It was around the second week of March when we had a celebration at work for Holi amidst the heavy rainfall on a Friday. Back then, what we were blissfully unaware of was that it would be a while till we would physically get together as a team again. Three days later, we began proactively working from home in light of the COVID-19 news. Ten days into it, a nationwide lockdown was announced and we ceased all operations involving physical movement including closure of our offices and factories.
While this was a setback in more ways than one, we chose to see it as an opportunity to revamp how we operated as an organization. Deciding that we would be “locked” but not “down”, we took to deploying technology as an enabler to ensure business continuity. Physical servers were moved online, data accessibility was simplified and secured on cloud itself, meeting rooms were replaced with virtual connects through video conferencing and our workdays swiftly transitioned to the regular hustle albeit in a different location; we started to live by the hashtag #workfromanywhere. This was done not only to ensure some semblance of normality but also operate effectively despite movement restrictions.
This was supplemented with multiple enablers to ensure business continuity in the form of a virtual call centre established to manage customer queries and complaints, as well as a centralized replenishment system to enable order-booking through our call centre and execution of the entire process remotely. The same is being supported with WhatsApp for Business accounts to engage with customers and suppliers alike. We also strengthened our communication channels by leveraging technology through various levels of management to ensure cascade of business updates and to ensure momentum through Management Team led Townhalls, Trailblazers connect (which includes our second line of management), monthly functional meets and virtual connect sessions in small groups with senior leaders. Our people interventions moved to virtual platforms, including learning, celebrations and engagement initiatives which were facilitated through real-time as well as remote application-based mechanisms.
A vital part of this digital fast-tracking is leveraging the outreach of social media to enable business deliverables. From digital marketing to employer branding, social media platforms have taken the centre-stage in defining our organization’s presence to the world. Our endeavour has been to attract the right kind of audience on these platforms and engage them with the content that they would like to relate to, in order to build a connect with them and create a chain of social influencers who help broaden our brand presence. While our own campaigns around wellness and gratitude through “virtual hearts” brought our people together across continents and helped infuse the spirit of togetherness while working from the confines of our homes, our social media drives around importance of social distancing and staying fresh behind the mask helped us spread our message to the right set of audience in an effective manner. It is this technology, which acted as a facilitator, helping to densify the digital footprint of our organization. This is one of the primary reasons why we are continuously reviewing our investment pie and resizing the pieces by exploring digital avenues for enhancing returns.
We are among many other organizations which accepted and adapted to this new-normal, going about business like we would on any other day. So what has really changed?
For starters, our idea about what a day at work looks like has undergone an almost 180-degree shift. From travelling to work for a 9 AM meeting, employees have begun to “login” from wherever they were to connect with colleagues virtually for the same meeting. Physical proximity is no longer a restraining factor in collaborating on projects, and everyone was just a phone-call away. The growing reliance on social media, business conference tools, VR-based training and business apps supporting employees working remotely cannot be dismissed as a mere blip and is likely to become the ‘New Normal’ in the months to come.
The point to ponder is that the aforementioned means have been available to us for quite a long time now; cloud computing was introduced for business in early 2000s, while video conferencing has been in use dating back to 1968. Many services and consulting organizations have been active practitioners of enhanced digital technology in business for much longer than their contemporaries in other domains. The sole reason why the digital agenda has taken the driver-seat in the current crisis is to enable organizations to survive and stay relevant. With restrictions on physical mobility and health hazard, organizations have to improvise in order to sustain. This has given the much-needed acceleration to digital transformation across industries, and companies are gladly opening up to embrace technology to optimize as well as enhance their business prospects.
The idea of a virtual organization, while present in theory for a long time, was a far-fetched one as close as 100 days ago. But the current speed of digitization opens up many possibilities around our idea of a workplace few years down the line. If we were to think about how we imagined 2020 to look like in the past, I am sure the picture would be very different from what we have painted amidst this crisis. But a very strong message coming out of this situation is that technology has helped us survive and sustain, and it will continue to do so in near future.