The impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on businesses around the world is unprecedented. Never have global supply, demand, and labour been subject to simultaneous constriction across all industry sectors as a result of a single event. This three-part post discusses the changes we have seen at the onset of the pandemic and examines which of these changes may become permanent.
We have all been reading about it in the news: there will be a ‘new normal’, our typical daily routines must now change to limit our exposure to infectious disease. Touching a handrail, an elevator button, or a doorknob, may now have a deadly consequence. Once a vaccine for the coronavirus is released, or we have in some other way mitigated the threat of this virus, things won’t simply return to the way they were. But what does that mean, exactly? What stays and what goes? What does a new normal look like six, twelve, or eighteen months from now? It is of course impossible to know the exact answer to these questions. But there are some things we’re learning that signal some real change to our professional lives and the to tools, technologies and IT services required to be successful at work.
Face to face vs. collaboration
Zoom has taken over the world and has emerged as the most common platform for face to face video connections. But there are alternatives including Microsoft Teams, Slack, and G Suite – and those who have used these other tools know that any comparison between them and Zoom is unfair. Zoom focuses on video chat and is intended to replace simple audio calls, allowing you to meet with others ‘face to face’. The other platforms do this as well, but that’s where the comparison ends. Real-time collaboration is where these suites take flight.
Is the following a scenario you’ve lived through?
You’re in a 9:00 AM meeting with a team of people. Together you discuss the presentation you need to create, batting ideas around, with one person taking notes. Those notes are sent out afterward with a bare bones deck attached. Each person then takes a cut at adding content, and several versions are created over the next few days. The versions may get a little mixed up here and there, and one of you might have to merge various copies into a single master copy. That master gets passed around three more times until all edits are complete and someone eventually labels it FINAL. How many offices have done this for years? Has or does this apply to you?
What many people have started to learn is that modern collaboration suites not only allow you to work from home, they can also change how you work and greatly speed things up. With MS Teams and G Suite, you can talk, chat, author, edit, and publish a document or presentation all with a single tool. Rather than brainstorming and taking notes, you now all edit directly in the document. Want to add a new slide, and introduce a new topic? Great! Tell the group, discuss briefly, and if agreed, just add the slide in real time. Everyone can see your work as you make changes. No more notes, attachments, or follow-up emails; just doing the work on the spot. With focus you can have a final draft completed by the end of your one-hour meeting, all with your pajama bottoms still on. The first time you experience this scenario, somehow the lights go on, and you’re exposed to a whole different way of working.
Of course, this is not true for every business.
Some business sectors – landscaping, manufacturing, and service industries to name a few – require on-site, face to face interaction. But in offices across the world, where the workflow above applies, people are waking up to a new way of doing things. More is getting done in a day, with the work as good as or better than it was, because you’re truly collaborating and leveraging the collective wisdom of your team.
Collaboration suites like Microsoft Teams, Slack, and G Suite go far beyond simple applications like Zoom and can transform how you get things done. These tools can be installed by a managed IT service provider and they have a profound impact on efficiency, cementing the fact that collaboration platforms are a key piece of the digital evolution for any organization.