Preparing for the new normal

A friend in New Jersey held his fortieth birthday party this week. Forty friends were invited and all forty attended. Everyone sang out happy birthday for 40 seconds by the clock. Social distancing was strictly maintained, with thousands of kilometers separating the attendees, located all over the world from Canada to Australia, UK to Pakistan, Sweden to Singapore, and one friend even joining in from South Africa! You guessed it; the birthday party was on Zoom! The birthday ‘boy’ got lots of presents, ordered well in advance by the senders and delivered to him by Amazon.

It was my first e-birthday event and what a joy it was! School and college and later life friends I had not been in touch with for years were there to chat with, and no one could stop talking. Towards the end it was discussed whose birthday is coming up next and it was solemnly resolved that another e-birthday would have to be organized.

The times of COVID-19 have catapulted us into using technology like never before. Even older people, who had only recently got the basic hang of Google search, are today already reasonably adept at online grocery shopping, Zoom meetings, online Master Classes and WhatsApp group calls; all in a matter of a few weeks of lockdown and home isolation. The question is, once this pandemic is over, will this torrid affair with technology last, or will most of us revert back to the old ways?

I would venture to say that on the balance, the increased use of technology by most everybody from housewives to corporate CEOs is here to stay. After all, technology is addictive and it does make things a lot easier. From a corporate perspective, the primary focus of this writing, the use of technology has always been there in large global companies in practically all areas, from communications and public relations to marketing and sales, from finance to HR and administration and so on. What the pandemic has done is to propagate the use of technology down to medium and small businesses as well, as all businesses have had to quickly adapt to working from home. Technology usage in the times of the coronavirus has gone ….. viral! But even in the large organizations technology usage has increased even more, and second, new platforms have also been adopted, like Zoom for communication.

The important thing now is to graduate from using technology because one has been forced to by circumstances, to embedding technology into all business operations in a customized way which actually adds greater value in terms of higher efficiencies, higher production, faster decision-making, greater and much quicker access to data and information, and not least, which results in both greater cost savings and higher job satisfaction for all employees. This process of course requires first of all an in-depth audit of all business operations, to determine the needs and define the areas that can particularly benefit from embedding technology. Then it is a matter of developing customized solutions.

For sure the world post-pandemic will not be the same as before. It is up to us how best we are able to adjust and adapt to new realities. The learning is clearly that those who move earlier, faster, and more decisively will do best.

About Author

As the CEO of APR since February 2002, Zohare Ali Shariff is responsible for all business operations of the agency and personally counsels high profile clients on communications and PR strategy, issue & crisis management, stakeholder engagement and corporate social responsibility.

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