The stark realities that we’re all facing from the COVID-19 pandemic unfortunately won’t be going away any time soon. The simple truth is that life is just going to be different for a while. Let’s hope that the extraordinary efforts that companies and people are taking to minimize the spread of the virus prove to be effective sooner rather than later.
In the meantime, however, it’s clearly time to settle into new modes of working, with technology obviously playing a key role. Work at home numbers are going to shoot up tremendously, for example, and many people are about to get a crash course in things that work well—and things that don’t—in that environment. (By the way, if you’re looking for some advice and pointers on the subject based on years of experience, check out the latest Techpinions podcast: https://techpinions.com/podcast-working-from-home/59461)
In addition, many companies are going to have to start up whatever contingency and emergency plans they have in place. The speed at which events are occurring and situations are shifting is undoubtedly catching even the most well-prepared organizations off-guard to some degree. Once things start to settle down, however, the critical importance and value of technology-enabled contingency plans should start to become very obvious.
Unfortunately, there are likely several companies that didn’t have those types of plans in place. In addition, there may be an even larger number that had a basic plan in place but didn’t take it to the level that our current situation has created. (To be fair, it would have been hard for anybody to really predict the speed and depth of impact that COVID-19 has created.) The challenge for these organizations will be to quickly put together plans that can help them adapt in the best way possible to the new environment. I have no doubt that, in fact, that’s exactly what a lot of IT professionals are in the process of doing as we speak.
The good news is that we now have access to an amazing array of different technology-based options to help address at least some of the challenges organizations are going to be facing. Additionally, thanks to a series of encouraging announcements, a wide range of tech companies, carriers and others are pitching in to make their services free or to reduce data caps in order to ease the potential limitations of network bandwidth.
From high-quality videoconferencing solutions, to fast, reliable broadband networks, to mature cloud-based collaboration software tools, the tech industry has never had a wider range of tools to help ease the process of working at home (or remotely). In fact, once we get past all this, there’s little doubt that we’ll look back at these next few months as being a defining moment for remote collaboration. The extensive use of these tools is also going to be an incredibly valuable real-time experiment that will clearly expose the real advantages (and challenges) of existing tools. Hopefully, these next few weeks will also quickly lead to tweaks and adjustments that make them easier and more reliable. If these tools do perform well, they could end up becoming significantly more important in the average worker’s arsenal even beyond this crisis. Of course, if they don’t work well for many, expect to see some serious pushback against them.
In addition to these basic remote work enablement capabilities, there are a number of more nuanced factors that are going to come into play, particularly as time goes on. Even if companies have the basic tools they need to enable collaboration, for example, what level of control or management do they have over the devices or the networks being used to do that work? Those are details that can get overlooked in basic contingency plans but need to be a factor for longer-term emergency plans that, hopefully, every company is now creating, if they haven’t already.
If we learn nothing else from this crisis, it should be abundantly clear to all that the need for creating plans that allow business continuity in even the most challenging of situations is absolutely essential. There should be little doubt that aggressively leveraging the new types of remote connectivity and collaboration tools now available needs to be a critical part of those plans.