Optimism in the Face of Disruption

Everything is different now. In just a matter of weeks our world of work, interaction, and collaboration has transformed.  And for most Canadian organizations, technology is at the heart of your ability to respond effectively.  Welcome to the new normal of widespread remote work.  Unfortunately, many organizations are in survival mode. They are on their heels, trying to adjust temporarily until they can get “back to normal”.  But what does “normal” look like on the other side of this pandemic crisis?

Going through a difficult time often forces us to prioritize differently; to identify the elements of process or work that are truly essential to our business, to our customers, and to our teams internally. And despite the negativity surrounding the crisis and disruption, this can also precipitate positive change and innovation.

If your operating model never prompted you to adopt remote work and remote collaboration solutions across the company before now, it makes sense that you’re having a difficult time adjusting under pressure. But adjust you must … And once you do stabilize in the coming days and weeks, the question becomes, how permanent will these changes be for your organization?

Many of the more dramatic social changes we have seen are going to be temporary; the mandatory social distancing, the prohibitions on travel and events, etc… Eventually, things will calm down and we can get back together in person.  But some of the changes we are making in response to this new normal won’t be temporary. They are going to be permanent transformations … And maybe that’s a good thing.

There are many organizations that are adopting a rethinking and reinvention mindset toward what is happening. They are looking at their organization through a new lens; taking this radical and sudden disruption as an opportunity to re-examine the role that technology plays in their essential operations and the way we engage with customers and clients in every industry across Canada.

In some places, they are rethinking their operations out of necessity, but that is still giving rise to new opportunities.  For instance, think about the fine dining restaurant that just pivoted to be a leading, local, gourmet delivery service.  Or consider the primary care physicians and mental health professionals that are finding ways to connect with patients and deliver care using video-conferencing tools.

Think also about common business processes that are impacted by the mandatory social distancing; what do we do about signatures and approval workflows work when everyone is remote and we can’t simply “print, sign, and scan”.  Of course, there are digital tools for that!  Every business is finding new ways to be digital-first. And despite the terrible situation we find ourselves in right now, that kind of innovation can be exciting.

Microsoft has reported a spike of over 775% in usage of its cloud platform and tools in recent weeks (for Power BI, Xbox, Infrastructure services etc…). There are also over 44 million people using Microsoft Teams to collaborate every day now.  Cisco WebEx has a comparable surge in usage in the previous weeks. Things are changing fast.

And as we adjust to this new normal, new habits are forming every day.  As your team finds ways to collaborate internally and engage with your customers without being face-to-face, patterns of behavior are emerging.  How many of these new ways of engaging are going to persist when we are allowed back to the office? That’s up to us.

Some of the changes you make now won’t merely help you survive this current episode of widespread disruption; there is an opportunity to thrive when we get to the other side.

To be sure, the short (and long) term social and economic impact of this pandemic cannot be overstated.  This is a tough time for everyone and a horrible time for some. That’s why governments at all levels (all over the world) are mobilizing assistance and aid packages and emergency spending.  It’s important to remember that they are also optimistic that if we work together and play it smart, if we all lend a hand where it’s needed, we can come out of this a little stronger and a whole lot wiser.  Together.  And that can be inspiring.

Maybe being forced to operate in a video-first, virtual way with our teams, with our partners and with customers will actually help us to create more a human-centric approach in the future.  But for right now, let’s all make sure we have the tools we need to keep business moving and stay connected while staying at a distance.

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