We often make elaborate and well thought-out plans, but life sometimes takes unexpected turns - it is what we do in these situations that ultimately shapes our success.
Today, we were supposed to fly to the Zoho world headquarters in Chennai, India via Dubai. Instead, my associate, Sebastien, and I found ourselves enjoying an amazing visit to the world-class Museum of the Red River in Idabel Oklahoma, privately guided by its director, Henry Moy.
On arrival, we froze in awe of the museum's main attraction - a full size Acrocanthosaurus.
After peeling ourselves away from the dinosaur, we looked at the exhibits of artifacts from ancient civilizations. I wondered what challenges they went through - how they surmounted them? Why did some civilizations perish, while others prospered? I kept asking myself these Jared Diamond-esque questions, which led me to reflect on the present situation we are living in.
I am no paleontologist, but I would guess the acrocanthosaurus had few (if any) predators, and it could leisurely go about its business devouring smaller animals without stressing out too much. Perhaps we can say the same applies to modern humans. Our only visible threat is other humans.
COVID-19 seems to be all people talk about nowdays, this virus has had a catastrophic impact for some, a disruptive impact for others, and has created a climate of tension and uncertainty for all.
So what exactly is happening? That depends on who you ask.
If you listen to one news channel, they are framing the situation as a borderline extinction-level event. If you flip the channel to another, they are downplaying it as no big deal, just another type of cold. There are some truly frightening alternative media perspectives that I will not include links to, since I do not wish to spread panic, but a Montreal-based collaborator of ours is flat out freaked-out.
The best we can do is to inform ourselves from credible sources such as WHO COVID-19 Situation Reports. These give us an objective snapshot on the current situation any given time.
Many believe that some countries have a tight grip on the kind/version of information they share with the external world regarding internal difficulties (perception management), perhaps the picture is worse than the official version - which is dire enough:
This exponential curve may be a cause for concern, or an incentive to chill in South America as soon as possible (el Quindio in Colombia is stunning). But what does this mean for business?
Here some upcoming tech conferences that are either being cancelled or "virtualized":
Held in San Francisco, NEXT is Google's top annual conference for the general public. Last year was it's fourth edition, with 25,000 people present at the Moscone Center. I would not miss these for the world, I guess we will have to catch it online this year. Google also canceled its developer conference Google I/O.
This is an increasingly important event for the tech world, as Facebook diversifies and deepens its scope of activity. AR / VR / devices and other ambitious projects give developers and the general public much to talk about. Last year 5,000 people attended. Facebook will make content available online instead of holding a physical conference. Facebook's marketing conference was also cancelled.
Zoho organizes several annual Zoholics events around the world, regionalizing them to their specific public. Zoholics Austin is considered the main event. While it is smaller than the other events mentioned, I would say it is my personal favorite. Last year they had 2,500 attendees.
Truth is, there are now at least 12 major events that have gotten cancelled, but for brevity's sake I will cut it there.
Tech companies are also asking their employees to work from home. Zoho has decided to close all its offices worldwide (this happened 2 days before we were to go to Chennai):
Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple (among others) are also following similar measures. Zoho has gone as far as prohibiting all staff from having any face to face business meetings with anyone, worldwide.
I cannot think of any companies more suited to quickly pivot to successfully adopting work-from-home policies. After all, what they sell is collaborative technology - ideal for distributed teams. But not all businesses are so lucky. COVID-19 seems poised to wreak havoc on the economy, thrashing stock exchanges worldwide, and putting us at the brink of a recession.
There are some things that just can't be done from home, such as manufacturing, logistics, or delivering on-site services. This was expressed beautifully by Google's Jaime Casap when he shared his perspective on an article by Fast Company:
CONEXPO - CON/AGG 2020 is North America's biggest Construction Show. They are expecting 140,000 attendees. That's right. 140,000. This is roughly the size of all the world's largest tech conferences put together. They are set to open their doors to the general public tomorrow, the 10th of March in Las Vegas.
They are doing what they consider appropriate for the current COVID-19 situation, which can be resumed in "closely monitoring the situation", having extra hand sanitizer and having a strict no-handshake policy.
CONEXPO is following WHO and CDC guidelines. Plenty of medical staff are on hand and some booths have been cancelled from countries most affected by COVID-19.
Addendum: CONEXPO shut its doors early, prematurely ending the massive conference for the first time. Apparently 70% of attendees preferred to lose their money (with no refund) instead of chance going to the event.
One would hope that in difficult times, humanity comes together and that we look out for one another. Remotely is a beautiful initiative from Zoho, that offers an enterprise-grade productivity suite to any business in the US for free until July 1st, which is the date Zoho estimates the coronavirus situation should tide over.
This collection is a slimmer version of ZOHO's Operating System for business - Zoho ONE, minus the CRM, Finance Suite, Marketing Apps and Creator. Click here for a full month of Zoho ONE for free.
There are other cloud-based non-Zoho enterprise collaboration solutions out there, Google's G Suite would be my next suggestion, followed by Microsoft's Office 365. All three companies launched their initiatives almost simultaneously, for roughly the same amount of time.
Google's offer for these times of crisis is providing advanced Hangouts video conferencing to existing G Suite and G Suite for Education customers. This amplifies the video conferencing capabilities they already have access to as customers - allowing them to scale and avoid disruption in times of crisis. If you are a school administrator, you really should click here.
Microsoft is offering a free six months of Teams, their cloud-based collaboration tool, which integrates well with Office 365.
It is a known fact: most deployments of new technology fail due to lack of change management, adequate training and the right accompaniment. Businesses rarely have the right expertise internally to correctly adopt these solutions, and these tech giants seldom send "boots on the ground" to successfully handle their client's change management (unless your company has tens of thousands of employees).
This is where it pays to have a Partner step in and hold your hand through these challenging times. The technology is only as good as the people that use it. If the human factor is not comfortable with the technology, it is useless and can actually backfire.
At Cloud Lion, we love technology (especially Zoho!), but we love people even more. Most of us come from an academic background and we come alive when knowledge transfer is involved. We are fully trilingual, and ready to fly anywhere in North America to ensure success in your digital transformation towards remote work.
We are there for you, because work should be more than just a place.
Together we can make sure that business in times of COVID-19 is business as usual.