Evolving with the times: Lessons from 2020

We are now in  the last quarter of 2020, and the year has been eventful, to say the least! Back in March, this is definitely not how I saw the year going, but every uncertainty brings with it tremendous opportunities. As someone who has always believed in stepping out of the comfort zone, I think the last few months have been a prime example of innovation fuelled growth. 

Whether we look at business development, changing professional roles or the way we approach strategies for the future, there’s a marked difference in thought processes! Needless to say, without the kind of tech we have today, it would be impossible to sustain. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be for business leaders to manage operations seamlessly if the same situation had transpired, lets say, in the late 90s? And that’s why it’s important to take these learnings seriously, because no one knows what lies ahead. 

Look at how much has changed with respect to the way we work. It’s no surprise that remote working has come to the forefront in the last six months. In the lack of physical accessibility, almost every other employee is now logged in through their home wifi, and Zoom calls and Google Meet links have become increasingly popular whether they like it or not! 

There are two ways of looking at this – on one hand, commute times have been cut short, but at the same time, people are struggling to balance between an office and home environment. In fact, many of us feel more overworked than before! While remote working tools can gauge productivity efficiently, they  cannot gauge emotional and sentimental productivity. Are employees happy? How often are they getting distracted? In the absence of a proper office setup and teams, is brainstorming taking a hit? The biggest learning we have got out of this is that everyone has to  think of innovative ways to keep the pulse of the company alive. Else, company culture takes a massive hit, and it’s all downhill from there. 

Another realisation that has stayed with us, is the fact that business continuity cannot be maintained if employee roles at the enterprise stagnate. We all understand the importance of upskilling, but it has never been as critical as it is in today’s day and age! Some roles like those of junior project managers, office secretaries, product consultants and HR generalists have already started to become obsolete, thanks to the remote working tools we spoke about earlier.  

Everyone, and I mean everyone needs to upskill and get better at adapting to this new normal – be it business owners, technical staff, customer support, accounts, HR and even housekeeping! Building digital first skillsets is what will set work cultures apart. Programmers need to ensure better ways to stay connected with the team, and digital problem solving techniques that are quick to turn around solutions. Now is also the best time to go back to the basics of programming and plug in the learning gaps for different languages. The more versatility they can build, the further their growth arc will take them. 

And speaking of digital first skill sets, it is also critical for business leaders to build digital operations one step at a time, especially if the business has been functioning on largely traditional methodologies till now. There is no way around the cloud now. Building a cloud led, collaborative and interconnected virtual business environment is crucial, and old school setups are obsolete. 

This is true for almost all industries today, whether you look at retail, education, finance, healthcare or transportation. As the B2C retail segment and payments becomes contactless, delivery, order tracking and logistics needs to catch up. We are now entering a new era of Zero Trust Security (without a VPN). Here,  access to some server or service will be determined by not just VPN access, but also the person who has logged in, which device they have used, along with the relevant policies that will govern this access! It’s complicated but the need of the hour to safeguard company infrastructure.  

However, here’s something I want to leave you with, which is probably something that all of us tend to miss out on. Of course business leaders and enterprise C suite executives need to focus on building a tech enabled, digitally led work culture, but don’t forget that people are the most important! No matter the technology that you bring in to play, it won’t be beneficial without the correct human intervention at the correct time. Artificial intelligence and machine learning can only help make teams more agile – they cannot transform business processes to being completely digital! From a hospital, to a factory to a local grocery store, everyone needs to reevaluate digitising their process — not change it. 

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