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What's Next?

Posted on the 22 July 2020 by Alanhargreaves @RechargeToday

What's next?

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What's next?
Simple questions for post-pandemic reality 

A business I work with is based in another country. We meet regularly for board meetings, audit reviews, advisory sessions and related catch-ups. That takes roughly three days, bookended by two days of travel to get there and back. In short, a working week. 

Last month we did it all in five hours on a Wednesday.

I prefer face-to-face meetings. Up to 70% of communication comes from body language. It’s key to discussing difficult issues, engenders clarity and plays a central role in building teamwork. But, five days versus five hours?  I look forward to catching up when restrictions are eased but it’s impossible to overlook the implications.

What's next?
Technology has been eroding historic work practices for decades. Covid has added the steroids and it’s unlikely we’ll be going back from here. What are some of the underlying shifts? What questions do they raise for business? Here’s a few: 

Contact-less everything. After your customer keylessly enters their home office, they’ll spend a moment ordering diet-tailored meals delivered to the door while dressed in casual clothes they ordered online as they check their phone for tomorrow’s zooms. 

Q1. If you’ve been going slow on going digital, you can’t anymore. What’s your plan?

Education. Their children are in the other room playing Fortnite. Hopefully they’ve completed the day’s tuition online. Lockdowns have shown them that actually going to school may no longer required. In the chat room, they’re designing the rest of their education so they no longer have to study subjects they don’t like. They already know that Amazon has budgeted US$700m for in-house education aimed at constant re-skilling. The children know that skills expire. They’re watching it happen.

Q2. What skill sets does your future business need and how are you going to get them?

What's next?
Data. ‘Contact-less’ means mountains of data. So far, we know what time your customer comes home, how often they go out, what they eat, where they go, how they pay for it and what they wear. Ditto for the kids. That’s before we’ve checked when they travel, how often they buy a new car and whether it needs new tires. Even then, we’ve only scratched the surface. That’s the thing about IoT. Everything will collect everything. 

Q3. How will your business access and manage mountains of data, and how will you use it?

Relationships. Crises hatch new solutions. ‘Same Old’ operating structures are unable to cope when serving a client requires input across sales and marketing, production and logistics, accounts receivable and order processing at a time when supply lines are interrupted, inputs are scarce and outputs have to cross borders in the middle of a lockdown.

What's next?
The few successes I’ve witnessed through Covid have rested on radical cross-silo cooperation, a focus on solutions and the emergence of so-call intraprenuers - internal people who have come up with creative alternatives to existing practices. It’s been an opportunity to test agile teams and spot future leaders.

Q4. This shift in internal relationships had to happen sooner or later. Most were already underway. What have you learned, what will you take with you and how will you manage it on the other side?  

There is nothing exhaustive about this list. It consists of random observations my colleagues and I have noticed as we work our way across a constantly changing canvas. It is hard to think of an industry that is unaffected.

How you respond is up to you, but Covid has given us hints of an alternate reality. 

What’s yours?

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