It’s been roughly two months since the Covid-19 pandemic has forced everyone into quarantine. Although the situation is ‘exceptional’, it’s nonetheless starting to feel like a familiar sort of exceptionalism, something you don’t really remark as much anymore. To be sure, in the beginning of the year, as a member of the EA team I was working hard together with my colleagues to ensure business continuity. Novozymes is a biotechnology company that specializes in the research and production of enzymes and microbiological organisms as well as pharmaceutical ingredients. As such, we absolutely had to remain operational and continue to deliver to our customers, even as full blown pandemic measures were taking effect.
As a mature, global company we had a number of digital initiatives solidly in place, so – and this was key – we weren’t caught unprepared. What did happen was mostly we had to help with the prioritization and scaling of capabilities that supported business crucial processes (VPN, online communications capabilities etc.), which was successfully achieved. As a result, our company didn’t suffer any kind of delays or other negative impacts. Now the more challenging times that we experienced at the start of the year are behind us.
However, what I think is important at this point in the story is how we think of the future. Personally, I believe the Covid-19 crisis will change business practices and expectations quite a bit. I’m sure there are organizations out there that think otherwise. They may see what’s happening now as a kind of parallel timeline and they look forward to getting back to the old, normal way things were. One could say they’re moving forward by looking behind, eagerly expecting to see things return to normal.
But as far as I’m concerned, I think these events will in fact have longer lasting effects than most folks expect. And I think the only way for organizations to move forward successfully is to actually look ahead, taking notice of what the marketplace and wider world are like, and accepting the new state of affairs.
Once you’re no longer in denial, so to speak, you can start to adapt and innovate within the new paradigm. Yes, it’s a new world. Things are different, we’re dealing with changed needs – nonetheless, let’s see how we can make the most out of it. Once we turn on the engines of creativity and approach it seriously, we are bound to come up with interesting, exciting solutions as an answer to the new wave of challenges. And we enterprise architects are perfectly positioned to help come up and operationalize these. What new challenges will we come across, and more importantly, how will we overcome these? Some thoughts already come to mind as a result of personal experience.
If we have a significant number of our employees working from home, maybe we need to address the lack of interaction. Collegiality is definitely important aspect of work for many of us. How do we enhance the social aspect of work given that people may no longer able to be in each other’s physical presence? Corporate culture may have to change. New activities, resources, processes might have to be dreamed up in order to ensure the social cohesion of the enterprise. Additionally, it may very well be that current communications platforms are a step below what we need if we are to make generalized WFH policies a real thing. That’s an area where established players can look to innovate, or perhaps we’ll see new companies show up that will address the limited nature of your average online video session. Everything is possible with enough creativity, will, and of course a good incentive.
And what about instances where the business must have its people ‘on the shop floor’? In those scenarios too, new routines will have to be imagined, new applications and technologies put forward to safeguard health concerns. It is my belief that companies who will accept the challenge early on and look for ways to address it, rather than hope everything gets back to normal as soon as possible, these companies will win big in the long term.
The Covid-19 crisis has made things more difficult for everyone. This obstacle, however, is an opportunity for the organizations that will find ways to overcome it. Once on the other side, they are bound to start distancing themselves from competing organizations who have yet to either find a winning formula that accounts for the new restrictions/challenges, or fully commit themselves to the new normal.