The virus that changed how we do business

Wednesday May 13 2020
By JOHN WALUBENGO

It may look a bit too early to think about the post-coronavirus era, but that is exactly what enterprises must do if they are to avoid extinction.

Just the way the 9/11 terrorist attack changed the air-transport and the security sector in general, this pandemic is going to do the same for the private and the public sectors.

The way we work, shop or play has already begun to change. It is unlikely that after the virus has been contained, people will go back to their traditional routines.

If I can order my groceries online and get them delivered within the hour at my door step, it would be difficult to resume my old routing of fighting traffic jam just to get to the mall and pick up my groceries. Shopping online may therefore become the new normal – at least in urban areas.

DIGITAL PROCESSES

Those supermarkets that will not have put in place digital processes to reflect this new reality will find themselves with less customers and eventually face the inevitable decision to shut down operations.

The education sector, particularly at tertiary levels is also going to face similar challenges.

Those universities that have put on hold learning and those that have adopted eLearning will have different outcomes, when this virus finally runs its course.

Universities that have developed and put in place digital systems and processes to support remote learning will not only survive the pandemic, but may discover new revenue streams through their distance learning departments.

If this crisis goes beyond a year, students from universities that have shutdown operations will abandon these analog institutions and explore ways of joining those that are able to support eLearning.

And, just like the supermarket example, there are likely to be winners and losers in the educational sector.

What of the workplace?

Whereas the private sector is more familiar with digital platforms for meetings, the public sector is not.

Indeed many public sector procedures are heavily analog and are yet to recognise minutes from online meetings as a true record of events.

ALLOWANCES

Furthermore, most meeting allowances are centered on physical aspects such as mileage, face to face attendance, meals, accommodation and others that kick in when the big parastatal chiefs meet.

For such a crop of leaders, you cannot tell them to meet online using Skype or whatever else you think is innovating enough – unless you address how their allowances will remain in place.

For them the issue may not be so much the technology, it is more about the bread and butter things that come along with face-to-face meetings.

If we expect the traditional public sector processes to move online, we must be ready to address this elephant in the room by reviewing the procedures and processes that are largely build around the physical way of transacting organisational businesses.

Human resource processes must be overhauled to reward work done and delivered, rather than just the time physically spent in hotels, boardrooms or offices.

The post-coronavirus era is coming.

Organisations that do not prepare adequately for it, will find that they are ill-equipped to survive in the new environment and will be facing possible extinction.

Mr Walubengo is a lecturer at Multimedia University of Kenya, Faculty of Computing and IT.

Email: [email protected], Twitter: @Jwalu