As I write this and reflect on the recent changes in our ways of working, it is not certain when lockdown will end and when the threat of COVID-19 will become a distant memory, but I know we will need to plan for the transition. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every industry, damaged the economy, created huge government debt and resulted in the loss of jobs and financial hardship for many, and of course many thousands of lives lost due to the rapid rate of spread.
In difficult times such as these, we all pull together as a society and with scientists providing vaccines to protect everyone, business leaders implement changes to fight for the survival of their business. We should be proud of how quickly we have all been able to adapt.
During these hard times, we’ve gained some important insights:
There is now a swell of positivity that we will be emerging from this lockdown in the coming months and, although the speed is clearly dependent on the pace of the vaccination programme, the planning for a transition from lockdown must be started now.
There are initiatives out there pushing for a “return to work”, but with the successful implementation of remote working for everyone, perhaps we should think about it differently. No one in the industry left work, they just adapted to remote working and with incredible enthusiasm, perhaps driven by a core common goal to pull together to survive and then thrive.
With such great success, is there really any need to plan anything? Can’t we just carry on in this “new normal” way of working?
I hear people talking about the “new normal” within the media and anyone would think that it is something that has been fixed and agreed upon in a contract. It is clearly nothing of the kind and it is a tactical decision that has been made to deal with a position none of us ever expected – lockdown.
At the recent World Economic Forum, held in a virtual format, both the Barclays Chief Executive and JP Morgan Chase’s Head of Asset and Wealth Management expressed their concerns that working from home is “not sustainable” and “fraying”. It is clearly a challenge for many, a blessing from some, but it seems clear that offices will not disappear anytime soon.
The impact to culture, team morale and mental well-being have been widely discussed and I expect that a new flexible working culture will be widely accepted, with a mix of office and home working as the next normal.
Collaboration tools are now accepted as part of day-to-day working life, which has been a revolution, and new tools are available now to help with desk booking, manage employee well-being and so on to help. Low-code platforms like Microsoft’s Power Platform help accelerate the rapid development of such tools and Hitachi Solutions is amongst the leading experts within this space.
The explosion of collaboration tools has been unprecedented, and although Microsoft Teams has had a global userbase for a long time now the number of users soared within weeks. Suddenly everyone was having virtual meetings, giving online presentations to their teams and customers, sharing documents easily and having one-to-one calls and chats with ease. Organisations that had resisted change for years and expected months of training for new applications, discovered that it could be achieved within just a few weeks.
The next normal for collaboration will make even better use of tools like Microsoft Teams, whether in the office or remotely. The need to change the way we work (process) has been realised and supported using technology. A clear example of delivering clear value to the business using technology, leading with the business need.
Microsoft Teams is a platform that can be extended to embed other applications that enrich the collaboration experience. For example, a sales team can easily embed a live opportunity and an account into a team site and the team can develop a deal together within a single space. When developing an existing broker, all the information can be in a single place, with Broker Insights available to make faster decisions. Drilling into the information further, claims, policies, and other information such as regulatory compliance can be viewed by the team in a central collaboration space with just a few clicks.
The low-code Microsoft Power Platform sits within the same ecosystem, one of Microsoft’s differentiators, and opens the possibility for new applications to be created and deployed much faster than ever; low-code applications deliver agility and a higher return on investment to the business.
Leadership teams around the world have made plans for returning to the office but I expect they are discussing multiple scenarios, but I predict a need to be in offices for many years to come. It seems clear that there are benefits for well-being, team culture and moral for being in the office but there are also productivity gains seen from remote working too. Flexible working is going to be the next normal.
Start now to plan the applications that you will need to manage some of the new logistical challenges within your organisation, such as managing hot desks. If you have Microsoft Teams, I recommend that you make use of the Power Platform which will help you deliver rapid change to the business. Hitachi Solutions has developed many Power Platform solutions that address specific business challenges that have delivered an RoI within weeks, including applications that have helped organisation deal with the return to the office challenges prior to the current lockdown.
Remote working is going to continue for most of the industry, at least in part. The changes that are possible with the next phase of collaboration are within reach and with the commitment of the leadership team, there are exciting times ahead.
Please reach out to me to discuss any of these topics or to book a discovery workshop to start envisioning the future and build a roadmap for change. There is no charge, just a commitment of time with you and your business stakeholders.