Keeping the lights on during a pandemic
Yesterday was just another day in the office for me. My home office. And, of course, I’m not alone in this.
Like billions of people, my working patterns have changed and become completely home-based in the last 4 months. As a technology solutions business, HighPoint has always provided this capability to its employees, but like most companies, we had never instigated a 100% WFH policy until now.
When the time came to quickly adapt to the new reality, we relied on our technology readiness and our HighPoint fundamentals to find a way to continue to deliver ‘legendary’ levels of service. This meant our energy could focus on helping customers deal with urgent responses to navigate their new normal. Early into the lockdown, we started fielding calls from clients trying to prepare for the inevitable: thousands of staff members needing to work from home, often for the first time and millions of customers having to adapt to new ways of consuming services.
The hard truth is that some customers struggled to ‘keep the lights on’ during the pandemic. I don’t believe anyone expected an uninterrupted service in this time of crisis, but companies did their best to keep delivering by refocusing and prioritising business-critical aspects of their operations whilst ensuring the wellbeing and work capacity of their staff. And that wasn’t a simple task because the scale and breadth of the transformation required was staggering. Even companies who prided themselves on their agilty were far from ready for this cataclysmic shift.
At HighPoint we’ve been helping customers adopt an agile, software-defined infrastructure approach to underpin their business needs for some time. It’s clear that those who’d already transitioned to a new operating model were able to adapt faster than customers taking a ‘wait and see’ attitude or choosing to retain network standards built on legacy investments. Unfortunately technology debt and legacy process act as inhibitors; lockdown showed that ‘standard’ operating approaches couldn’t support business continuity and required creative work-arounds.
If COVID-19 has exposed anything it’s that technology is a lynchpin for business success and continuity, supporting almost every business task or transaction, and almost every customer interaction. At HighPoint we believe the pandemic will be a lightning rod for Digital Transformation because businesses have finally felt the stressful consequences of being unable to move quickly enough when suddenly everything changed. Although the virus hasn’t gone away, the immediate urgency and panic has abated, allowing clients to look to the future and consider essential reparations. These are required now because I don’t believe that work will go back to how it was before. Why?
- Companies were forced to abandon old practices and adapt, and it worked. Even though some jobs may be easier done in a fit-for-purpose office, employers have witnessed that business outcomes can be achieved in new and creative ways. They needed to trust and enable their people to work more flexibly and this has resulted in a happier, more productive workforce. Does this mean the end to the 5-day week in a 7000-seat ‘super campus’ ? I think so. Companies won’t need that capacity because remote working won’t be limited to just a few roles any more. Of course, there’s always some collaboration that’s best done together in person but that’s the exception not the norm. Work is what you do, not where you do it.
- Customers and Employees have been forced into new habits. Change is hard, especially when you didn’t ask for it. We’ve all been forced to trial this new normal and many don’t want things to return to the old ways. Psychologists say it takes 21 days to make a new habit stick. Many of us are at least 100 days into our new reality and now that (for the moment), we’re allowed to socialise again, how many employees and consumers want to rush back to commuting or busy weekend shopping trips? Customers and employees have begun to demand the freedom to choose to have things ‘their way’, with many prioritising seamless, digital-first, omnichannel experiences. Lockdown has proved that almost everything can be done or consumed digitally or remotely, with some of our retail customers reporting 3 years’ worth of online growth in the past 3 months. Customers are right there waiting on digital channels. But are you ready to serve them that way?
How to thrive in the next normal
To respond to these factors, I’d offer two critical imperatives to help you plan for the next normal:
We need a productivity step-change to deliver future revenue growth:
We’re now in a global recession and it’s biting hard – everywhere. In the UK alone the economy has shrunk by 20% in just 3 months. The post-COVID economy will impact every business and their previously-agreed budgets. Companies must now focus on initiatives that increase employee productivity, increase revenues and reduce costs. So where could this budget come from?
Lockdown has delivered some unintended consequences with T&E massively reduced, saving companies millions of pounds. Similarly, there are office-based savings to be made – lower running costs and the potential to offload under-utilised space. So whilst investment budgets will be tight, there may be budget redistribution for productivity, well-being and growth initiatives.
Maintaining a healthy work/life balance with the use of home-working is not new. At HighPoint this has been one of our fundamentals from the beginning. Rather than ‘shirking from home’ our clients are telling us that their home-based people are more productive without the commute and office distractions. And they’re happier – appreciating the flexibility to focus on getting the job done their way. This creates an urgency to go ‘virtual first’ with conscious moves to give all employees the tools they need.
Enabling rich, human experiences is critical to success:
With employees and customers interacting virtually, we must acknowledge that their experiences are impacted by more than just the user interface of an app or whether the website is ‘up’. For too long technology silos within organisations have focused on metrics like uptime and availability in isolation. Human experience depends on numerous distributed components, many of which are outside of a company’s direct control. No customer cares whether ‘it was the network’ at fault, so now is the time to focus on the delivering and measuring the end-to-end customer experience. This is the most critical metric.
In HighPoint’s view, the winners of the next normal will embrace an agile, tech-enabled operating model designed around a modern, software-defined infrastructure with security innate and pervasive. Future growth, customer success and happy and productive staff depend upon this. But making the right moves now requires IT leaders to be honest about where they’re at today. To support you in that thinking, we’ve created a simple Enterprise Agility Assessment tool. It takes about 5 minutes to complete and we’ll respond with a full report – no hard sell, no catch. Just an honest assessment to help you plan.