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The New Normal – How 2020 Changed Business Forever
As businesses venture forward they must learn to navigate the uncertain waters of the new normal.
Businesses will have to include resiliency planning as they venture forward.
THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME: SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT THE NEW – NEW NORMAL

It surprised me. The first time that I heard a news broadcaster use the words “the new normal” in reference to the post COVID time frame made me stop and think. Here was a term first used following the financial crisis of 2008 and it’s aftermath. Until then, I was expecting everything to go back to how we had always known it.

I thought about it. I realized that the newscaster was right. COVID-19 has changed the way we do business – and life – forever. In the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic, many facets of the way we do business have shifted. Daily, we see our lives become more confined. The uncertainty of it all restricts us in many ways. It is too early to tell what all the permanent business ramifications will be. But there is change in the air. One thing is certain. This situation will expose corporate weaknesses and strengths. How the story unfolds for your business depends largely on how you navigate the waters ahead.

Look at the current impact of the virus on business operations. It’s clear that the shift toward the “new normal” has caused the adoption of certain technologies sooner and faster than ever expected. Here are 6 ways technology trends have changed for better or for worse.

What Has Coronavirus, and Our Reaction to it, Changed in Business Forever?
Online collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams enables people to connect from home, from the office, or anywhere else. Definitely part of the new normal.
Online collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams enables people to connect from home, from the office, or anywhere else.

1.      The way businesses view and handle remote workers has changed.

In this article from MarketWatch, we see some business benefits of allowing employees to work from home, such as taking advantage of a more diverse talent pool and flexibility in labor costs.

A great number of employees now working from home. They’ve been working from home for a prolonged period of time. Many companies will have to make adjustments and accept remote workers. Being able to transition to a home or remote office when problems arise will be the new normal. The bonus: the flexibility allows for a more productive and capable workforce.

Tool and technology that’s ready to go in either environment is a great way to support your team. It encourages autonomy and collaboration among teams. Get the job done, regardless of location. That’s the new normal.

·         Zoom or Microsoft Teams are cloud-hosted communications tools that allow for adhoc web meetings among different groups.

·         Trello is a great way for companies to work together on projects, allowing for integration into other subscription-based business apps like Google drive or Dropbox for sharing.

·         Slack is an attractive alternative to email, allowing single or team-based conversations that are searchable.

 

the new normal means Machine learning can be confused by weird behavior....they may be mislead because of unusual spending habits during a pandemic, but they will play a key role in mitigating the fallout from this pandemic and better prepare us for the next.
Machine learning models may be mislead because of unusual spending habits during a pandemic, but they might play a key role in mitigating the fallout from this pandemic. They’ll definitely minimize the impact of the next.

2.      The way businesses view and use artificial intelligence has changed.

Another trend that has been gaining more traction is the use of artificial intelligence (AI), specifically, machine learning. Being able to mine through the copious amounts of data we have on coronavirus is helping scientists and researchers find answers quicker than ever.

The use-case for machine learning (ML) is not limited to scientific research. Imagine being able to accurately forecast sales data. Or what if you could have a chatbot that could answer customer service inquiries 24/7 from your website?

ML has deep roots in cybersecurity. ML has the ability to analyze network traffic and detect anything seen as malicious. Many of the latest security tools incorporate AI/ML. They are able to learn the current cybersecurity posture of business systems. They can proactively combat malware threats.

The first step for a company is to vet, implement, and accept machine learning. This could be for a specific task or to provide general support to a department. Once this happens, the doors to advance technology swing open. The power of ML to benefit a company become apparent.

 

The new normal means a turning point for the way we work and learn. All because of the cloud.
Cloud technology has brought stability and flexibility to a world lacking both. Web-based platforms and services continue working without getting overwhelmed by the sudden rise of people going online to do business, work, or play.

3.      Acceptance of the public cloud infrastructure has changed.

With COVID-19 forcing businesses to rely on the cloud, company leaders that were once wary of public cloud infrastructure are now embracing it.

A recent CRN post reports cloud computing have enabled companies to scale business applications. And they’ve been able to do it reliably. Thanks to the minds behind Google, AWS, and Microsoft Azure, rapid scaling has been virtually trouble free.

Microsoft Azure alone has reported a 775% increase in usage of cloud services like Teams, PowerBI, and Windows Virtual Desktop.

Relying on a proven infrastructure is good. Doing it without managing physical server hardware is even better. It is more critical now than ever before.

Businesses that use a cloud infrastructure can scale back without incurring unneeded costs. If they are in a current downswing.

Remote work, SaaS applications, and Cloud Infrastructure are in high gear. The COVID-19 crisis will cause these trends to gain more traction and use. Companies will scale their services and solutions. Those that wing themselves from on-premises infrastructure will have the advantage. They may even elect to downsize physical office buildings. Or not. Having the choice is also an advantage.

The changes to business and technology brought on by COVID-19 are here to stay. There are significant business benefits from this course adjustment. The adoption of cloud-based technologies is one of them.

·         The ability to work from wherever is convenient and productive.

·         The capacity to deliver a solution that is always available – regardless of business demand or outside factors.

·         The freedom for a company to better align with its employees and customer needs.

4.      The competitive edge and viability of companies has changed forever.

People are forced to stay home more. They don’t want to risk exposure. They become reliant on delivery services like Door Dash, PostMate, and InstaGuard to get food and supplies. Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime are bigger than ever.

Who is losing out?

Restaurants by the thousands will struggle to climb out of the COVID-19 trauma. Some won’t make it. The franchise chains will. Cinema theaters across the country are currently closed, and some of them will not reopen. This will have an impact on how movies are exhibited. It will also impact what types of feature films are developed and financed. Fewer studios will be willing to take the risk of financing blockbuster movies. This is especially true of disaster movies. These are the movies that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make and market.

One night in early April, the Governor of New York summed up the problem, “The simplicity of it is so what makes it so tragic. Because we don’t have a piece of equipment somebody is going to die? How did we get to this place? In this county. We have to buy all our supplies from China? I can’t get protective equipment because China is making it? China is making the ventilators?”

But it’s not just medical supply chains that are being reconsidered. The coronavirus pandemic will also have long term effects on the tech hardware industry.

Parts needed to assemble various hardware and electronic products come from a multitude of sources. Most of them are overseas. A factory that makes television monitors doesn’t necessarily make the screens. The processing chips are made at a different factory. The power supply might be made at yet another factory. It’s all interconnected. If one factory is shut down, it impacts all the others down the line.

The entire system can grind to a halt. Having a supply chain that involves multiple nations like the United States and China will most certainly be re-evaluated. It’s better to have all the needed components of a particular name brand product to build closer to home. This will kill some tech manufacturing firms and enrich others.

The use of AI automation is going to make it more attractive for manufacturing to come back to the USA. That will shorten the length of supply chains while ensuring their security.

Apple’s already indicated that it won’t be able to make a sufficient supply of its Smartphones for the year. That’ll be true of other smartphone makers…some won’t make it. It has already begun.

The is Irony is that a virus that originated in China is ultimately helping China’s economy to bounce back. China has the capacity to manufacture much of the equipment needed in other parts of the world, including our own. Long term, many companies are going to be looking at diversifying their supply chain. They’ll avoid putting all their eggs in one basket.

 

the new normal will include remote work options
What ever shape the new normal takes, remote work will definitely remain part of the picture.

5.      Everyone in the company working in and from one building – or any company-owned building – has changed forever.

In an April 20th Fast Company article, several enterprise CEOs and influencers, including Jared Spataro (corporate vice president, Microsoft 365), agree that working from home and increased video conferencing will become the new normal.

Jared Spataro talks about the new normal for technology post pandemic
Jared Spataro is the Vice-President of Microsoft 365.

Jared Spataro is quoted as saying,“This time will go down as a turning point for the way people work and learn. We have a time machine as China navigates its return back to work—and we’re not seeing usage of Microsoft Teams dip. People are carrying what they learned and experienced from remote work back to their “new normal.” We’re learning so much about sustained remote work during this time.”

Business is not the only place where “from home” situations will continue well after COVID-19 has been conquered. Education is another sector that has changed forever. But what about all those families that don’t have basic access to the Internet at home? School shutdowns requiring students to take online courses widen the socio-education disparity in our society.

Sal Khan talks about the new normal and how it will affect business after COVID-19
Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy.

Sal Khan, founder and CEO of the educational nonprofit Khan Academy, said, “The need for online access and devices in every home is now so dire that it may finally mobilize society to treat internet connectivity as a must-have rather than a nice-to-have. We’re already seeing governments, school districts, philanthropists, and corporations step up to close the digital divide. If this continues to happen, we could get to a state of nearly universal online access at home.”

Sal Khan’s prediction is already happening in Singapore where universal Internet connectivity is nearly 100%. Universal Internet connectivity in Singapore is part of their Intelligent Nation 2015 and Smart Nation initiative. In August 2018, Ookia’s speed tests determined that Singapore’s broadband speed of 181.47 Mbit/s is the highest in the world.

6.      Our view of reliance on a single revenue stream – as a business and as individuals – has changed forever.

Will Lopez, head of accountant community at HR platform Gusto put it all into perspective when he said,

“This won’t be the end of brick-and-mortar store. Just as it won’t be the end of the digital cinema theater. These are important businesses. They help form the social fabric of our communities. But retail shops and restaurants will change the way they operate. The crisis has reminded people that they need to remain agile. It has reminded us to move with the times. Don’t be stuck with the old way of doing things.”

Where many of these shops have historically relied on foot traffic. These same shops will now develop ways to create alternative streams of revenue. For example, many restaurants will link up with delivery service platforms. They’ll expand their geographic reach. More boutiques will develop an online presence that reaches beyond their local neighborhoods.”

As we look ahead to the future to see the new normal, businesses have got to balance the weight on their shoulders.
Business leaders are too busy struggling to keep their operations going to wonder what the new normal will be like. We’ve got to get through this first.
IN CONCLUSION

The “new normal” will mean most companies will stall. Many will go out of business. The ones that do survive must continue to optimize the way they operate. They will have to rethink their business models moving forward. Supply chains have been disrupted. For many this experience has been a painful lesson. Companies will respond. They’ll have to. They will strengthen whatever back-up plans they have in place. If there are none. They will have to build them from scratch. This includes expanded work-at-home capabilities for more employees. They’ll have to consider options. Then they must position themselves to take advantage of those options.

New resiliency metrics will be rolled into valuations along with climate-related risks. The whole concept of resiliency will have the same importance as cost and efficiency. Resiliency is no longer a nice to have, but a necessity.

Individuals, communities, businesses, and governments are learning new ways to connect. Business leaders are finding faster, cheaper ways to operate. Conferences and meetings happen on online. Everybody that can has been working from home. These are positive changes. Better management. A more flexible staff.

Can we create a next new normal? One that will be better than what it replaced? Can we become agile enough to move even as the situation moves? Can we learn to address the challenges positively.  These will be a long-term questions for us all.

What innovations will there be to leverage?

What technologies will business leaders use to thrive in the “new normal?”

What Can Your AEC Firm Control During Times of Uncertainty?
Header Image & Image Description

What Can Your AEC Firm Control During Times Of Uncertainty?

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Author: John McMahon

Read time: 8min

 

Even as architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) companies anticipate project delays they are bracing for the unexpected. There’s the two trillion dollar infrastructure bill. Is it going to happen? Unless you’ve got a crystal ball, a lucky rabbit’s foot, and a divining rod all calibrated to the right frequency, your guess is as good as mine.

You rely on industry lobbyists to push infrastructure spending, Whether or when it happens, is out of your control. The big government money isn’t coming quickly. Coronavirus continues to cause volatility in every sphere. Nearly half of all AEC firms expect to be significantly impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Many anticipate their projects to be postponed. So, all of this begs the question. What can AEC firms control in a time of uncertainty?

 

 

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1. Today’s Work

I know that it sounds simplistic, but sometimes the simplest truths are the most important. Tomorrow we can’t control, so we have to focus on what we can do (and get done) today.

Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “The future depends on what you do today” — and he’s not wrong.

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2. Spending

Likely, your firm has already had to tighten its belt. Projects delayed and on hold are squeezing you. You can’t close the company wallet entirely while you ride out the storm.

Companies that choose their spending carefully will thrive. That’s true in general, but especially true during times like these. When things get back to normal, companies that choose to close their wallets and wait out the storm might find themselves behind. It might even be difficult to compete on a level playing field. Putting some financial resources into departments like marketing, internal sales, and human resources (searching for that perfect addition to the firm) during this time can pay off big.

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3. Technology Utilization

In our current work-from-home climate, architectural, engineering, and construction firms across the country – big and small – have had to lean on cloud technologies like VoIP phones and hosted desktops to keep workflow rolling. Cloud computing also helps them stay in touch with employees, vendors, sub-trades, and clients. Right now, technology is something that you can control. If what your firm has got now isn’t working for you, or if you want something better, better is out there! And you’d probably be surprised how quickly and easily it can all be implemented.

Most firms will continue to use the cloud-based technologies they have discovered during the COVID-19 pandemic long after the crisis has ended. So, taking the “technology bull” by the horns now and taking control of your future IT environment, is a good call (understatement).

If you’d like some advice or assistance in how your firm’s technology can be improved upon, the IronOrbit team would be glad to have that conversation with you.

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4. Care for Employees, Vendors, and Clients

The AEC firms that are going to come out ahead are the ones that focused on relationships. Relationship building is one of the things you can control. Anyone can pick up the phone or send an email to check in on a colleague or client – and you should. It’s good business. It’s also the kind of cement that can hold relationships together through thick and thin.

Steve Pavlina, author of Personal Development for Smart People, said, “Treat your business relationships like friendships (or potential friendships). Formality puts up walls, and walls don’t foster good business relationships. No one is loyal to a wall… except the one in China.”

By investing care, concern, support, and if needed financial resources into employees, vendors, and clients now, you foster a relationship that will pay dividends in terms of business when things get rolling again.

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5. Compliance

As hard as it is, compliance with federal and state closures, social distancing, and isolation is something that you have under your control.

As things begin to open again, those restrictions begin to relax. Implementing ongoing safeguards in the workplace is also under your control.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has changed the way the world looks at contagion, and the behavioral effects of the virus upon clients and employees alike will be with us for some time to come. There are sure to be an increased number of new safety measures.

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6. Charity and Cheer

Remember the last time all the employees or your firm pitched in to take on a project that benefited someone who needed help. Remember what it felt like? Call it the power of positive intent or just goodwill. It’s amazing what good it does for the morale of a firm.

This week, in our town, a truck will pull into the parking lot of the local Salvation Army Church. Because this is a time when some people have a scarcity of food supply. We will distribute 50,000 pounds of potatoes and French fries to folks who need them.

Why?

Because a farmer somewhere knew he could do something.

So, your AEC firm has no potatoes… No surprise there.

But with some thinking and a little imagination, I’m sure you can find some way to band together. Become helpful to someone less fortunate during this time – and there’s always someone less fortunate.

We’re all in this together. And ever-so-slowly, we’re coming out of this crisis together. There’s one thing the leadership of every AEC firm in the nation has under their control. They can choose to be charitable. They can nurture an attitude of cheer and possibility thinking among their employees.

Great Britain may have gotten through WWII with the motto, “Keep Calm and Carry On” but that stoic side of bravery has never been the American way. Instead, every crisis has seen business owners step up to the plate. They do what they can (charity and cheer). A happy warrior to assist in combating the enemy.

Today is no different.

Sure, you may not be able to give to every charity that you would like to support. Your firm may be one of the thousands across the USA that have had to apply for federal loans to keep afloat. It’s a tight spot we’re all in.

But we’re all in it together. It’s an expression you hear a lot nowadays, and it’s true.

These are difficult and uncertain times. You need a solutions provider who can partner with you. IT experts who can pivot and adjust to your needs as they change.

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How to Start a Business

Owning, operating, and building your own business provides satisfaction and pride. There are also risks and challenges. Not every start-up business succeeds. 

Many small business start-ups fail in just a few short years, if not sooner, according to the Small Business Administration. Don’t let that happen to you.  The time and effort you invest in working on your business before you get started working in your business will pay off handsomely.

You have to challenge yourself if you want to become a successful entrepreneur; and, of course, be willing to take some risks.

The Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute ranks the United States as the best place in the world to start a business. If you want to start in the Golden State, you’ll find yourself with another leg up. California boasts the highest startup survival rates in the nation at 82.3%. California has one of the highest rates of new entrepreneurship as well. Couple that success rate with year-round perfect weather, the most beautiful beaches in the world, Disneyland, and you’ll wonder why you never considered a startup in the first place! 

Of course, starting a new business on your own isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There are many things to take into account. There’s almost no way you’ll be an expert in all (or even most) of the skills required to start a successful business. Topics will vary depending on the type of business you intend to start. But here are 5 things which are an absolute must!

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