2020 will arguably be known as the year that dramatically changed both society and business. Within a few short weeks, billions of us have been forced to re-think how we live and work more differently than ever before. Now, as the world looks to adjust into a new normal, people and organizations are re-thinking priorities – aiming for better, and safer, ways to achieve their needs.
A stand-out theme to emerge during the Covid-19 outbreak has been the value of resiliency. In the business world, this refers to the ability to absorb a shock, and come out of it smarter than the competition.
Resiliency, backed by a strong infrastructure, is a critical characteristic for any organization to be able to withstand a real-life stress test like the pandemic – a lesson so powerful that even companies that were once slow or resistant to digitize have adapted quickly. This adoption process and their associated experiments along the way, have led to the rise of new technological trends.
Making your digital infrastructure work harder for you
Take remote care as an example. Remote care, both in the public and private sector, has experienced rapid increase. In the health sector, telemedicine and virtual sessions have become a fundamental part of patient care - whether to curb traffic at hospitals and GP surgeries, or treat those who are shielding and self-isolating.
Let’s give this some perspective. Before the virus, video appointments made up only one percent of the 340 million or so annual visits to primary care doctors and nurses in the NHS. Now all of this has changed. The NHS has upscaled its 111 service to remotely triage patients for coronavirus symptoms and advise them on their next steps. It is also rolling out devices and apps for remote monitoring of symptoms to cystic fibrosis sufferers – aiming to extend home spirometry to 4,000 patients in the UK.
Looking further afield - Sweden’s KRY International, one of Europe’s biggest telehealth providers, reported that registrations were up more than 200 percent. Moreover, France and Korea have changed regulations to ease access to telemedicine. With a vaccine or treatment at least several months away, patients and healthcare providers have reason to expand virtual interactions and are appreciating the benefits of maintaining them for the longer term.
Remote care extends to many other aspects of our lives. Contact centers have had to become remote within days of the lockdown. Changing what was effectively a very office-based function to be a remote operation has, in some cases, yielded surprising outcomes. In fact, in banking one UK executive reported a 40 percent increase in productivity from remote customer service staff - raising questions about whether the business will ever go back to its previous model.
In retail, demand for online services soared, with UK shoppers spending £500m more in March than twelve months ago. Logistics and delivery systems have already expanded to accommodate this, with supermarket chain Tesco offering 1.5 million delivery slots for the first time ever.
Business resiliency: Climbing the ranks in Board-level concerns
Leaders now appreciate the speed at which their organizations can change. They have a better sense of what can, and cannot, be done outside their traditional way of operating. As lockdown restrictions lift, a different kind of resiliency will take form. This means not only conducting business continuity planning to withstand future disruption, but also developing strategic roadmaps towards this next normal.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that business continuity planning is now a board level issue. While quick adoption has been impressive, the choices companies made only a mere couple of months ago are now being re-evaluated for the long term. We will see many starting to align with strategic partners – an option which underscores the importance of trust.
In this new playing field, the role of the CIO has become even more critical. In turn, CIOs have become even more aware of the need for a strategic approach towards technology. According to a Cisco research, over four in five (84 percent) believe that the challenges they face present opportunities for a successful digital transformation. In terms of their strategic priorities, 95 percent of CIOs agree that a successful transformation involves a combination of securing data, empowering teams, transforming infrastructure and reimagining applications.
New priorities are emerging. and businesses are accelerating these based on their importance, and transformational value. While the resiliency shown so far has been, in so many cases, commendable, leaders are pivoting towards future-proofing business continuity. And so they should. After all, the next normal may be even more volatile and rapidly changing than the previous status quo.
10 technology trends for the next normal
1) Online has become the frontline. E-commerce may have already been eating into the sales of brick-and-mortar stores, but the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated everything.
2) Contactless interfaces and interactions are now, and will continue to be, more commonplace to minimize social contact.
3) Remote care will skyrocket, both for public services and customers in the private sector – increasing efficiency and easing pressure points from largescale providers such as the NHS.
4) The future of work will be distributed. Numerous calculations are being made to provide an environment that will keep employees safe, healthy and productive.
5) Learning to e-learn. Education has changed dramatically. Research suggests that online learning helps increase retention of information and takes less time. These changes, or a hybrid form of them, might be here to stay.
6) The day of digital events has arrived. The value of bringing people together hasn’t gone away but for the foreseeable future, organizations will seek to switch in-person events for virtual ones.
7) Experiments will move to strategic choices. Leaders will develop strategic roadmaps towards their next normal. Creating a more resilient and agile business models will be front and center.
8) Digital infrastructure must be strengthened. The need for connectivity will grow as will the reliance of businesses on Cloud and Software as a Service solutions.
9) Cybersecurity will remain at the forefront – more so than ever before. Organizations need to be even more vigilant. The need for networks to have robust cybersecurity baked into their design is critical.
10) Increased reliance on data, automation and robots. Whether they are used to deliver groceries, take vitals in healthcare, or keep a factory running, organizations realize how robots could support us today and play an important role in a post-Covid-19 world.
Colin Seward, Chief Information Office, Cisco EMEAR
Chintan Patel, Chief Technology, Cisco UKI