology solutions, at the
center of your IT infrastructure, and accessible to all, wherever they are.
For example, a content services hub removes and prevents the creation of information silos, where data can get stuck or lead to the inevitable creation of multiple versions of the same document. This strategy also helps eliminate the paper-based systems that have made life so difficult and problematic for many organizations. Those who have relied upon on-site departmental culture to locate files and folders have found their systems wanting when no one’s in the office.
Intelligent automation can help accelerate the whole process of bringing document storage
and workflows together in a single location. But of course, before implementing any major
technological changes, it’s important to review existing systems and procedures. If these
prove unfit for purpose, perhaps because they don’t allow for remote working, then they should then be replaced by something that is. Holding back because you’ve ‘not done it like
that before’ is a potential recipe for disaster. So, if this requires you to think creatively, then so be it.
The streamlining of applications is a case in point. If staff is having to navigate their way
through multiple different apps to do their job, they become frustrated and make the wrong decisions, which leads to delays and poorer customer service. So, this is the perfect time to re-examine what apps you actually need and strip out all those that you don’t
Can you put off doing any of this? No. Because who knows when, or even if, social
distancing measures will become a thing of the past. Of course, some may decide to tread
water until they do. But that hardly seems like a long-term survival strategy, and it’s just an opportunity for those of your competitors who do adopt new ways of working to put even more blue water between you and them.
Will this take time? Undoubtedly, but the most important thing is to get started. To make
changes now rather than waiting to see what will happen.
Will this cause disruption? Certainly, but disruption often brings with it innovation. Since we
are already disrupted, and if you accept that the world has shifted significantly, then I can
see no choice but to look at your information ecosystem with fresh eyes and to re-prioritize
Fortunately, technology gives us both the opportunity and the mechanisms to move on. By
harnessing the business lessons learned from the last few months, we will be able to create
the all-embracing digital workspace that is precisely what’s needed in our post-COVID world.