Abstract

As the humanitarian coronavirus crisis continues, many organizations have voluntarily or forcibly adopted new-age technology and tools.

They do this to survive or help their customers survive or to simply operate in the absence of “boots in the office”. We take a look at upheavals now and in the future in predominantly white-collar industries.

Introduction

With lockdowns implemented or being considered in most countries, remote working (work from home aka WFH) is becoming the norm. This change in operational dynamics has forced most organizations to invest in tools that were the mainstay of predominantly remote-first companies.

The tools in play

Many organizations have rediscovered existing tools that were already paid for. These were available in the enterprise but were being used by specialized groups.

As an example, Table 1 shows a mapping of common office interactions with the corresponding equivalent tools.

Table1

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It is interesting to note that the tools and methods in the virtual equivalents are not new. They have around in one format or the other for a decade or more. In many organizations they have co-existed with their physical equivalents although in a limited way.

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The interactions at play

The adoption of a virtual model of operations has been the domain of start-ups predominantly. Some such as GitLab have grown in size and stature to acquire bonafide enterprise status. Thousands of organizations rely on them for their needs.

This means that many traditional organizations find themselves adapting their processes, procedures to the technology and tools that are in play. In addition a Mindshift is also being forced upon them owing to the exclusive use of virtual tools for operations.

Table 2 looks the shift in dynamic that these tools impose, though not necessarily true for every organization.

Table2

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Changes effected permanently

The present crisis will leave its mark on certain industries indelibly. For the purpose of illustration, let us look at two of them.

In-Person events: Almost all events - be it conferences or product launches have been shelved. These have been replaced with Virtual events and Webinars. It is expected that most organizations shall reduce their planned events.

This seems to be validated by an O'Reilly statement made recently: "Today, we're sharing the news that we've made the very difficult decision to cancel all future O'Reilly in-person conferences and close down this portion of our business. Without understanding when this global health emergency may come to an end, we can't plan for or execute on a business that will be forever changed as a result of this crisis. With large technology vendors moving their events completely on-line, we believe the stage is set for a new normal moving forward when it comes to in-person events."

Increase in on-demand and workforce upskilling opportunities: The success of organizations and programs from Coursera, MIT open courseware is projected to increase as it gains adoption in the current remote workforce. This should carry over to the in-office workforce when the crisis ends.

Conclusion: Predicting the future

The current disruption is bringing about a change in the way organizations, teams and personnel are working and transacting. Some teams can adapt and thrive. Others are learning painfully. Every black swan event leaves its mark and it is reasonable to assume that some work habits and organizational procedures will change. For many a cultural shift may indeed have been initiated just by the usage of humble virtual interaction tools.

At the very least, one may forecast that

  • Mobile participation in operational flows will increase. For many organizations, mobile app equivalents for all existing front ends will appear.
  • Automation with AI adoption leading to reduction of manual touchpoints in a typical process chain will happen.
  • Standardization of workflows and clarity in ownership will increase, as the current simplified workflows get adopted after the passing of the crisis.

The current disruption will inevitably alter the DNA of many surviving organizations. Many of these organizations who have not had sizable moats, would have found ways to increase efficiencies in remote-work adaptions. These could very well be the next generation of winners forged by a humanitarian crisis such as the coronavirus.