Welcome to Brown’s Bytes! Your weekly insight from Mobliciti’s CTO Andy Brown. Follow #brownsbytes
29th May 2020
Time for an update on how things are going due to the massive change brought about by the global COVID-19 lockdown.
I’ve spoken previously about the (largely unsung) heroic effort made to date by IT teams in many organisations to keep companies in business so I won’t go over old ground here, but please do feel free to head back to it for my thoughts on it all.
What is interesting now is that many of the conversations I’m having with all kinds of organisations have often now moved on from the initial “keeping the lights on” phase, to looking at a number of new areas:
- Homeworking improvements
- Preparing for coming out of lockdown
- What is the “New Normal”?
Each of these topics are potential areas for a byte on their own, so, for now, I will try to expand on that last point.
The New Normal
I’ve noticed that current events have given an opportunity to look at the ‘Old Normal’ with a different perspective than would have been the case, even a few months ago.
The office as we know it was born before the computer. Over time, computers made their way into office spaces and eventually found a home on pretty much every desk. Initially, these were tools to automate and streamline processes and, in theory at least, reduce paper.
As the power of these devices grew and the size of them shrank, we eventually ended up with a whole new communications network for information both inside a company and then, through the power of the internet, outside the organisation as well. And then we got smartphones as the ultimate evolution – all that power in your hand…
In the space of just my career (30 years for the curious) the world has gone from paper processes and handwritten 3 part memos when I first started, to now being able to hold a video conference with people all over the world at the touch of a button using a device in my pocket. By any measure that is staggering progress!
And yet… the office at a high-level has remained pretty much as it was. It is a place you travel to on a daily basis, complete your tasks within a (reasonably) fixed window and then travel back again. If you wanted to have a meeting, you had to book a room or find a desk somewhere. If you needed to meet someone, then you needed to travel to see them with all the trains, planes and automobiles that also ensued.
The basic formula has been tinkered with by technology innovations over the years – projects under the titles such as Paperless Office, Digital Working, Hot Desking, Flexible Working, Avian Flu preparation (remember that one??) and the latest one, Digital Transformation, has been responsible in implementing a whole host of tools. However, many of these initiatives perhaps fell into the trap of throwing technology over the wall at users and then wondering why adoption of the new technologies was so poor.
Meanwhile, the home was also quietly transforming with the arrival of the Internet and the first home PCs all the way now to homes having Wireless networking pretty much by default.
COVID-19 suddenly lit up a lot of this (mainly) dormant capability that had built up over the years. It changed the perception of what IT was capable of delivering overnight.
“Offices” carried on working even with everyone at home… and now the old way of working in an office suddenly looks surprisingly dated with the perspective of what we now know. As for the staff, they’ve suddenly realised that they don’t have to travel to the office to get their work done. Stats are even appearing showing people are more productive at home, not less!
Now combine all this with the data about how much less damage we’re all now doing to the planet and it feels like a perfect opportunity to change things forever.
Big questions start to rattle around:
- Do we need to travel anymore?
- Do we even need an office?
The purely logical answer is that the new normal is actually closer to what we’re living now than where we were a few months ago.
But it’s never that simple. I just don’t see the death of the office – far from it…
A customer recently made a very good point – people are accepting the new ways of working because there is no choice. And more than that – it’s the same for everyone.
Once offices re-open, there will be some who will rush to return for various reasons and the need for a Hub for the business is likely to remain. But the genie is well and truly out of the bottle when it comes to home working now…
Homeworking will become a core part of how companies function going forward.
Tune in next time to understand more about what that perhaps means…