Work, culture and the cloud – what 2020 has taught us

- October 16, 2020 3 MIN READ

We’ve learned a lot this year. Businesses have had to deal with numerous challenges brought on by lockdowns, health concerns and remote working. We have seen businesses shift focus or completely rethink their business model. A third of the country’s working population had to adapt to the working from home reality – with mixed results, writes Jason Toshack, General Manager ANZ at Oracle NetSuite.

The road ahead is unknown, as business leaders balance immediate priorities with long term plans. As we look back on the year so far, what are the lessons we can draw from? And how can those lessons make us better prepared for what’s to come?

There’s no crystal ball for the future of work

Conversations about ‘the future of work’ are top of mind at the moment. Several surveys indicate that employees want some sort of work from home, hybrid, or flexible arrangement. Several businesses have announced they will allow employees to work from home permanently, while others are forging ahead with plans to expand offices. Others have a more ‘wait and see’ outlook, making short-term plans while the future is unpredictable.

What is interesting is how operating in ‘the cloud’ has been a topic of renewed discussion. Whatever work model businesses adopt in the long-term, working in the cloud is becoming not just a nice to have but a must have. The cloud offers real-time connectivity which can effortlessly power flexible working and collaboration.

According to a report by LogicMonitor, 87% of IT leaders believe the COVID-19 pandemic is causing organisations to accelerate their migration to the cloud. The same report reveals that “only 36% of global IT decision-makers feel that their IT infrastructure is ‘very prepared’ to withstand a crisis.” It is clear that the cloud is seen as a way to build in much-needed resilience and agility to weather the storm.

The popularity of the cloud is sure to herald an era where more entrepreneurs and business owners will start a company or manage their operations and teams from any geographic location.

Businesses are, and will, turn to data and analytics to navigate uncertainty

With a strong upwards trend to cloud adoption, data – and the insights that can be gleaned from it – will be championed as a tool to navigate uncertainty with clarity. An international report found that almost half of respondents said, “analytics were more, or much more, important than before COVID-19.” The insights from data are being used to “support customers, predict future outcomes” and identify new opportunities.

This aligns with the renewed focus on cloud. As businesses invest in cloud capabilities, investing time into using data effectively is a logical progression. It’s easy to see why. Gut-led decision making in a time of such tremendous change is ineffective. It may work in the short-term but is not sustainable. Businesses that prioritise data, and enable organisational transparency around such data, will be empowered to respond as needed. For example, retailers who are boosting their ecommerce presence will be armed with the purchasing insights on what customers want, where and how – especially important as we enter the end of year busy season which is expected to look quite different than the years before.

Employee engagement and culture is a critical concern

Work/life balance, burnout and mental health are important considerations, and these have seen an increased focus over the past couple of months. A recent survey of Australian’s found that 68% of respondents expressed concern for their mental health – a worry that outweighed fears about job security.

As business leaders assess future working arrangements, they need to keep employee engagement, culture and support top of mind. The Black Dog Institute suggests several strategies to support employees during a difficult period (and beyond) including offering practical support, providing access to trusted information about COVID-19 and mental health strategies and offering technology-enabled mental health services like telehealth consultations.

Empathy is our greatest ally during this time. As ‘R U OK’ day recently reminded us, reaching out to support our peers, friends and families as we all navigate many challenges is essential.

2020 has been a time of great change and new thinking. Many ‘traditional’ ways of working and doing business have been temporarily or permanently upended. No one can say with absolute certainty how these changes will translate into the future, but a few trends are clear. Cloud will power businesses looking to build resilience and agility, employee engagement will come to the fore as a key priority and the value of data-driven insights will continue to grow.

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