The “new normal” the world is coming to grips with under various lockdown regulations might go down as the most over-worked phrase of 2020 but it is, unfortunately, a reality.
By Guy Whitcroft
Since Covid-19 sparked governmental panic around the globe from February, things have changed on a scale few could imagine in just six months.
So, what does this “new normal” look like?
- Working from home – companies have recognised that they can reduce costs (all that expensive office space and facilities) by letting many employees work from home most, or even all, of the time. Of course, it’s not all cost-savings for companies as they will typically need to upgrade network infrastructure to cope with all the remote workers, upgrade security for the same reason, install software that enables them to ensure staff are working productively, provide remote training facilities for staff, and so on. And don’t forget employment contracts, too – these will likely need to be amended to cover the issues raised by this WFH environment.
While the overall office savings are good for companies in many ways, it is a bit of a mixed blessing for employees: less time commuting, but this seems to have been replaced by work time; space to work uninterruptedly at home is often difficult to arrange (even more so with children still not at school) and can add costs for additional equipment (desks, suitable chairs, scanners, etc); reliable Internet access can add further cost (and may well need a backup); the distractions of the home (Netflix et al).
- A more difficult sales and support process – sales people will now increasingly need to navigate the complexities of online meetings and simultaneous presentations to a number of geographically remote people using video conferencing technologies. It will be more difficult to “read the room”, to hold people’s attention and, of course, to close the sale.
Technical support will be similarly challenged – whereas office “at desk” support was just that, now technicians will be dealing with the complexities of people’s home working environments with a range of devices providing network access, and needing to talk users through set-ups etc. Customer support will potentially be similarly challenging, with customers visiting support centres as a last resort as they will typically not be able to replicate their (home) working environment there.
- Sales contracts will need to be revisited to ensure that criteria for sign-off are clear and unambiguous. Not only will there be additional complexities in the approval process for payments – not least of which will be where the responsibility for getting remote systems working lies – but as a supplier, you sometimes need to meet with your customers’ credit departments to iron out issues. Now, however, they are remote and more difficult to meet with (and, if so inclined, can more easily “hide”).
The channel is, of course, on both sides of this challenge – as a user and as a supplier. So, getting on top of your own users’ needs is a great way to understand where the opportunities lie for you as a supplier.
Certainly, these will include consulting, hardware and software for areas such as networking, cloud, security and video conferencing. But they could also lead to creating joint ventures with experts and companies in the areas of workflow, contracts, training and the like – such joint venture partners, in turn, being able to refer their customers in need to you.
So, increased JV partnerships will be another feature of this “new normal” and the opportunities should be embraced.
So, while change can be scary and fast – big change even more so – there are great opportunities and potential new revenue streams with this “new normal”. Welcome news for many in the channel who have witnessed the continued decline of traditional business, and who need an added incentive to explore new avenues.
Guy Whitcroft is a 45-year veteran of the IT channel covering southern Africa, the Middle East and the UK. He is now based in Cape Town and consults, coaches and mentors to businesses of all sizes. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org