PPE Set To Be The Biggest Workplace Change in a Century
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PPE Set To Be The Biggest Workplace Change in a Century

Category: Development
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“Do you believe that it's best to be ahead of major business changes or wait to see what happens?”

I was asked that by a business reporter recently and I immediately said, “Be ahead of course!”

"So what did I think would change most after this was all over," he pressed.

I had to think about that one for a bit, mainly because although I am a gambler, I’m not a betting man and a question like that has quite a wide margin for error. To paraphrase the economist John Kenneth Galbraith, "The only function of forecasting is to make astrology look respectable" so the chances of looking like an eejit by getting it spectacularly wrong with an off the cuff prediction didn’t appeal.

In the good old days (about 9 months ago) I loved to go salmon fishing. Anyone with a similar affliction will know that old ghillie’s trick: when you approach a new beat they will walk you through it and inevitably say: “Just cast your fly there sir, there’s always a fish in that pool.”

Of course, 9 times out of 10 it is dead water but on that magical one time that there is a fish, well you forget the other 9 and tell everyone in the hut that the ghillie is a genius and knows the river like the back of his hand.

So on the basis that I might get one thing right and be forever remembered as a visionary, I thought I would give it a go after a bit of time to think through the scope of it all.

Of course there are lots of pundits weighing in now on the BIG CHANGES; everything from the recovery time for air travel and global tourism to the increase in tequila sales in the UK (up 175% apparently). The sheer amount of change we are all experiencing is often hard to comprehend, even for inveterate change-lovers like myself.

In order to reduce that scope (and the attendant margin of error) therefore, I thought I would zoom in on three rapidly changing environments that have resonance for our business and our clients.

PPE

The first change I see is the rise in the use and demand for low-level PPE equipment: masks, goggles/visors, gloves, sanitisers etc. As workers start to go back to workplaces, many nervous employers are looking closely at how they can improve their safety as we all come to terms with living with this virus. Having developed an online Portal that manages employee workwear and uniform ordering (used by Caledonian McBrayne, Irish Prison Service, Aer Lingus to name drop just a few) it became clear pretty quickly that PPE, for the purposes of software, is just another form of worker apparel and so we are repurposing and repositioning that product now for what might very well be an important market sector. We have already had enquiries from the USA and Australia so we may just be on to something.

Customer Service

The second is the challenge of improving customer service in a socially distanced world. I am not talking about the 2mtr rule specifically, but the wider need to up our games in the way that customers are looked after online. Many companies have Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems already in place, but I think any straw poll will tell you that the amount of rigour that is applied to the processes and data therein is inadequate to the demand of the New Digital Normal. These processes will all need to be revisited and sharpened up. Customers will expect more to be done remotely and will need to have access to simple, auditable, easy to follow online processes for a huge variety of situations. The same level of rigour that has always been applied to online finance systems will now have to be applied to CRM systems.

Web Presence

The final area of change is in the way that everyone will have to think about their digital presence and how they use the web. I have written already about this New Digital Normal but I feel it important to put some meat on the bone. It is no longer about sticking a shopping cart on your site and trying to sell product. That just isn’t good enough anymore; and anyway, fewer businesses were doing it well than you might think. This New Digital Normal is about how you can express the individuality and creativity of your business. It will be an end-to-end customer focused experience aimed at transforming how you engage with the customer.

Get Creative

To give you just one example of the thinking, a fashion house we work with in New York have seen their entire sales chain collapse. None of the stores are buying stock: they may take consignment stock with no up-front payment but the risks associated with that are legion as you may imagine. So the owner is working with us on a completely new digital strategy to reach out directly to her market with a completely virtual store and virtual changing rooms where clothes can be tried on size specific avatars.

Another client (this time in Mexico) was the premier Event Management company in her area; that business is gone and unlikely to return. So, some brainstorming with her has set the ball rolling on a new project to build a new business using a Dark Kitchen approach to prepare gourmet standard food complete with everything needed for people to essentially run their own smaller scale events in their homes (Mexico is not so tightly locked down as we are and the many American ex-pats who are her client base are still partying away – same world, different planet). Her online presence will have to be at the centre of this – we are not talking JustEat or Deliveroo here.

Will these ideas come to fruition? Who knows – but their creative and innovative approach to the problem and how digital technology will facilitate that will definitely drive new opportunities for both of them. Standing still in the hope that it will all work out in the end is simply not an option.

That old aphorism, “If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got” won’t work in the post-Covid19 world: perhaps it will prove to be “If you do what you always did, you’ll get swept away by the ch-ch-ch-changes.”

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About The Author

After 33 years of running my own IT businesses, I've seen trends come, go...and come back again. With each business I've been involved in, the focus has always been on building in value for my customers. I was honoured to receive an OBE for my services to Scottish business in 2018.

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