Technology companies and the new working world

14/04/2020 How we live and work has seemingly changed overnight. With much of the world in lockdown, people and businesses are turning to technology to keep them going, whether it’s the surge in video chats, trials of app-based medical advice or growing interest in online food delivery kits.

Yet, as people log on from home more than ever it’s inevitable that questions will arise over the safety of their connections. And as the economic impact of Covid-19 remains to be assessed, companies will be looking to cut costs, even when it comes to innovation.

In response, technology companies need to prove their products are far more than add-ons, and, in fact, they are workplace ‘must haves’ in times of crisis.

Before and after Covid

It is now clear that, once the effects of Covid-19 lessen, we will always refer to ‘before Covid’ and ‘after Covid.’ And as technology companies navigate the in-between, there is cause for optimism. Tools like video chat (for personal and professional use) and data storage are essential to keeping us connected. 

Providers of cloud data storage systems are relied upon more than ever: businesses offering long-term SAAS subscriptions will receive orders for more licenses and greater amounts of storages as people migrate to long-term working from home.

Similarly, providers of collaboration tools like video and instant messaging have experienced a surge in demand: The Guardian reported that Zoom was downloaded 2.13m times around the world on 23 March, the day the lockdown was announced in the UK – up from 56,000 a day two months earlier, referring to data from Apptopia.

Cybercrime and security on the rise

This is also an opportunity for cyber security providers: the amount of phishing emails, for instance, quadrupled in March according to cybersecurity firm FireEye. In a recent joint statement, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre warned, “The surge in teleworking has increased the use of potentially vulnerable services, such as virtual private networks (VPNs), amplifying the threat to individuals and organisation.”

Internal controls and safeguarding measures designed for a world of intermittent home working will not be enough for the present working reality. Now is the time for cyber security providers to prove their capabilities and make clear to customers how they can protect them online, including the options available for greater protection. These must include internal control frameworks that ensure new ways of working are done safely.

Urgency mode

Much of the technology world is currently in urgency mode: some firms are facing unprecedented revenue losses and in response are postponing innovation projects, including occasions when they are cut completely. In times of crisis, it’s understandable that leaders deprioritise ‘nice-to-haves’, which is why technology companies need to demonstrate how their products are ‘must haves.’

Leaders need to explain to clients how their services can help them during this crisis and rebound in the new working world. For example, do they have access to secure signatures for legal documents? Should they be using blockchain for contracts? And how are they managing people remotely for the foreseeable future? Do not hypothesise what their budget cuts might, or might not, be - doing that will take you down a dead end.

Financing, people and government support

As technology companies help their clients navigate the crisis, they need to manage their own survival. If their customers make cuts, some will need to seek financing over the coming months: possibly through their shareholders, their parent company or bringing on new investors. On the other hand, this could be the time for cash-rich companies to acquire those that are struggling.

As the crisis continues, technology companies I have dealt with have been quick to – rightly – make people their first priority. The two subsequent priorities should be their financing and their clients. Moving forwards, tech firms will need to adapt to new regulatory landscapes as governments adjust legislation and state support in response to the consequences of Covid-19. Well-versed in moving with the times (if not shaping them completely) leaders of technology companies are in a good position to make the most of new economic environments.

After Covid

Technology companies know that 2020 will be defined by the difficulties that Covid-19 created and exacerbated. As they look to a possible working life after the virus, leaders should consider the opportunities that may arise from people being forced to modify their habits. More people working remotely, moving aspects of their professional and personal lives online for the first time, and gaining greater awareness of technology’s capabilities could lead tech companies into a new commercial chapter. Internally, firms may be able to unite their people around the common adversities they faced during Covid-19 and look forward to the next objectives together.

Technology companies have – after all - long rejected ‘business as usual.’ In a time of crisis, they should not only be seen as ‘must have’ suppliers to their customers, but also the firms who could shape a better future for all of us, at home and at work.