How “the new normal” will affect leaders’ agendas after COVID-19

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COVID-19 has encouraged businesses and society to accelerate their digital leap. There will be no going back once the pandemic is over.

COVID-19 has restructured people’s daily lives both at work and outside work. After the initial shock, both individuals and businesses are looking to the future and adapting to “the new normal”.

In this blog, I would like to raise some of the positive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that exists, despite the difficult times we are all facing as major parts of our lives have been turned upside down.

Thus, it has been delightful to observe how prepared businesses and society have been for the digital leap already before the pandemic. In March, when millions of people around the world started working from home, everything played out without major disruptions. We are clearly more prepared for the digital era than we thought. COVID-19 became the driver for the digital leap that no one could ignore.

On a global level, IBM charted how everyday life in the era of COVID-19 can be seen in the tasks on managers’ and leaders’ agendas. The study also investigated the themes business directors will be working with when they are defining “the new normal” of their business:

How will the actions required by “the new normal” be taken into account in the medium-term planning of businesses?

Get to know the solutions offered by IBM in more detail.

Empowering remote employees are key

Even though the flight from offices caused by COVID-19 will not last forever, COVID-19 will also continue to transform the ways of working after the restrictions are lifted.

At IBM we estimate that the share of employees who will regularly work from home will increase – despite already being relatively high before the pandemic. The requirements for offices and their spatial needs will transform as some work duties are performed efficiently at home offices and group work in multipurpose spaces. This will result in smaller offices and replacing groups of desks with multipurpose spaces.

In that sense, the role of “the new normal” ways of working that have been used so far will not disappear, and HR must ensure that their services are available for everyone, also via digital channels.

As an example, the onboarding of a new employee can be used to illustrate the point. Simply setting up a functional internet connection and software that supports remote working is not enough. Instead, we also have to think about how a new employee can enter the organizational culture, and how online social interaction can be set up to cover unofficial communications and coffee table discussions.

Furthermore, businesses should also invest in the digitalization of HR processes. IBM uses HR chatbots to help the personnel. The bots make holiday reservations on behalf of employees in the systems and help them with everyday questions by utilizing a massive amount of data. In total, digitalization will certainly continue to accelerate in many functions, including HR, as a result of COVID-19 – regardless of the sector.

Increased digitalization helps to listen to the customers

In the future, sales and marketing management will have to discuss new methods to make customer acquisition alongside face-to-face meetings as this with not always be an option. In its report, IBM predicts that customers who are used to virtual communications will not entirely want to return to the old normal.

Digital sales events, training/education, and webinars will also continue after the COVID-19 pandemic, and as the offering increases, they must be genuinely interesting to customers. Aditionally, the situation has also led to positive pressure for businesses to listen to their customers more carefully.

Thus, the significance of digital content and channels is increasing especially in new customer acquisition, and the cooperation between marketing and sales will grow even closer. Reviewing leads from digital channels and social media must be taken to a new level of precision so that we can contact a potential new customer with an interesting proposition at the right time. Only relevant content will catch the customer’s eye.

Scaling, automation and protection is crucial

With COVID-19, both businesses and society were snapped awake and understood that their operations must become more agile and scalable. Regardless of the sector, flexibility up and down has been required. One way of gaining flexibility in both operations and costs is to lean onto cloud-produced pay-as-you-go services. Process automation and introducing smart features will support the decrease of manual labor. 

Everyone has witnessed the influx of applications in different government agencies during the pandemic, and this workload could be significantly decreased by introducing smart solutions to the process through automation and AI. On the corporate side, there is a growing interest in migrating applications that are critical for business operations to the cloud.

Different threats to data security have multiplied during the COVID-19 pandemic. Data is transported online in unparalleled amounts, and systems’ vulnerability to external attacks have been put to the real test.

However, many businesses are ill-prepared for data security threats. You can compare cyberattacks to a coronavirus pandemic in the virtual world. The attacks come as a surprise, and it is never possible to perfectly prepare for them.

Hence, IBM’s unit working with customer data security is up to their ears in work at the moment and it is extremely important for us at IBM to emphasize the significance of data security when planning the digital leap.

Get to know the six points that will take you forward and let you dig deeper into the necessary actions.

Cut production costs, ensure the transparency of supply chains

A stable cash flow will protect businesses in exceptional situations like COVID-19. Many businesses’ supply chains are packed with go-betweens, and the businesses have no understanding of what these go-betweens do. This is a risk for business operations.

Often, the view of the supply chain is lost after the first partner in the supply chain. Currently, businesses desperately seek more transparency in supply chains in order to maximize their efficiency and to mitigate any possible risks caused by challenges in availability. There must be items on shop shelves to keep the cash flow even.

Such challenges with transparency can potentially be solved with different technologies, such as blockchains, IoT, and AI. Sectors with shorter supply chains, such as coffee production, are pioneers in transparency. In a café, a consumer can track the journey of beans from a farm to a coffee cup by utilizing blockchains. Nowadays, also sectors with long supply chains, such as retail and industry, are interested in improving the transparency of supply chains because it has a direct effect on cash flow. Businesses must be able to predict the functionality of their supply chain and cash flow.

When will the time after COVID-19 start?

Even though we are already casting glances towards “the new normal”, society has not yet beaten the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus will not disappear from the world before an effective antidote is invented. At IBM we support the discovery of medication to COVID-19 by giving the computing power of our supercomputers to the use of research. After all, we have to find medication for COVID-19 so that we can move forward and enter the time after the pandemic properly.

What does “the new normal” mean from the perspective of business? Get to know IBM solutions.

Executive Partner, Leader Cloud Application Services Nordic

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