The Coronavirus pandemic is an uncomfortable reminder both of how puny we are as human beings and how vulnerable our social and commercial structures are to a stateless, invisible and highly proficient invader – one that is also apolitical, atheist and not seeking any material gain that we can recognise. In just a few short weeks, and without making a sound, our new enemy has succeeded in wrecking the world’s most powerful economies.
The good news is that we have started to turn the tide. However, our heroes on this occasion are not only soldiers, but doctors, nurses, care workers and people like Captain Tom Moore. Our weapons are not missiles or guns, but science and technology. The truth is that, for all the distress and mayhem they cause, wars have a habit of accelerating progress.
More effective than a thousand slick advertising campaigns, people and businesses are engaging with technology as never before. At UnitBirwelco, for example, I believe that communications across our group have improved at least tenfold. Using Microsoft’s ‘Teams’ hub has enabled management to hold senior level meetings two or three times a week with the majority remaining safely offsite. Sales meetings that are usually planned quarterly are now held weekly.
We have taken to using large screens to view technical drawings that would otherwise require a meeting with people gathered round a table. Even external inspectors have been able to carry out work that would normally be done on site by using video. The time savings for all parties have been huge.
I have even managed to recruit a Business Development Manager without ever meeting him face to face. Perhaps not the process I would choose normally, but nevertheless it has been very efficient, especially since we are based 110 miles apart.
Many of our customers have also been quick to see the benefits. I have had entirely satisfactory meetings with contacts across the UK as well as in places as far away as Qatar and Libya. Distances and borders are becoming irrelevant.
Perhaps we have been lucky as a group; our decision to upgrade all our IT systems last year has certainly proved fortuitous – especially in light of Covid-19, but also in dealing with the growing menace of cybercrime. But the main point is that, when calm is finally restored, it is difficult to see how we can go back to the way we ran things before either in business or as a society. There is a silver lining.