People around the world know what the traditional terms B.C. and A.D. are. A.D. comes from the Latin phrase “anno domini,” meaning, “in the year of our Lord.” B.C. stands for “Before Christ.”
However, B.C. and A.D. can now take on different meanings for corporations: “before the coronavirus” (the virus that causes COVID-19) and “after drug discovery.”
What a change just a few weeks can make. Before the crisis, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was trading at an all-time high, and the global population was on the move. Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, things are being disrupted in ways no one could have imagined.
As with all previous crises of the last 50 years, this will also pass. At some point, scientists will find a vaccine that will cure or slow down the spread of the virus. What I can do is to take a look at the crystal ball and predict some elements that I believe will come into force in corporate life.
1. Video communication software tools will become de facto tools of communication mechanisms.
In the span of one week, Microsoft Teams usage jumped by 12 million to 44 million users a day. Meanwhile, Slack added more paid customers in six weeks than it did in both Q3 and Q4. KeyBanc analyst Alex Kurtz told The Street that Zoom had a “35% y/y increase in the first two weeks of March vs. the first two weeks of March 2019 with outsized growth in the second week of March vs. the first (when WFH became more standardized).”
I believe companies will need to change their organizational culture and prepare themselves for Generation Z, which will use these new technologies seamlessly. They will need to upgrade their current technology infrastructure as well as policies such as “bring your own device” (BYOD).
They will also face a new wave of cybersecurity challenges as well as privacy issues. Robust cybersecurity systems will need to be put in place. Also, employees will need to be trained diligently to handle any challenges. Particularly with a video conference call, any disgruntled employee can leak a video and create major chaos.
2. New startups will change the way management of remote workers will be engaged.
A video-based time-tracking system by either an existing company or a new startup may emerge. There are a number of remote time-tracking systems. Tools like Time Doctor allow employers to see screenshots of employees working from home. As working from home becomes more pervasive, more tools will start capturing different aspects of time-tracking remote workers, including tracking video calls, email time, keystroke mapping, document writing time and so on.
Many of these companies have started seeing a significant uptick in usage. As the pandemic shifts the working patterns of companies around the world, they will respond by introducing new means to track the effectiveness of remote working.
Many larger corporations will have to set up processes and guidelines to encourage people to set up proper work-from-home locations. This will be in alignment with the BYOD movement of cellphone adoption that swept through corporate America over the last decade. Initially, almost every large corporation was stuck to just BlackBerry. Today, any employee can pretty much choose any type of phone; the company can deploy mobile data management tools such as AirWatch, and the employee is in the corporate network seamlessly.
3. The retail industry will go through a dramatic change.
Everything from shopping carts to checkouts will be changed courtesy of social distancing. Even though e-commerce will continue to eat into traditional retail, many big-box stores such as Walmart, Target and Costco will continue to thrive as they adapt to new market conditions.
I believe most bigger retailers will switch to automated checkouts. Amazon went a step ahead and announced it will start selling its checkout technology to third-party retailers. In early 2020, Walmart announced a new cashier-less store. Like this, almost every major retailer that survives following the pandemic will be left with no choice but to adapt their business model.
Other corporations can adapt to these pioneering attempts and fix their platforms by changing their customer-facing activities as well as their supply chain-related activities and introducing new technologies such as computer vision developed by startups like Robotic VISION Technologies, Saara Inc. and Inspekto. These technologies could save billions of dollars in the supply chain wastages of large enterprises.
Corporations will likely face union pressures as unemployment mounts following the crisis. Many workers will resist the adoption of new technologies for the fear of losing their jobs. It will be imperative for management to handle the change-management issues and nudge the organizations to use these newer technologies in a smooth way. With these new technologies, companies will eventually thrive in the new markets.
While I believe there will be multiple changes that will come from this pandemic, just remember that this crisis will pass.