Planning for 2021

What does our "new normal" look like?

COVID fatigue is definitely here. We have seen our customers go from ‘shut down’ to operating remotely as much as possible while deferring projects. However, within the last few months, they’re starting to work on critical initiatives. We are certainly traveling less, but our customers are generally getting better and better at working remotely. It does look like the various vaccines will be imminently available, but we see another six months to a year before things will bounce back to “normal.” At that time, there will be “pent up demand” that will become a surge of new work, but once we’re past that, what will the ‘new normal’ for 2021 look like?

Covid-19 has established a fundamental shift in American and likely world business. We were forced to separate, which meant a large number of people working from home, and only communicating electronically.  As we move out of the pandemic, here are some areas for strategic planning and thought:

  • Permanent remote working – why should companies maintain expensive office space, garage/parking, and require staff to travel to work on a daily basis?  We know it’s possible, because we did it, so why not continue?
  • One of the basic objections is traditional management techniques required people to be in the same location, if for no other reason than ‘keeping an eye’ on staff.  In a modern organization, with modern system(s), managers should really be able to monitor productivity remotely – not by physical observation.  For instance, transactions can be date and time stamped, and it’s rather easy to calculate the elapsed time for doing something, like entering a sales order.
  • For an organization to transition to permanent remote staffing, a series of metrics can be developed to monitor productivity, with alerts built in to notify managers if there is an issue, such as:
    • Number of transactions per hour/day/week
    • Length of time per transaction
    • Number of ‘visits’ to the transaction, perhaps for revisions etc.
    • Average dollars per transaction
    • Total dollars of transactions per hour/day/week etc.
    • Number of revisions of key information (price, quantity, discount % etc).
    • Dollars of discounts per hour/day/week etc.
  • If the organization is improving these kinds of numbers on an ongoing basis, why does it matter where the staff is physically?  Modern ERP systems, like Epicor, can handle building these business measurements and even trigger alerts/emails etc., if there is a significant change in one or more of the measurements.  This way a manager is only getting notified if there is a change to productivity.
  • Larger organizations can measure other benefits of permanent offsite staffing such as:
    • Decreased carbon ‘footprint’ from decreased automobile use.
    • Decreased energy costs from heating and cooling office environments
    • Decrease in related costs for office space (cleaning, supplies, coffee etc).
    • Risk mitigation by not having all staff in the same location, risking business interruption from further pandemics, natural disasters, etc.

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