The use of technology to sustain economic activity during the Pandemic, as well as a related lexicon including but not limited to the infamous “Zoom-casual”, arguably has gone as viral as COVID-19 itself. But as businesses are increasingly looking to return to business as usual, will the new COVID-19 technologies survive the commute back to the office? Read more to find out…
Mustansar Iqbal of Autocoincars, an online cryptocurrency car sales platform, commented in a recent interview:
“Like most companies during the pandemic, AutoCoinCars has seen an increased use of video conferencing applications like Zoom and Skype. It has been important to make sure all of our employees have both phones and laptops or pcs with in-built cameras and microphones.
We have continued to use this tech coming out of the pandemic for a number of reasons such as interviews, business to business meetings, and staying in touch with internal staff if they have to work from home.
Having various group chats for different areas of the business has increased our productivity with our international team. We have found that since implementing more communication technology our productivity and the rapport of the staff has greatly improved.”
Is this the universal experience? Not obviously so, says Dr Jonathan Haskel, Policymaker at the Bank of England. In a report for The Times, he states despite popular opinion long-term home working does not guarantee improved productivity, supporting CEOs’ drive to get the workforce back in the office. However, Forbes Top Ten Larry Ellison, of Oracle, takes a more balanced approach stating that
“It’s not like we’ll never go back to the office, but we’ll never go back to the office 9 to 5.”
He went on to state that technological integration would be critical to maximise the gains, particularly in sales:
“Integration is not simply a set of integrations around different front-office products like sales and services,” but “between service and the back office and sales and the back-office.”
Whilst the technology has been in place for some time, the Pandemic appears to have acted as a catalyst in the service sector. Pete Everett, Director of GrowBe an out-sourced back-office function solution provider, observes:
“At GrowBe, we’ve always seen our use of technology as a competitive advantage, and the pandemic has accelerated this even further.
About 80% of our written communications, both internally and with clients, occurs over the instant messaging platform Slack, rather than email.
We run Google Workplace to manage our user accounts, calendars and document storage, and so Google Meet has been a natural choice for our video conferencing.
We’ve added in tools such as Hubspot, Airtable, ClickUp and Notion to allow us to build bespoke applications for marketing, sales and operations – both for ourselves and our clients. Importantly, we’re able to integrate these applications together using the automation platform Zapier.
We’re building a technology stack for GrowBe and our clients that will provide a long-term competitive advantage, and, allow us to operate a truly modern organisation with a distributed and flexible workforce.”
In one of Bill Gate’s most famous quotes, he said:
“If your business is not on the internet, then your business will be out of business.”
Whereas once upon a time this statement may not have been orthodox belief, COVID-19 has made it a tautology. Office for National Statistics (‘ONS’) statistics indicate that the % of total retail sales that were transacted online has risen to between 25 and 35%.
Jasmine Montgomery of Seven Brands, specialists in developing international brands for multicultural audiences, stated:
“Seven is entirely focused on high growth emerging markets and we have a unique business model in which our London office acts almost exclusively as an ‘Intel inside’ for our local offices across the Middle East and Africa. So, Seven has been using video conferencing in a broader and deeper way than most of our competitors for years.
Our favourite is Zoom both for its superior handling of visual presentations as well as its ‘touch up my appearance’ button which boosts morale. We have pitched on it, presented on it, brainstormed on it and even left it on in the background so we could spit-ball and co-create with other offices throughout the day.
I am indebted to Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams. If the pandemic had happened before their creation, I would not have a business today. And for that, I am truly grateful.”
Elon Musk has long been interested in making science fiction reality. It appears to be the driving intellectual and creative force behind SpaceX, which is supporting NASA’s manned mission to the moon in the Artemis programme, slated for 2024.
One of his most controversial thoughts is in the area of Artificial Intelligence and robotic automation, and the creation of real cyborgs through this technology.
“To some degree, we are already a cyborg. You think of all the digital tools you have – your phone, and your computer” he is reported as saying.
Shweta Raina of bOnline, a full-service online/ VoIP phone system provider for small businesses, perhaps doesn’t propose anything quite that radical, but no less remarkable.
“As a leading phone system provider, we continue to help thousands of businesses each month shift from legacy 19th-century analogue phone lines to digital set-ups which enable remote working, money savings and ways to scale their operations.
Digital transformations for micro-businesses were vital in the uncertain times of the pandemic. Now digital VoIP phone systems are essential for any business to remain competitive and agile as we return to business as usual.
High-speed fibre-optic broadband connection and digital phone systems are recommended for a digital-first approach. Benefits include features like mobile and desktop calling, voicemail to email, and customised greetings all of which enable small businesses to level up with big businesses.”
It seems that with hybrid-working patterns here for good it will remain necessary to make use of the arsenal of technological resources available to business enterprises of all sizes and sectors.