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Who doesn't love a good science project?
I'm not talking about your 7th grade tri-fold poster board for school, I'm talking about using technology in any of its forms to make your life or the lives of those close to you easier. Those of us who guide innovation in our companies understand the value of the products and services we’ve brought to fruition, even though, at the outset of development, many around us saw our work more as mere science projects. Here are a few examples:
Video & voice conferencing/communication
Initially, video and voice conferencing was just a glorified way to keep employees from having to stand up from their desks and walk to a conference room. Of course, its intent was to help multi-location companies work better together in real time. And for the relatively few companies whose employees are 100% remote, this technology’s capability is realized to its fullest.
Now that coronavirus has emerged as a global threat, we’re living in a world where some of the largest companies like Twitter, Microsoft and Amazon are mandating their employees work from home to prevent virus spread.
What started as a science experiment has enabled a remote-first approach to building companies and managing people — as well as a way to keep employees from getting sick.
Email has been a fixture in business for decades, but now represents only a portion of the written communication channels utilized in most businesses today. Tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams provide a real-time, persistent "chat" feature for individuals and teams. These tools initially saw adoption inside of technical teams solving developer challenges, but are now accepted channels of communication throughout the entire company.
Most companies have implemented a VPN strategy to ensure that remote employees can still access corporate IT resources while keeping in-transit data encrypted. These IT resources could include internal applications, intranet sites and authentication. This capability has been extended today to a portion of known remote workers that traditionally has been a subset of the entire employee base.
Most companies have figured out VPNs and security, but only for these smaller audiences. As of this writing, some of the larger technology companies have either stated that their employees are to work from home or are actively testing their business continuity plans by leveraging work-from-home tests at a large scale.
Moving past the science project
Events like today’s coronavirus precautions are often the catalysts that move us from the science project phase of innovation to business as usual. Many companies have incorporated remote access and work-from-home scenarios into their business continuity plans, but now there’s a reason to test these plans at scale. When it's suddenly no longer an option to work within a crowded office building, an organizations tech, tools and teams can become its saving grace.
This latest health scare may not be the one that really takes us out of our comfort zone but treat it as though it is. Take it as a warning that literally almost anything can upset our business routines. Technology leaders should use this as a time to prove how IT solutions help companies work better and smarter from anywhere. And as we look back on this scare in the days and weeks to come and start to assess whatever damage results from it, help your leaders see how technology helped to carry your company through the event by keeping employees connected and by moving work forward. Then, with this as a backdrop, help your leaders evolve their focus to the art of the possible. Paint a picture of how technology can not only help the company survive — but thrive.