Digital future

Positioning your business for the digital future

I attended a Dell Techbytes video conference about preparing for the digital future this week and got some fantastic insights, and it triggered me to write this blog-post.

During the webinar, several trends were mentioned that I think many of us may have suspected even though we all wanted to go back to “normal” in early 2021. With the second wave of Covid-19 currently impacting us and talks of yet another third wave to hit soon, we must consider how to tackle this year. The vaccine will not reach all of us to get to the herd immunity level very soon. We are also seeing more and more people close to us being invected and die from the virus. We need to be more vigilant in staying safe, wearing our masks and keeping our distance from other people. It is challenging for us business owners because it hinders us from getting to our clients, engaging with them, and doing business. We need to network and connect with other people to generate business.

During the webinar, an interesting fact was that fewer patents were registered during the US’s alcohol ban (1920-1933). No, it was not due to the effects of alcohol, but because fewer people went to pubs to network and talk business. Which shows us the importance of networking, getting out there to talk to people and hopefully generate some business and gain customers. One can only wonder what the impact will be on innovation at companies and businesses if the current restrictions persist.

The inability to network and exchange ideas in person will most possibly remain for the better part of this year, necessitating us to develop different mechanisms to engage with potential customers.

Working from home will most likely remain, and we will continue to meet our clients via Zoom or other electronic platforms. Due to being in one’s own business and not having other people take over your work, it is critical to stay out of the virus’ way as best we can. If we get sick or infected, our businesses may come to a standstill.

It causes additional stress on us and makes it even more challenging to do business. It is, therefore, no surprise that there is a growth in mental health issues. Many business owners experience extreme difficulty keeping their businesses open during these challenging times.

It was mentioned that mental health issue might be the next pandemic facing us. Contributing to these mental health challenges facing us is the fact that we can’t touch en connect with other people like we used to. They even introduced a new concept called people showing skin hunger because of the restrictions and fewer interactions with other people. More people are starting to use technology to escape the reality we live in, look at the increase in online gaming and virtual events and sports.

We are therefore forced to change, whether we like it or not. If we do not adapt to the changing environment and circumstances, we may soon become extinct like the dinosaurs.

Luckily our experience so far this year proves otherwise. We find that many companies started to adapt; it is visible in our increased workload from corporate clients. More companies are now better geared to use technology to perform their work. In a recent engagement survey for one of my NPO clients, most employees indicated that they prefer communications and feedback via technology rather than from their manager in person.

It is also true for customers and clients. Due to fewer people going out to make in-store purchases and many making the jump to buy online, it has become a necessity for businesses to have an online presence. If you don’t have a website and online store and rely on selling goods only from your physical shop, your volumes may drop drastically as fewer people visit the shops. Even the way we market has changed, and you reach fewer people when handing out pamphlets at a busy intersection, most of the marketing has gone online.

When making a move to the online world, we are suddenly faced with a whole host of new challenges and risks, making our businesses vulnerable, and online security becomes a real risk. This is amplified by the new laws on the protection of personal information. As business owners, we need to ensure that we have the right service provider that takes care of these risks for us.

Luckily customers are starting to trust online transactions more, but your business has to be available online and need the right protection measures in place.

Another interesting fact mentioned was that South Africans are working longer while working from home. In a global survey, South Africans indicated they spend on average an hour more working than previously. This included the average travelling time to and from work (remember the 2-hour drive from Centurion to Johannesburg?)

Working from home will become the new normal, with maybe some hours or days going to the office, mostly working from home. One of the NPO’s I consult with showed that even a social services organisation that is dependent on meeting their clients in person could make it happen via technology.

One of the big worries with so many employees working from home is: Are they working and being productive? Some companies employ technology to track their staff’s movement, checking their eye movement and facial expressions when working, keystrokes etc. Now, who wants to work for a company like that?

We believe, and we have proof, that individual alignment with your organisation’s purpose and self-management for employees are the keys to ensuring employees work productively. Good leadership is also a prerequisite, enable and allow employees to self-manage. Although this is the key to make sure working from home works, it takes time to affect the changes, as a whole new mindset is required from all employees and management. We have implemented Holacracy principles at one of our clients with great success. The processes have many benefits, like time spent on meetings. Meetings that used to take 3 hours have been reduced to 1.5 hours, and participants agreed they achieved more and wasted less time on unimportant things.

Another thing that will be part of the new normal is online schools. We can be sure that many schools will go for a hybrid model in the future, with some classes being in person and others online. Therefore we need to get used to the children being home and needing help and attention.

Technology has also already changed what was once “normal”. Have a look at the following link. Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you; it is cows wearing virtual reality (VR) goggles. The VR goggles help the cows reduce their anxiety by showing them green pastures to produce more milk.

2030 was previously predicted as the year when the 4th industrial revolution would hit us. However, the worldwide pandemic seems to have shortened this time frame, and it is said that it will be here by 2023. It is also predicted that about 52% of the world’s GDP will be generated from the digital economy in the next few years.

A recent survey indicated that 8 out of 10 companies have already fast-tracked their digital evolution initiatives and projects to be ready for this.

Companies like Dell have already incorporated artificial intelligence (AI) in their new notebook ranges. The device will learn how you use it and optimise the machines’ capabilities and processing resources best, for you to work faster and more efficiently. Added security features like facial recognition and proximity sensors will be employed to better protect your data, without having to every time remember and enter your password. The machine will automatically enhance your video quality, etc., to improve online meetings. It will even help filter out the Hadedas making noise during these meetings and provide longer battery life. Dell said their new laptops could give you 9 to 11 hours of working time, so no worries about Eskom’s load-shedding.

With 5G communications technology enabling automation and the collection of data from all the connected devices. We will see immense growth in devices with the ability to connect and more sensors to collect a wide variety of data. This also means an increase in the development of applications and smart devices to gather, interpret, organise and present the data back to us.

Technology is providing us with many opportunities and mechanisms to adapt to this new world we are facing. The onus is on us to think about how we can make use of it in our businesses. We also need to take responsibility for ourselves, physically and mentally and seek help when needed.

With the massive advancement of technology and all the opportunities it creates, I can’t help to be excited and look forward to 2021. As business owners, we need to consider how we can utilise and capitalise on our situation and the advancement in technology to grow our businesses. We must find new ways to connect and network with real people. We need to be openminded and not resist the changes forced on us, but take the bull by the horns and make a success of it.

Are you ready for 2021?

I hope you found this exciting and also that you gained some insights to move your business forward. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Connect with me by clicking here.

All the best for 2021!

Daniel

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