The unprecedented disruption that Covid-19 has caused across industries and business sectors has fueled a nearly frantic drive for technology innovation and improvements. Everything from the intricate function of massive corporations to how an individual accesses their daily job has changed abruptly, and product management and development groups are scrambling to realign their efforts with this new reality.
Historically, times of great upheaval have led to the fastest development of innovative ideas and realities. Plato’s classic idiom, “Necessity is the mother of invention” holds as true today as it did thousands of years ago. Pandemics create new niches in existing industries, and the resultant economic downturns or recessions frequently shift business paradigms to include new ways of doing business across the board.
Innovation Needs a Diverse Approach
While advancements in the medical community may answer the primary issue with the viral spread, the economic impact of shutdowns and quarantines fuel innovation, too. Without efficient and accessible conferencing software, for example, many businesses would find it impossible to get anything done. Product development teams use these software services to plan their next project so they can provide effective solutions for every other worker who suddenly finds themselves forced into a home office situation that did not exist months ago.
The psychological impact of the Covid-influenced economic turn down should not be understated. People who worry not only about their health but also about whether they will have a job to pay their bills during this difficult time need solutions from their employer’s and the various product development industries themselves. As difficult as a virtual meeting may be, it beats the alternative that leads to unemployment.
Some changes are knee-jerk responses to issues that arise all of a sudden like the massive surge in virtual conference platform popularity. Others dive deeper into making business operations possible no matter what the future holds. These longer-term solutions are more likely to stay in use if and when things returned to relative normalcy.
Changes Across the Board for All Industries
Corporate businesses may have had communication and networking possibilities in place and only need an expansion of their function to include the majority of employees who used to work in the office. Where large corporations or small businesses may have invested in office space, furniture, and computer and telecommunications hardware before, they are now investing in virtual systems that allow for work-at-home productivity.
A large part of the innovative considerations dealing with things like wireless networks, VR chats or presentations, and remote access focuses on maintaining productivity. The stressed out and distracted workforce now has to conduct business while watching their kids and maintaining a positive mindset in the midst of all the uncertainty. They are now primarily responsible for their own efforts. Oversight becomes a challenge for businesses who cannot afford to reduce productivity even when the pandemic forces them to. This leads to additional technology needs and innovation that balances corporate interests and personal comfort and agency.
Product management teams who are developing the systems and software to make these important shifts must take into account the human element in all their new projects. While the world hopes that Covid-19 does not remain an active strain across industries forever, the business world of the future may look completely different. New economic structures and best practices will emerge. Sonia Randhawa, Senior Technology Expert based in San Francisco states, “This is the ultimate triumph of the digital economy. From Cloud technologies for remote employee access, business automation tools, various chatbots, cybersecurity, telemedicine, fintech, online education, online conference services, online entertainment services to virtual traveling.” All of these things affect how people interact with the new digital, connected business reality.
Industrial companies turn to technology such as AI-controlled robots and automated systems when human workers cannot show up. The increasing automation was already a strong player in manufacturing and other repetitive jobs that did not require creativity or agile cognitive function. Drones and robots are increasingly able to handle things that only people could before. The Internet of Things (IoT) makes human/machine interactions increasingly simple and accessible over long distances.
Entire supply chains experience disruption due to lack of workforce power and transportation restrictions put in place by different countries who want to stop the spread of Covid-19. Manufacturers produce fewer goods. Logistic companies have emptier warehouses and transport less frequently. Points of sale locations are either closed or experiencing much lower rates of foot traffic. While this can translate into increased e-commerce sales, the slowdown in deliveries and reduce product sourcing still negatively affects the entire retail process.
How Product Development Teams Answer the Call
A shift in it foci across industries also signals a needed shift in how product management professionals approach the new technology they want to develop. News stories appear of businesses that have long dominated specific niches switching gears to create medical equipment, for example. Cosmetic companies switch to producing hand sanitizer. Automobile brands start building ventilators.
This type of flexibility transcends the usual definition of agile business. It is no longer about rising to meet emergent or future demands within an industry or niche. Both companies and the world at large now benefit from groups that can transform everything on the fly even with reduced employee numbers and logistical issues. Sonia Randhawa believes, “The current situation will serve as powerful boost to digital technological development, as well as an increase in productivity. It is a moment of great opportunity for the most active, fastest, and most enterprising.” The increased need and strain forces high-speed innovation that may appear in use today but only get perfected in the future. A fast time-to-market matters more than ever before.
Not every organization has the power to flip a switch and offer something of direct benefit to the Covid-19 situation. However, product developers, manufacturers, and marketers who ignore the new way of doing business around the world will not survive. The time for proactive planning is over. A speedy and efficient response is the only option to help maintain operations now and improve them for the long run.
When it comes to initial bursts of innovation that provide solutions for the day-to-day issues that affect regular business function, product management leaders focus more on time to market rather than long-term solutions. As this Covid-19 global pandemic continues indefinitely, technology products and service developers realign their plans to better serve emerging needs.