In 2010 there was a volcanic eruption in Iceland. It was majorly disruptive, but for only part of society and business. This disruption was bad, but it was a trial run, for the times we now find ourselves in.
International business travel, the transport of goods and hospitality were affected for some months. Airlines and hospitality took a big hit but frankly the rest of us were not impacted significantly. International business travellers took to the internet to work around their inability to travel. It worked to a degree. However, it was a struggle. Today, the internet and the tools to carry out video conferencing are far more advanced, far more stable, and deliver far higher quality.
Can you imagine today’s event with the internet at the level of development it was 10 years ago? A lot has changed in 10 years!
Since then, as Emma del Torto says, many businesses have not moved to embrace the new possibilities. Why is this? The barriers are many fold and here are some of my thoughts on this.
Do you agree?
- Fear of any change. Change is hard at the best of times, let alone when the environment is tough (financial crisis) – If it isn’t broke, why fix it? Travel works, in-person meetings work, so why invest in something that may not be as effective?
- Poor management. Managers fearing they’ll lose control of their staff. How can we trust people to work from home? How can we ensure that all of the data we own is secure, and that we know people are actually working on what we need them to?
- Fear of technology. Many business leaders are 50+ and while the fear is not restricted to this age group, it is prevalent. If we don’t understand the technology, how can we adopt it? Why would we invest in something new, that may not work or last?
- Union objections. We need to protect the workforce and jobs, and this new technology could threaten job security? If we invest in new technology we may not also be able to invest in the staff?
All of the ‘excuses’ above have been blown away during this Coronavirus outbreak and lock-down. Businesses had to act fast, to move staff out of their comfortable (I mean controlled) and structured environments. Three weeks in, and in typical fashion, human beings have been uncovering and solving the problems they have encountered. Humans can be great at solving problems given the need or a big enough motivation.
Some businesses have been much better prepared on the technology front than others. This means that when unexpected, and unprecedented events like this happen, the businesses that embrace new technologies will be in a much better position to ‘weather the storm’.
The difference between the Icelandic volcano eruption and Corona Virus, is duration
The Icelandic volcano eruption had significant impacts, for a few months to a small section of our society. The Coronavirus event is having significant impact across all parts of our society, and we don’t know when restrictions will be eased or ceased.
It is now highly llikely that we have enough time to adjust to our new environments and ways of working, possibly even to the point that going back to the old ‘norm’ will just be unthinkable.
Behaviour change is difficult, we all know this – whether the change is to lose weight, reduce drinking and smoking, do more reading or perhaps see our families more. Time to embed our new habits that replace our old habits is a big reason our desire to do something better or new, fails. After 3 months or more of Coronavirus, going back to our old ways will need serious and considered change again. I don’t think we’ll go back to our old ways. It’s a brave new world that awaits us!
Change is now possible, needed and can happen
Today, in reaction to the virus, many companies have rushed to get an online presence and are delivering it free of cost to their clients, so that they retain a relationship with their clients.
This is good, for the immediate period. What these organisations must do now, is to plan how to monetise this new capability. If they don’t, their competitors will. The goal, right now, should be to develop digital services that can run in parallel to their traditional services. With both in place the business has the ability to service their market, irrespective of the mix of face-to-face and online demand.
At the same time these businesses, need to scrutinise the way they are now operating and identify ways to use the available digital technology to automate to improve efficiency and accuracy of operations. As with the Broadband/Internet, CRM, HR, Finance and Marketing tools are in general terms, ready for mass market adoption.
On the morning of April 3rd, Sir Edmund King, talked on the BBC about this very topic. He challenged the planned investments in our road and rail infrastructure and suggests that significantly more investment in planned digital broadband infrastructure, is vital to future prosperity.
- Technology does work. The possibilities need to be understood.
- It is possible to work from home.
- It is possible for businesses to become agile in the way they work.
- Digital delivery of services is set to grow.
- Embracing digital tools is not just for large businesses
- Some will exploit these new digital possibilities, others will not.
Are you ready for the change?
I have worked in leading edge technology areas all my working career, the gray hairs attain to the fact I have seen a great deal of change since the introduction of digital technology into our telecommunications networks in the 1980’s. My personal network includes experts in Digital Transformation for SME and larger organisations. Please get in touch if you’d like a conversation.