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How Technology Companies Are Converting Challenges Into Opportunities During the Pandemic As technology companies pivoted to adapt to the new world realities, digital transformation has accelerated global disruption like never before

By Prasanna Anireddy

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The COVID-19 pandemic presented us with both unique challenges and opportunities as we needed to rethink how we operate as well as how our customers would be impacted. As we started to adjust to remote operations and conduct business online, we have come to realize that the changes we are witnessing are really an acceleration of the trends in society and technology. Both businesses and employees are more inclined to plan the future workspace to be a hybrid model that supports increased work from home. This is reflected in a recent CRN report which found that 74 per cent of Indians would prefer to continue working from home after the pandemic. The pandemic has indeed transformed our lives, affected every industry, and forced businesses to redesign their products and services to remain competitive.

As technology companies pivoted to adapt to the new world realities, digital transformation has accelerated global disruption like never before. The core capabilities that gave technology companies a competitive edge earlier are no longer sufficient differentiators. The need for continuous security compliance as well as support of online channels and platforms have turned into non-negotiable components for conducting business. So, what can organizations do to make the most of the opportunities being created in the current crisis?

Innovate product and service offerings

After the onset of the pandemic, many organizations had to prioritize business continuity and employee safety to ensure their core business was secure. Organizations that can focus on innovation in product and services offerings will remain competitive and thrive. Businesses that continue to operate as they did in the past will find it challenging to serve the changing needs of their customers.

A McKinsey report surveying executives around the globe found out that while 63 per cent of organizations had experienced changing customer needs or expectations, 62 per cent believed this trend would continue. The results also suggest that companies are making these crisis-related changes with the long term in mind. For most, the need to work and interact with customers remotely required investment in data security and an accelerated migration to the cloud.

Organizations need to look at adopting technologies that enable them to offer the products and services in the changing world. Technologies such as contactless payment, virtual private networks (VPNs), voice-over-Internet protocols (VoIPs) and collaboration tools are enabling companies to meet new needs in areas such as telemedicine, remote learning and online entertainment.

Crisis-driven innovation will help companies stay competitive in the new business and economic environment and chart out an organization growth plan. Companies that leverage this opportunity to pivot and align products to new needs will have successfully transformed business forever.

Remote work culture centred on collaboration and innovation

Remote working is now mainstream and may become the norm going forward. However, organizations shifting to this model might experience challenges in creating innovation. Being in the office allows for more face-to-face interaction and "watercooler' sessions. It is easier for employees to collaborate on ideas, in turn creating a healthy competitive environment. In the new remote working landscape, this kind of creative boost is much harder to come by. Companies need to evolve work cultures and reimagine the balance between productivity and collaboration.

Effective communication is the key to collaboration, remote or otherwise. Whether it is the CEO sharing business and company updates or different product teams connecting to work on a project, messages should be clear and precise. As remote work started, there was an uptick in the use of collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack, Google Meet etc. Organizations must leverage such tools to encourage staff to collaborate across teams, product lines and geographies.

With innovation at the core, companies must also give employees dedicated time to explore their ideas at a regular cadence. Teams can be given specific challenges, and they can collaborate with others, explore new ideas and find solutions. Activities for inspiring innovation like hackathons were popular before the pandemic and have now grown in importance as they also serve as bonding and networking events.

Keep employees connected

Organizations must focus on collaboration and employee wellness. Many of them have created portals to share the latest updates on the pandemic, tips on productivity and mental health webinars. Our organization has provided WFH allowances for employees to make their workspaces at home comfortable. Similar benefits have been rolled out at companies such as Google, Uber, TataSky. Apart from work, organizations have also found ways to keep their teams connected. Virtual events such as cooking, baking, and painting challenges, talent shows, trivia nights, and online fun activities were planned. Organizations are also creating employee resource groups. For example, in such a group, employees with children can discuss the unique struggles of balancing work and parenting. Microsoft has leveraged the best of technology to stay connected with their teams and create a remote community.

Undoubtedly, the pandemic and the resulting crisis have created significant innovation opportunities for different industries. While disruption is not new to technology companies, the recent crisis has been a disruption of historic proportions. Whether it is about running internal operations or recommending the adoption of technology and tools to our clients, our lessons from this experience will be crucial going forward. Technology companies need to be prepared to ride the changes they see coming to stay ahead of the curve.

Prasanna Anireddy

Senior Director, Core Products, Progress

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