Covid 19 pandemic has changed our lives in ways much more than one. It has literally touched almost every aspect of our lives. On the one extreme, it has devastated our economies and on the other it has given us a chance to focus on the most important things in our lives, ourselves and our relationships with our loved ones – something we missed while running the rat race of life.
The biggest gift of this lockdown according to me, besides putting us back in touch with our selves and our loved ones, is the push it has given to take us to Digitalization 2.0. It’s an orbit shift. Being in the IT Industry and being a strong exponent of Digitalization, I am fully aware that Digitalization is not new. The journey has started almost a decade back. But according to me, these 2+ months of lockdown has pushed it forward way more than what we had achieved in the past few years. As the saying goes ‘necessity is the mother of invention.’
While almost all aspects of our lives have been touched by this Digitalization wave, the highest impact has happened in the fields of
- Distant working and distant learning
- Online and contactless payment
- e-commerce and contactless shopping.
These three areas have touched almost everyone and helped us stay safe through the lockdown while managing our work and home. For the purpose of this article I will focus only on the first, while the second and third will be covered in a sequel.
Working from home, as a concept, is pretty well known. But it had a lot of negative stigma attached to it, especially in India and hence it never really took off in a way that would make business sense for the organizations. But the Lockdown has proven all nay sayers wrong. So many people are working from home, with equal if not better output, and also working collaboratively with their colleagues sitting in another location. And this collaborative distant working is happening seamlessly. And this is thanks to Video conferencing tools like Zoom, Google Meet, MS Team etc. and also the internet which is getting stress tested like never before.
And is it only work from home? The kids are all doing full-fledged school from home. Given the fact that this is a generation of Digital Natives, they took no time to get on to one of the tools and get started with class studies, presentation or homework submission and in some cases even group projects. And it doesn’t stop there, most co-curricular classes are also going on seamlessly – again thanks to the video conferencing tools and the internet connectivity. And of course the kids’ diligence.
And what happened as a result of these? The usage of these videoconferencing tools suddenly increased manifold, and out came many glitches that needed immediate resolution. All these software vendors did a great job of ironing out these glitches to make our lives smoother. If you remember the clamour at the beginning for the lockdown, you’ll definitely remember umpteen complains about performance and many small features which were nice-to-have in the pre-lockdown era but became must-haves during lockdown. Do we hear the same level of clamour? No. Yes a part of it is because we get used to issues, but more importantly many have been ironed out. So we are more ready to continue distant working and learning, seamlessly, post lockdown too.
And what about the internet? Did any of the service providers anticipated this kind of usage ever before? As a result of this extreme usage, the glitches got ironed out, the need for improving the bandwidths became clear and most of data connectivity providers have already started on it and finally the icing on the cake is that with such large scale usage we can expect better pricing in the near future. And by simple rule of economics, we should see even more usage as the price comes down.
I can totally see many organizations continuing this work from home for a large section of their employees. Companies like EXL, Salesforce, Policybazar and even TCS have already announced that a major chunk of their employees will continue to work from home even post lockdown. Anticipating this to be a trend, we have seen HCL Technologies, on May 18th, launching a Virtual Distributed Agile framework to help enable enterprises to accelerate their digital transformation. This framework is supposed to help large enterprises ensure digital acceleration, even with remote enabled workforce and partner/ vendor network. Did we even think about such a framework prior to the lockdown? Guaranteed this is just the start, and we will see many many more.
Now let’s think about the current phase of gradual opening up of the lockdown. This is offering us with another chunk of digitalization in our everyday worklife. We are seeing organizations installing something as simple as automated sanitizer installer, to contactless checking at the entry gates (replacing the biometric checks) to monitoring tools to give out alerts if the norms of social distancing is not maintained. And so on and so forth. Everyday, as more and more workplaces are opening up, we are seeing more and more innovations in this area – innovations to make our worklife in office premises safer or our worklife at home more effective.
Aren’t we already in a new world, much more advanced in terms of digitalization, compared to the world we had before this lockdown hit us? Now let’s just keep experiencing where it takes us.