Time marches on and the world is settling into new patterns. We are starting to see a flattening curve in some jurisdictions and some economies are announcing phased reopenings.

Government funding, for the most part, has been designed and is being dispersed.

The economic impact of COVID-19 is deep and deepening and the human tragedy is unparalleled in history. This is an inflection point in our history.

While many are yearning and waiting for a return to normal, things will not be the same. New patterns are emerging, previous trends are amplified and behaviours that couldn’t be changed prior have changed overnight. I have compiled my observations into two sets; clear, obvious emerging patterns and changes such as increases in manufacturing automation and parking lots being turned into waiting lots, and non-obvious changes and patterns to consider.

Obvious Changes and Patterns

  • Manufacturing will see increased automation and robotics in the next 18 months that would have taken years to accomplish. Now due to social distancing and fluidity in the reliability of the workforce, manufacturing is being forced to increase automation. Investments in robotics and automation have skyrocketed to replace labour and get factories back to capacity. This will create more reliability and increases in supply in time. Even so…
  • Supply chains will move closer to home and the globalization trend will retract. This crisis has exposed how vulnerable the world is to disruption for basic inputs. There will be a counter-reaction to this, which is bringing the supply chain home and increasing inventories as insurance. This will create supply chain business opportunities and changes in materials management logic.
  • Remote work is here to stay. Since 37 percent of jobs can be done at home, according to a University of Chicago study, working from home may be the new norm post-pandemic. There is a mountain of other studies that point to increased productivity and quality of life, plus the reduction in costs for organizations. For a long time companies will not have a choice about remote work and with all the tools available to track accountability the old reason for “not knowing what the employee is doing” no longer applies. The outcome of this crisis is that bosses and employees will realize that work isn’t where you go, it is what you do. The negative impact of the forced march to the office are now too big to ignore. Expect general society push back if bosses demand a 100% return to work. A hybrid model will emerge.
  • Business Processes and Customer Experiences will digitalize. Prior to COVID-19, curbside pick up was a novelty and a “nice marketing tactic to do.” Now, no matter the size of the business, it has been spun up in weeks, leapfrogging years of painful progress in this direction. Overnight, parking lots have been converted into waiting lots. The pace of this change will break down barriers for further change. The old guard that had resisted digitization is now chanting “change or die!” Expect the pace of adoption to be brisk and an arms race to occur as brands grapple to provide the easiest, seamless, digital experience…which leads to…

Non Obvious Changes and Patterns

  • The current poor CX will not be tolerated much longer. As businesses spin up quick, yet clunky, “touchless” digital experiences, customers are tolerant of the bumps in the journey – for now. This will change as leaders emerge and set the bar higher for all. Happily, the tools are in place for all brands, big and small, to move their business online and thus their CX online. As stated above, there will be an arms race and this is the battleground of customer service. Now more than ever, how easy and safe it is to do business counts as much or more compared to the price and product features. Organizations now need to map these newly created customer journeys and augment them with technology.
  • On the ship and off the ship matters more. The gig economy had been roaring and low was the sad employee shackled to a day job. If you didn’t have a “side hustle” you were an unambitious fool. The script has flipped with contractors cut en mass in order to save these same lowly full-time employment jobs. Now the security of full employment is more coveted and appreciated than ever before. Expect employers to have their pick of who to hire and wage pressures will be all but eliminated in most cases….and yet…
  • Leadership will be held to account. This will happen immediately in some cases as poor crisis management will lead to business closures, but of those businesses that survive, their actions during this time to staff and customers will be remembered. Perhaps not much can happen now to punish bad behaviour, but with social and word of mouth being increasingly powerful in today’s digital age, those stories will emerge in time. Payment in full will occur.
  • Tech Utilities will become even more entrenched. Yep, Tech Utilities: Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Alibaba, these and more will become so entrenched that they will be like the utility companies of old, unassailable, unmoveable, perhaps even untouchable. This bodes ill for the billions of users in which the new normal depends on their services. We know some of the bosses believe in the greater good while others not so much. These organizations will be influencing our society and “writing” many of the rules of new commerce.

My hope is you can reflect on these changes and trends to help you navigate the way forward for your organization.