The only thing permanent is change. Inertia at individual and collective level resists change. If change is inevitable then a natural corollary is an appearance of change agent. The continuously mutating virus is a change agent and the resultant devastating pandemic is forcing us to adapt to a new way of surviving. This is a part of evolutionary process, albeit a violent process which is destructively disrupting. Entities including business which realize and adapt to this evolutionary process will survive and thrive. Entrepreneurs and businesses always find a better way of solving existing problems because they realize the solutions of yesteryears are the problem of today and solutions of today will carry the seed of tomorrow’s problem. The current solutions adopted for development are not fully correct. We know it individually and collectively but we hesitate to put our house in order. The Pandemic is correcting us. It is shock therapy. This is a correction phase in mankind’s unbridled growth trajectory. The signal is very loud and the writings are clear. For business house the business is not going to be the same. What will change requires a dissection of the current way of working and making evolutionary or revolutionary change. The revolutionary change would be letting go the culture of fixed time and fixed geography of work place. For businesses the work place of the future will be a mix of both physical and virtual environment. Agreed some function would be more physical than virtual and vice versa but days of remote collaboration and coordination are on the horizon. How this blend would pan out in multiple functions of organization future would be interesting to see but some signals worth pondering are as follows.
Manufacturing and service operations are more or less a transformation process and this requires a facility where the transformation can happen. Total automation is the answer but looking at the trajectory of the technological progress we still have to live with a human intervention in the conversion process in both services and goods.
Marketing: If we look at Marketing as a function leaving aside the distribution of the finished goods which gets covered in the supply chain function in operation, marketing is predominantly an information exchange activity focusing on creating awareness, creating positive attitude and finally a positive intention to purchase. Product development and other function can be collaborated using remote collaboration tools. The inherent nature of information exchange makes marketing a function which can flourish in virtual environment.
Human resource function: Recruiting, hiring, training development, motivation which is the core functions of human resource department are more or less information sharing and hence going forward would be done in the virtual environment. The glaring example of the education ecosystem forced to adopt the online learning which otherwise would have taken ages to become mainstream.
Finance: Finance as a function which is dominated by accounting, taxes, auditing is again more of information sharing and the activities can be done in virtual environment.
IT Sector: Technology will help mankind come out triumphant. This is evident to the naïve also. All automation technology intervention requires communication for coordination and collaboration. The virus may be seen as the culprit but the real culprit is the lockdown. If we continue to collaborate and coordinate using technology on a permanent basis we would be prepared to wither any future pandemic triggered by a infectious pathogen. Communication technology will be the pivot of all the effort to work in the virtual environment. The hardware and networking jobs will be physical but the other aspects can be performed in virtual environment. This would a big area for startup and we have seen it.
Entrepreneur: Borrowing from Rebecca Solnit, Paradise are built in hell by entrepreneurs. The hellish pandemic has thrown challenges, and gutsy individuals have taken the opportunity to break the mold to do things in a different way or do different things. Entrepreneurship is inherently disruptive and disruptive thinkers survive and thrive in any adverse situation. Not to say that things will be smooth, the pandemic is akin to a pregnant pause, new ways of living and surviving will identified prototyped, developed and delivered by entrepreneurs.
Small and Medium Enterprise (SME): Quantum of impact of any incidence is resultant of the preparedness, the resource and the organization and response of the impacted. Inherently on all this fronts SME score low and hence the impact is brutal, but again the intense pain would not last long, there is an always light at the end of the tunnel. The small enterprise gets hit by the supply chain disruption, the exodus of the manpower short on cash and also compliance with tax requirement.
The root cause of the disruption is not the pandemic but the lockdown induced inability of individuals to collectively come together in a physical environment to complete the task. We had the technology to work in virtual environment but we did not mass adopt it. The pandemic has forced us to explore this and in the pandemic today we have been forced to mass test it. It works. We can meet collectively in the virtual world and complete majority of our personal and professional tasks. The coming days would witness much radical and incremental innovation in doing work in the virtual environment. The realization has crept in. It is just a matter of time before it becomes a norm and becomes main stream.
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