As I write this article, we are in the middle of a serious impact on our economic health and vitality, specifically the COVID-19 worldwide outbreak. Whether you are reading this article as we go through this challenging time or are reading it at a later date, I am sure you can identify significant challenges, uncertainty, and pain associated with the event. The impact has been astounding across the board. Small business is the heartbeat of our great country, so it is my hope and prayer that you and your business are staying healthy, productive, and secure.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken us all by surprise, and the reality is this will not be the last time we must endure something of this magnitude. Are you prepared?
By reading this article, you will:
- Gain an understanding of WHY we were all taken by surprise in this situation.
- Learn HOW we can respond quickly and save some money in this (hopefully) short term economic downturn.
- Learn HOW technology can help us maintain our competitive edge now, and through future similar incidents.
Reality: We Were Not Ready
I have spoken to so many business leaders as of late, and if there is a common theme I have heard, it is that American small business is a resilient bunch – We will emerge stronger as a result of this event. I am hopeful that this article will contribute to that result.
We all need to understand that this will not be the last time we will encounter similar situations, requiring stay-at-home orders and subsequent business and economic shutdowns. For this reason, we must not forget the serious impact, nor lose focus on the actions we should take to prepare our businesses, our employees, and our community for similar circumstances. From our perspective, during this time, there are two prevailing points we take away:
- Remote work capability (secure mobility) is no longer a "nice to have", it is a requirement.
- A balanced technology strategy that allows for business enablement, yet flexible cost control, is critical.
Let’s start with our first point – Remote work capabilities
Our amazing Team managed our clients, and many in our community at large, through enabling remote work on an extremely tight timeline. Whether it was offering laptop hardware at cost, providing free remote work tools and advice, training, or another remote working enablement; we saw it all. Amazingly, over just a few weeks, most of our clients were able to adopt and leverage great tools such as Office 365, Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, and OneDrive in new ways that not only enabled remote work but also helped them get more organized. The effort was incredible, and the results have been transformative. I think it is safe to say that we have all found a new appreciation for how today's technology enables us to do things we could never have dreamed of, even just 10 years ago.
Thankfully, the technology available to us enabled a quick response, but we could have responded more quickly. Our business community could have been more prepared. We were not. The good news is that the next time we are faced with such a situation, we should be prepared to work remotely again. Count on it happening. We work extensively in the Manufacturing market, and clearly, some businesses cannot do everything remotely. However, they can still do a lot, and the ability to do so was impactful. Congratulations to our great Team on quite an accomplishment!
That said, there is more to do. There are a couple of key questions you must ask:
- Is your data secure while your employees work from home?
- Is your video conferencing solution secure?
- How big will the mess be when we begin working from the office again?
- Thinking about files strewn about various cloud sharing services. Who is going to consolidate those back into your on-premises file system? Should you even do that?
- What role should these newfound services play in your business going forward?
The answers to these questions depend on many factors that are specific to your business. More than ever, you need your technology staff (or your outsourced tech company) to have a plan, a strategy. Technology is not going away, rather it will play an ever-increasing role in your business going forward. We simply cannot leave things this way.
Start sorting it out today, while the crisis is fresh in mind.
Necessity Is The Mother Of Invention?
The above statement holds true in so many cases, but does it have to be that way? Consider this: If we had already deployed flexible technology solutions, and if we had already prepared our businesses for secure remote work, how much pain could we have avoided? How much money would we have saved? How many more customers could we have served during "the transition"? How much more opportunity could we have seized from our struggling competitors? Unfortunately, we don't know, nor can we accurately estimate the losses, but I would argue the negative impact was significant across all fronts.
So, what are we to do with these questions?
This brings me to the second of two needs mentioned above: Balanced technology strategy. We are now in phase two of the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. You now need to consider how you are going to pay your bills when your business has come to a screeching halt. Where can you find savings? What is necessary, what can you do without? A few things are sure – A lack of technology strategy, poorly optimized and inflexible technologies, and technology services are costing you. Cloud services are in large part what enable your remote working, but they also cost money. What can you do with that? You likely have the best possible service contract with your current technology service provider, and you are in a contract, now what? The list goes on and on, where do you even start? You need a plan, a strategy.
We have all dealt with and have considered our strategies for challenges in our businesses; Challenges that are tangible on a daily basis. Supply Chain vulnerabilities – Ensure we have alternative supply sources and keep extra stock on hand of critical components. Key employees exiting - We ensure cross-training is happening… etc.
Where's Your Technology Strategy?
Most people (if they are being honest with themselves) will say they have not invested such strategic thought with their technology.
Case in point – You were scrambling to enable remote work during the coronavirus outbreak, along with so many others. Am I right? But remote working technology has been available for many years, why hadn't you enabled it within your business yet?
The point is, whether we like it or not – whether we want to admit it or not - the right technology is critical to business success, but we tend to lag behind. Why? It has been proven over and over that "the right technology" is often the difference in customer satisfaction, employee retention, increased cash flow (think payment portals, etc.), the safety of our data, and the ability to work from anywhere, anytime. There are so many more examples.
We must embrace an approach that supports identifying and deploying the right technology to ensure we remain competitive and are able to conduct business even under the most challenging situations. Not convinced? Ask the taxi industry if technology mattered just a few years ago. There seemed to be no fear nor interest in technology in the industry. And in 2015, Uber literally "wrecked" the industry – They turned it upside down. Who would have thought? I don't know about you, but as a consumer of shared rides from time to time, I love it! So why didn't the taxi companies do that? Looking back, I'm sure they wish they had.
So, what does this tell us? When the consumer wins, significant changes are pulled forward, it is an unstoppable force, impacting deeply into the supply chain. Think electric vehicles, Ford and GM.
Forethought and effective strategy are key, whether you are a 3 employee company or a 30,000 employee company. The effort to build a strategy is relative to company size, but the payoff will always be worth it. How are you preparing for your future success, and how does technology play a part?
At InsITe, we exist "to guide today's industry leaders in solving unique technology challenges today and prepare them for future success through innovation." The good news is that we are built to respond to situations such as this (remote work enablement), but also to help prepare YOU for future successes (optimized investment), even in a downturn. In fact, the services we provide are even more critical in a downturn, given that is when businesses must invest more wisely than ever.
Interested in more information?
Below we’ve included a few resources to help you on your way:
- Learn why technology strategy is key.
- Reach out to one of our Advisors to discuss your initial strategy approach.
- Watch this on-demand webinar focused on cutting your expenses and optimizing your technology spending.
- Download this Spreadsheet to help you track and reduce IT Spend.
- Watch this on-demand webinar on the 5 Awesome Office 365 Technology Tools that Enable Work-from-Home.
With this information, you’ll be armed with the tools needed to help combat an unexpected downturn such as this one and hopefully it will help you with the current situation as well.
What about you? What have you been struggling with during this COVID-19 situation? Let us know in the comments below. Remember we’re all in this together!
Thanks for reading!