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How can technology businesses make a safe return to business?

Miriam Murphy, senior vice-president at Tech Data Advanced Solutions, shares her thoughts about how we can start to get back to more normal working practices

As businesses across Europe assess the fundamental changes the Covid-19 pandemic has made to the landscape within which they operate, we are all challenged with decisions on how to best navigate the future. For businesses setting out their plans for a safe return to office and workspace productivity, it is incumbent upon them that they apply the lessons of the last few months in order to be successful.

Everyone has seen and experienced the rapid acceleration of digitisation in their workplaces. Even for businesses that had previously never considered it, digitisation is now the minimum requirement, whether that is facilitating remote working in the service sector or instating contactless payments for small businesses.

For some, these changes have been so successful that they look set to remain in at least some capacity, with businesses across a diversity of sectors announcing permanent home working policies. The shift to increase levels of working from home has driven a new focus on collaboration and productivity.

As organisations plan for the next stages of the pandemic, they need to decide what their desired outcomes look like and assess how prepared they are operationally to make changes themselves. Relative to other industries, the IT channel has been able to pivot to socially distanced business models fairly seamlessly. The preparation for the next stage is, much more complicated however.

The readiness of partners for digital transformation themselves has long been a topic of conversation and the pandemic has brought this into sharp focus. Mid-term plans are now top of the agenda. Those that have made steps along this journey and are more digitally enabled have fared far better in recent months and this is undoubtedly set to continue as businesses search out cloud-based solutions for short- and long-term business challenges.

Not only do end-customers have urgent business requirements related to safely reopening workspaces to address, but they are also facing competition from new areas. Many smaller, more agile, competitors have been able to capitalise on the disruption, enhance their value proposition and gain market share. Partners need to work to understand customer challenges as quickly as possible and become trusted advisers to them, investing in solutions that serve short- and long-term needs.

In the initial stages of the pandemic, the focus was on staying safe and staying connected. Now, as it extends in duration, it has pivoted to staying safe, staying connected and being productive. As such, technologies that facilitate business continuity, ensure security and enable collaboration have all become areas of focus for organisations. For example, the “smart working” trend looks set to grow exponentially and the channel needs to be ready to provide the technology and the training to make this work.

A great example of how the pandemic has massively accelerated the adoption of technology in this regard is in learning. When video communication and collaboration tools were launched, many considered the education sector a target for long-term growth. As we know, the onset of the pandemic meant that, almost overnight, these platforms were suddenly underpinning the delivery of learning across Europe and around the world.

As we transition from staying connected to being productive, educators who want to deliver lessons more fully need to be shown how to use all the integrated features in these platforms to allow for collaboration between students and engagement in their learning. Helping to deliver these vital experiences, whether in schools or in businesses, and making their end-customers more connected, resilient and productive, will be fundamental to partner success.

The final big consideration for partners to focus on is how they use data to inform their strategy and transform their businesses. Doing so will be central to the success or failure of the efforts of partners themselves to digitally transform. By properly leveraging data, partners can be confident that they are investing in the right areas of their business and building out their service offerings in the areas best placed to serve their customers.

By driving business decisions in this way, partners can gain a competitive edge and help drive organic growth for their business by identifying and helping to solve end-customer business challenges. It will be these partners who know how to leverage their customers’ data to drive transformative business growth that will see the greatest success in the coming months.

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