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How Covid-19 Will Accelerate Conversational Tech Part 1 | Webio

How the COVID-19 Will Accelerate Conversational Tech Part 1 - Instant Digital Transformation

Paul Sweeney

When everything is set to close and you have 5 or less days to enact a company wide instant digital transformation to ensure the continuation of your business, that is a challenge.

If you have a chain of restaurants, grocery stores or an off-licence, you have to figure out how the business can suddenly operate online. Home delivery has been a big trend for a few years now, but this pandemic is driving the frequency and number of customers who want this option opened up. This is already having an impact on employment numbers in online retailers: Amazon and Instacart are hiring 100,000 and 300,000 respectively.  This surely gives an idea of the scale and the impact of this shift in consumer demand for home delivery and the potential.

Similarly, we are also seeing a shift with businesses and employees. Businesses have had to go “instantly remote”. Working from home is now an imperative. No conversations about company policy, whether employees liked it or not, it is just the simple issue of just being able to continue operating.

Shifting employees to remote working was the focus and teams put all their efforts and ideas into making this transition.  And then, the reality set it. Managers realised not all their employees had laptops, not all homes have decent broadband and not everyone has a personal space to work from. However, most companies have been able to make it work in some way, in the short term. I’ve been working remotely for nearly twenty years now, but asTracey Keogh from GrowRemote said “this is not remote working, this is crisis management”. 

The move to cloud-based software and Software as a Service (SaaS) has made many companies much more resilient than they might otherwise have been. If employees can log in, they can get to work. Banks, insurance companies and the like need to put in place additional levels of security for remote working such as restricted IP access, and these are difficult to instantly organise. 

Businesses have realised that they can move their employees to remote locations and get access to cloud based applications and services, but then find that there is one integration, one legacy kludge that stops them being truly live and operational. Perhaps this is an opportunity to understand where your resilience really lies, and where it falls down? Perhaps this is a moment, an opportunity to reflect on where your real value-added lies? Perhaps people aren’t in love with your passion for ingredients and careful preparation of food after all, you're just in a convenient location and they are in the habit of going to you on their way back from work? We are in the midst of a great experiment here and some companies are better positioned to come out of this. 

A final note is that as people have been faced with their Instant Digital Transformation challenge, employees, suppliers and partners have used what is at hand to overcome barriers. Need to grab the team for a conference call from your mobile, why not use WhatsApp? Need to get parts but can’t rely on the standard supply chain timelines? Why not use 3D printing. Faced with unprecedented inbound enquiry about Covid-19 many Governments, state bodies and hospitals have implemented Q&A over WhatsApp and Alexa. These new “Digital First” approaches are going to change the ways in which many people experience medical, financial and retail services in the future. When faced with binding constraints, innovation tends to flourish.

Perfect is the enemy of the Done. Getting Conversational done will be more important than getting it perfect. Those that start planning for it now, will come out the outside of this virus in a better position.

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