COVID-19 Case Study Series Part 2 – Using the Right Digital Tools

How can technology help companies work through natural disasters such as COVID-19?

 Up until early 2020, work-life for many was routine and involved commuting into work, sending emails, face-to-face meetings, and catching up with colleagues and customers in person. But since the rapid COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, many organizations are leveraging new technologies to keep them moving forward. With offices around the globe, remote employees, and work-from-home policies, it can be increasingly challenging to maintain robust collaboration. Misinterpretation or missed thoughts can confuse teams. Thankfully with the advances of technology, there are several ways organizations can leverage technology to get them through pandemics such as COVID-19.

1.) Technology to Promote Communications:

One of the most essential tools businesses can utilize during this pandemic is videoconferencing. Video conferences provide users with the flexibility to join from almost anywhere. Users can join meetings from the use of their smartphone, tablet, laptop from home, or on the go. With society moving at an alarming rate, so too are competitors. Through the use of video conferencing, a team can quickly connect in a matter of minutes to troubleshoot an issue, brainstorm, have a creative session, and make a decision in a format that is as effective as an in-person meeting. Many conferencing platforms enable users to share screens to display a whiteboard of ideas and share content to add even more value to the conversation.

Here at MES, we have leveraged this technology for our teams to schedule daily and weekly touch bases. We’ve also incorporated daily team “hangouts” where teams can continue to work, and if a question arises, they can address it on the spot with their manager. Through video conferencing, it’s brought life for our remote employees. Body language, expressions, and excitement have resulted in many well-engaged meetings. There are many video conferencing systems to explore; Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, GoToMeeting, Webex, Zoom, and Lifesize.

2.) Technology for Instant Messaging & Document Sharing

Instant messaging is a lot more than just chat; it can revolutionize the way your people communicate and work together. According to many sources, instant messaging tools will rapidly become an essential medium of communication replacing email usage over the next decade. One of the most significant advantages of using this technology for business is saving time. With live chat for business, you can deliver, short and direct to the point messages. No need for any long-winded conversations that comes with a phone call, or the formality of an email. This makes IM ideal for fast-moving projects where you need to communicate quickly and make quick decisions. Transferring information at this speed means users can act on action items immediately. Which ultimately gives you an instant boost to productivity and efficiency.

There are several IM platforms to consider, including iMessage, What’s App, WeChat, QQ, Slack, Google messages, and many others. Adopting this type of communication tool for business is easy for employers, as employees can adapt to it without much resistance and training. Not to mention, it’s accessible from anywhere, and mobile-optimized platforms mean people can use it on the go. Another vital tool for remote working is document sharing.

Technology to share and collaborate on project documents is essential, especially for remote workers. Platforms such as Microsoft 365 (One Drive and Sharepoint) and Google Office Tools are the two leaders allowing the use of various spreadsheets, presentations, and document tools. Both offer users cloud space where document is stored, and multiple can work on them simultaneously to allow a high degree of collaboration. They provide users with the files they need at any time, and anywhere.

There are many other software tools, available to share documents such as Dropbox, Box, Copy, Team Drive, Amazon Cloud Drive are other tools available to share documents. However, all of them will need either Google or Microsoft to open, edit and update your project documents.

3.) Technology and software to manage your business operations and financials.

Another vital tool to help businesses get through the COVID-19 pandemic is ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning). ERP brings together a business’s core processes to run efficiently, such as finance, human resources, manufacturing, supply chain, forecasting, CRM, estimating, procurement, and others. This tool streamlines processes and automates a business’s core process to help the organization do more with fewer resources. ERP also provides valuable insights that are funneled through a single source that ultimately answers critical business questions. Reporting is another useful tool as part of ERP. Fast-tracking business and financial reporting that also is easily shareable amongst stakeholders. While businesses widely use ERP, many organizations are building their own internal portals and workflow software, which do a variety of internal processes and can be highly customized to their use.

There are several ERP system providers, but SAP, Oracle are the two leading system providers. They have products dedicated to various industries, size of the business along with add-on modules and third-party additions such as WMS (Warehouse management systems), CAD Product life cycle management, HR, Payroll, Logistics manager and many others.

4.) Automation Tools

To successfully manage disasters such as COVID-19, leaders need to have the right tools and processes in place. Not adopting tools, as mentioned above, can make it extremely difficult to implement during a crisis, but not impossible. Instead of a crisis paralyzing your operations and teams, embrace the change to revitalize your team and business. Successful leaders and managers will embrace rapid digitization as their number one priority for their teams and processes. Taking risks to investing in new tools to digitalize your business will pay rich dividends as this virus crisis goes away.

Summary of Popular Tools for Businesses

  • Communications Tools: GoToMeetings, Microsoft Teams, WebEx
  • Instant Messaging Tools: iMessage, What’s App, WeChat, QQ, Slack, Google Messages Technology to share documents: Microsoft OneDrive, Microsoft SharePoint, Google Drive, Amazon Cloud Drive, Box, Dropbox, Team Drive
  • Tools for Managing Financials – QuickBooks, SAP, Oracle, Microsoft Dynamics
  • Tools to Manage Payroll – Workday, ADP, Kronos, Gusto, On Pay, Paycor, Zenefits, BambooHR
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