Innovation is Key to Surviving the COVID 19 Pandemic

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[et_pb_column type=”4_4″][et_pb_text admin_label=”Text”]The COVID 19 pandemic has affected all of us in one way or another, but possibly the hardest hit are small and medium businesses (SMBs) that continue to close shop across the country. Yelp estimates that 60% of the closures due to the pandemic are now permanent.

With jobs lost, businesses shut down, and the economic hardship many now face, many consumers are understandably cautious in terms of spending. Besides, the lockdown and its impact will continue to pose operational challenges to businesses for the next few months. Many business are going into 2021 facing lower consumer spending and continued restrictions on the movement of people.

This brings us to the question –what can really make a difference and help businesses survive the pandemic? The short answer – innovation!

The very entrepreneurial spirit of Americans – adapting to change, overcoming challenges in creative ways, and utilization of available technologies to reduce business disruption – has helped businesses stay afloat in a time when many are sinking fast.

Here are some tips for businesses to overcome the potentially debilitating effects of the pandemic – around 6 focus areas – to not only survive, but create an advantage enabling them to surpass the competition:

  • Revolutionalize the Delivery of Services
  • Leverage Remote Workforce
  • Cloud Transformation
  • Automation
  • Service Innovation
  • Upskill and Leap to Next Level

1.      Revolutionize the Delivery of Services

It’s difficult to predict when the lockdown will end and normalcy will return to everyday business operations. That doesn’t mean you have to close shop and go home. It just means that you must find new ways of serving your clients. And, a variety of establishments are already doing it. Consider these:

  • Restaurants are focusing on take-outs and food ordering apps to serve their customers.
  • Schools are conducting their classes via online video apps. Even ivy league institutes have been doing this for some time now.
  • Fitness trainers are hosting out-of-home workouts for their clients.

The list goes on. The good thing about these options is that these businesses are not inventing new technologies; they are just changing how they operate using available technologies.

2.      Leverage Remote Workforce

Since the beginning of the lockdown, you’ve been likely bombarded with news and social media updates on how other businesses are resorting to a remote workforce to ensure business continuity. Perhaps, you’ve given it some thought too, but are wary of the unknown and uncertainties that come with it. So, here’s some motivation to help you take the plunge:

  • The availability of technologies like Zoom, Google Meet, and other team collaboration apps have made remote working seamless for various employees in roles such as accounting, HR, IT support, and so on.
  • As employees spend more time at home with their loved ones, their productivity is increasing. That’s right, the remote workforce is more productive and happier Clearly, the fears of loss in productivity are now proving to be unfounded.
  • Working from home reduces the employees’ expenses on commute. Employees who witness these savings may deliver better results for the company, driven by higher employee satisfaction.

3.      Cloud Transformation

Cloud transformation was already a hot trend among businesses in every industry and economy worldwide before the pandemic. COVID-19 has only accelerated the adoption of the cloud. Here are some ways the cloud is helping businesses in the times of the pandemic:

  • Improved Resilience

With everyone locked in their homes, internet usage has skyrocketed. However, the people who maintain and upkeep digital technologies in organizations are stuck at home too. So, the digital surge combined with limited maintenance has resulted in increased outages.

Cloud systems offer superior resilience against outages – built-in data backups, recovery tools, and robust security features – that limit disruptions significantly.

  • Improved Scalability

The elastic nature of the cloud makes it possible for organizations to manage unexpected changes in consumer demand seamlessly and effortlessly. They can scale their digital resources up or down to match the consumer demand and pay only for the resources they utilize.

  • Improved Data-driven Innovation

The cloud is designed for data. It offers organizations powerful data manipulation tools they can utilize to extract highly useful insights from their consumer data. They can improve their existing products, develop new ones, or target new markets or audiences based on these insights. The potential is unlimited.

There are several more benefits of cloud that have made it a powerful enabler of business, even pre-pandemic:

4.      Automation

Automation is enabling businesses to streamline their operations and simultaneously improve customer satisfaction. Chatbots, for instance, allow businesses to engage their audiences in natural, human-like conversations. They offer quick, accurate, and timely responses to your potential customers, and even guide them through the purchase journey.

Likewise, robot process automation (RPA) can be used to automate a sizeable number of repetitive, low-level tasks, thereby freeing up your precious resources to focus on what really matters.

Another more common example of automation is self-service checkouts. Solutions like chatbots and self-service checkouts offer a win-win solution for both consumers and businesses. The increased customer satisfaction, lower costs of operations, and enhanced performance all add up to fuel your revenues.

5.      Service Innovation

A bit of creativity can go a long way in attracting previously ignored customers. For instance, meal buckets like Family Specials, Friends Specials, Weekend Combos, etc. can fetch high-value, low-volume orders from both current and new customers for restaurants.

McDonalds, for instance, has gone all out on its drive-thru and digital experience push. As part of its digital push, it has installed new point of sale (POS) systems that allow its customers to browse the menu, select items, make payment, and place an order with zero in-store contact. This minimizes the risk of infection, while demonstrating to their customers that the company cares about their health.

Likewise, fitness centers can use fitness apps to track their customers’ exercise regimen daily and offer them personalized advice. Such a personalized experience can go a long way in winning the loyalty of customers.

6.      Upskill and Leap to Next Level

For many businesses that witness frenzied activity during non-pandemic times, the lockdown can be a terrific opportunity to undertake the business improvement projects they’ve been putting off due to time crunch.

Free and premium online learning resources like Coursera, Datacamp, Codecademy, EDX, FuturLearn, and several others offer basic to specialized courses on almost everything under the sun. Upskilling your staff allows you to target new customers, new markets, and new needs of the consumers. You may emerge out of this lockdown stronger.

Conclusion

These are not normal times. Businesses cannot continue to operate as they did under normal times and expect to come out unscathed. As it goes, they must undertake desperate measures, exercise their creativity, and transform their business to generate new avenues of revenue. They must reinvent how they do business.

To examine more cloud-driven opportunities for your business and identify new sources of revenue, get in touch.

-Mir Ali, Field CTO[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column]
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Cloud Crunch Podcast: COVID-19 and a Venture Capitalist’s View

We welcome very special guest, Matt McIlwain, Managing Director of Madrona Venture Group, to get a venture capitalist’s view on the current market environment, the outlook for the market, and technological effects in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 1995, Madrona Venture Group has helped technology entrepreneurs launch and grow world-class companies. Listen now on Spotify, iTunes, iHeart Radio, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

COVID-19 – A Stress Test for The Remote Workforce

The rapid spread of COVID-19 worldwide and growing concerns have escalated quickly due to our interconnected world. This is a challenging and emotional time, and we are grateful for the support of caregivers and healthcare personnel around the globe who are working tirelessly to stem the tide of this brutal virus and support the many people who are in need.  At 2nd Watch, we have instituted similar mitigation efforts as many other companies regarding travel, social distancing and deep cleaning of offices.  We are fortunate the very nature of our cloud business allows us to maintain business continuity for our clients because we are already largely setup for working remotely and telecommuting. We are sharing a recent customer use case in the event businesses are having issues setting up remote operations. Maybe you haven’t felt the extremes of the effects yet, but many have. Imagine this scenario:

Friday 8:00AM

You receive a call and mandate; your Westcoast office has been shut down suddenly and immediately.  All 400 employees are sent home.  Many didn’t even have the opportunity to collect their laptops or other items in their workspace.  First and foremost, you hope all are healthy and safe.  Their wellbeing is paramount.

Now the questions start, “How will I do my job and remain in a safe environment?”

Saturday & Sunday

Over the weekend you deploy desktop-as-a-service (DaaS).  It is secure, compliant, and more importantly, ready to go with the tools the workforce needs.

Monday 8:00AM

Your company is ready to serve the needs of your business and customers.  You can continue under the new “normal” we are experiencing.

2nd Watch is committed to helping our clients during this unprecedented time.  The example above is exactly what we did for one of the largest media companies in the world.  Not only was DaaS implemented in record time, it was done meeting the governance and compliant requirements the business follows.

If you need to discuss how to meet your Business Continuity requirements, let us help you in developing a strategy.  2nd Watch is a Premier Amazon Web Services partner and a Microsoft Azure Gold Partner.  We have extensive experience with these cloud providers in delivering remote worker solutions while leveraging funding opportunities, reducing the capital constraints.

Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS)

Amazon WorkSpaces and Azure Windows Virtual Desktop solutions are secure ways to enable your workforce to work remotely from home on either personal devices or company owned equipment.  They can be centrally managed and rapidly deployed and configured.  DaaS is the go-to solution to get your new remote workers up and running.

Application Streaming

When there is a limited number of applications that need to be accessed remotely and securely, Amazon AppStream is a solid solution.  Existing applications are deployed quickly with your current authentication platforms.  It works well with mobile and browser-based platforms.

Remote Connectivity

VPN-as-a-Service can be used for rapidly scaling remote connectivity back to your corporate IT assets.  Using industry standards and best practices, you can get your workers access to what they need without the hassle of procuring and provisioning new hardware.

Operational Management

2nd Watch is an audited Managed Service Provider for both AWS and Azure.  We were born in the cloud and have a different perspective on how to manage your infrastructure based on our experience.  Not only can we design and build solutions for the unexpected, we know how to keep your infrastructure running, allowing you to focus on your business.

If we can help you prepare the best course of action for your business, please do not hesitate to include us in your planning.  We are committed to helping all of our businesses survive and thrive.

In the meantime, following are several tips for working remotely. We hope these are helpful, and that you and yours will be safe and healthy.

  • Stick to Your Routine – If you’re used to getting up early, keep doing it, even though you may be working from home. Maintaining a normal schedule will help you do your job to the best of your ability, and it’s the best way to ensure that your colleagues, customers and partners will be able to reach you.
  • Maintain Engagements and Connections – If you have meetings or appointments, do your best to keep them, but do so online. There are an abundance of collaboration and conferencing tools available, including Windows Virtual Desktop and Amazon WorkSpaces. They can help you stay connected and productive, wherever you are.
  • Be Healthy – If you’re not accustomed to working remotely, it can be tempting to feel added pressure to perform, which can lead to longer work hours and anxiety. Given the current level of anxiety most of us are feeling already, it’s more important than ever to take breaks, go for a walk, eat well and exercise.

Ian Willoughby, Chief Architect, 2nd Watch