The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic continue to reshape the business landscape all over the world. Many companies have gone to work-from-home structures, while entire customer bases or supply chains in every industry imaginable have been disrupted. Nearly three months into the new world, many leaders are starting to examine how their company will need to adjust going forward, including how to best utilize their tech budgets for the rest of the year going into 2021. Here are some perspectives of what’s ahead, including lots of insights into how online meetings and unified communications have become even more critical to survive and grow going forward.
Angela Ward Hood, founder and CEO; ThisWay Global, providing improve matching for job prospects and open positions
On the benefits of video conferencing
We’ve found we’ve become a lot more efficient with our conference calls, and calls that used to take an hour with a customer because they weren’t used to using the technology all day every day and there were lots of inefficiencies… now we can get through those in less than 30 minutes. It’s because people have become proficient in how to use these things as part of their workday. We’ve also bought audio devices to help people sound better when they’re on the calls or if they’re doing a webinar, and we’ve extended our licenses for Zoom because so many people had to use it and couldn’t get by with a free plan anymore.
On adjusting to bad data in a pandemic
We have expanded SalesForce applications because we started doing a weekly webinar every Thursday and when we did that our email communications ramped up, because it made things more efficient and easier for the webinar visitors to register for what they were being offered online. We also saw the usage of almost all our online applications had gone up, but we had one that tracked our leads into our website and while our traffic has increased with the pandemic the tracking software doesn’t work as well. That’s because people are reaching out from their home IP addresses instead of their work addresses and the technology was having trouble identifying who’s looking at our site. To address that we’re about to push out more engagement at earlier stages on our website and doing some retargeting campaigns we’ve not done before. We wondered why the traffic had dropped off, but then realized it hadn’t. It’s that the traffic was no longer coming from an IP address recognized inside of SalesForce because it’s coming from their house, not their company.
What’s ahead in 2021
Going into 2021, there’s going to be more movement in the job market than we have ever seen in the nation. For us, we’re looking at how to make sure our technology is scalable and easy to use. Some of it is tech to track the user’s activity, not to stalk them but to figure out how we’re failing them. We need to know what they’re trying to do to get an answer and where we’re not meeting that need. We’re going to see lots of software that is more empathetic in its engagement with the user. The user wants authenticity and we as companies are going to have to invest in technology that helps us relate better to the user. We’re going to go into partnerships with companies that have nuanced technology that we feel we can use to help our customers and users. In house, we’re also building a career companion, because most job boards are atrocious and we want an ability where you can say your feedback on job matches and start improving those for you. Within a couple of iteractions you’ll be receiving far better matches, which is important because the candidate has not been treated with respect. Thankfully our clients realize that a candidate is almost always also going to be a customer, and if you mistreat your applicant you’ll lost them as a customer. With companies needing to compete for market share, they realize they should treat their applicants with respect.
Marlon Montgomery, fractional CTO/tech advisor for startups
There was an initial spending spree because everybody needed to get new systems in place and operating quickly to allow for more video conferencing and collaboration. Now that most people are online, I’m seeing a shift toward how to sustain that working environment for the longer term so it’s not BandAid since this is going to have to drag out a bit longer. There’s the question of how technology companies become more cost effective to address the fact that revenues are going down. Everyone has to be more cost conscious and I’m anticipating a lot happening on the security side and doing things like improving private networks are getting prioritized now. They’re also taking a look at business continuity projects, resiliency and moving to the cloud. Hardware and software spend is going to go down across the board but cloud adoption will be going up. Large companies that have the budget and the staff are investing in automation tools around artificial learning and machine intelligence on projects so they can improve workflows to make up for losing the daily interaction around a water cooler in the workplace. Analytics and big data to do business modeling is also going to be important. They’ll have to look at how things will be if (the pandemic) lasts two years versus if we can reopen in two weeks.
Jeremy Smith, CEO, Civitech, providing technology solutions to civic and political organizations
On doubling down to prepare
We’ve always used project management, video communications and CMS and CRMs because they’re good systems to have in place. So, we already had people trained up on them, but what we’ve done is doubled down by adding more people to Zoom licenses and more people to roles inside of systems. Where we used to have a team present in person with the dashboard from their SalesForce, now we need the ability for people to go into it and add notes. We might’ve used Zapier connections or something like that before, but now we’ve doubled down on training to make sure everyone knows the best practices so we can leverage all these things to work better remotely. The benefit of being a modern tech company is we’re already aware of all these things already and have been using the to better manage workloads. We’ve got 27 people and we’re adding about 25 percent to our tech and IT spend from where we were before the pandemic. We made that call in February when we started getting worried about what was going on in China. We went remote work the first week in March and I because I used to be an infectious disease epidemiologist I taught everyone about what to expect here in the U.S.
On providers who have stepped up
Asana has these great remote training webinars and those have worked really well for the shift because it didn’t require much in the way of adaptation. Mixmax added a feature to improve their email coordination where you can write and talk about an email without BCC-ing them, so you can discuss things with the team as a chat thread. I know they moved that up in their pipeline to address the need for remote work. The things I’ve been impressed with are groups that show how to adapt a tool to improve collaboration in this time. The strength of those that have done that well, have always stood out and are doing it even more so now.
We have a lot pf people who have worked remotely previously so I’m not surprised by how the unified communications providers have responded. It is noticeable when we have clients or vendors who struggle with that because the infrastructure wasn’t there. We monitor participant count pretty closely and keep track of commits and project work done on Asana. It’s not as a way to be overbearing but to track how well we can predict how quickly we’ll be able to build something by collaborating effectively. We try to be lightweight on how we lean on that technology and let people suggest new methods around how we track things. That helps us train and support our people in the best way possible.
As part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Vyopta is currently offering a free trial to help IT teams support massive expansion in remote work.
Chad Swiatecki is a business writer and journalist whose work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Billboard, New York Daily News, Austin Business Journal, Austin American-Statesman and many other print and online publications. He lives in Austin, Texas and is a graduate of Michigan State University. Find him online on LinkedIn.