For years technology companies have been promising a revolution in how we do business. Fully paperless office spaces, seamless collaborative tools, and the ability to effortlessly transition from one work task to another.
Unfortunately, as the number of tools in a business’s arsenal has grown, so too has the complexity of human interaction with those tools. The holy trifecta of business automation, cloud accessibility, and an endless ecosystem of digital devices have only led to a sea of fragmented business experiences.
While the slow march of technology continues to shift how we do business, there’s an unexpected catalyst that may push things forward at a more rapid pace. That catalyst, which has to date brought the worldwide economic system to a halt, may actually bear new fruit in regards to digital businesses. Like a forest fire giving way to new growth, the worldwide pandemic that is the coronavirus may, in its wake, leave an oxygen-rich environment for digital businesses to thrive. Innovation is born from the constraints imposed on society, and right now society has a new set of constraints that has seismically shifted the entire world into the digital realm.
As a result, here are a few predictions for how the spread of the coronavirus may actually accelerate the speed at which we do business…
Push to Paperless
The promise of a paperless workplace has existed since the first computer hit an office desk. Years later, copy machines and paper shredders are still an integral part of nearly every office environment. With most of the workforce now working from home; however, the need to print reports or pass out proposals has evaporated. We’re now faced with the reality that a paperless future may be closer than we ever thought.
For example, DocuSign and its competitors don’t see the Coronavirus as a threat to the paperless movement. In fact, it should catalyze the moment as companies are required to accelerate their digital transformations and streamline manual processes. The natural result is organizations will displace many of their paper-based needs.
Evolution of the Work From Home Infrastructure
Many corporations embraced the work from home mindset years ago, but few expected their entire workforce to be out-of-office for an extended period of time. While many tools already exist to support the needs of a remote workforce, the mass exodus of the world’s population stressed the underlying infrastructure used to support those tools. The global pandemic has forced remote collaboration providers to quickly scale their infrastructures, ensuring a seamless (and hopefully secure) experience for any situations that arise in the future.
In addition to scaling infrastructure to support the growing work from home trends, internal IT departments have found the need to streamline their support practices and bulk up staff to enable the shift in their workforce from office to home for an extended period of time.
Prevalence of Digital-Native Small Business
Despite the onward march of technology and the prevalence of social media, many small businesses still lack the digital presence needed to survive a physical shutdown. Not surprisingly, the coronavirus has impacted the small business sector nearly as hard as it has the travel business.
Thankfully, the entrepreneurial spirit of many small business owners has given them a fighting chance. Those owners have gotten creative by offering curbside service, drumming up support on social media, and finding ways to deliver to customers’ homes. Undoubtedly, the increased adoption of digital tools and delivery services has softened some of the blow, but those businesses that lacked any digital presence have been forced to close their doors, indefinitely if not permanently.
To be successful in the future, small businesses will need to not only shift online, but become digital-native small businesses that have strong social media presences, integration into delivery platforms, and ordering services that make access to their offerings as easy as clicking a button.
Catalyst for Re-Onshoring
With India going into complete shut down, and lacking a robust nation-wide IT infrastructure to support work from home operations, many large companies will be left with a gap in their immediate technology needs. This will force large organizations with extensive offshore staffing agreements to find temporary respite in onshore help. While we hope the long term implications of the pandemic are minor, organizations may stick to their onshore models to avoid disruption in service or find the convenience of onshore support more enticing.
Acceleration of Digital Business & Streamlined Customer Experience
CIOs and Chief Digital Officers have been stressing the importance of automation, digital customer experience, and business agility for years, but the coronavirus has served as a wakeup call for leadership throughout every organization. It’s why Forbes claimed after Q1 2020, digital transformation was no longer an option, but a necessary reality.
As the effects of the coronavirus wear off, the lasting implications in the digital space hopefully won’t. Organizations will be left with both a strong digital infrastructure and a desire to leverage technology to drive further business efficiencies. In addition, a customer base that has become accustomed to digital interactions will have increased expectations of efficiency and usability as they transact business via every digital channel.
As the impact of the coronavirus pandemic wears off, businesses will look fundamentally different. The biggest difference will be in the way they engage their customers in the digital space, forcing businesses, both big and small, to adopt and embrace technology in ways they may have previously been hesitant. It’s unfortunate the world is left to deal with such a menacing presence as the coronavirus threat, but in its wake will be a battle-hardened economy with a digital heart.