These last twelve months have felt like one long Google Meet call. Simultaneously dragging on while flying by. Crazy times we're living in. This warrants a quick pause to reflect.
Then and now.
March 10 2020: Sebastien and I found ourselves flying in our customer's private jet to CONEXPO (Vegas) the biggest construction trade show in the world.
Exactly one year later we are sitting in the board room of a global player of the fast-fashion industry - our first non-virtual in-person meeting in a year. It actually felt strange to turn my neck to face different people around the boardroom!
So much has happened, so many lessons learned. Let's go very quickly through what the last year looked like for us. This article will not be a lengthy one - people have no time for that these days.
The Cloud Lion team was planning a month-long technological training pilgrimage to Chennai. Over a year in the planning, tickets bought, visas granted, vaccines taken, we were scheduled to go shortly after our March 2020 trip to Vegas, however COVID foiled our plans much to our chagrin. We felt a bit like the bull in this photo from 2008:
Two years ago:
Sebastien and Luis were fortunate to be among the first people in the planet achieving app-specific Zoho Certifications. They both succeeded in getting CRM and Analytics certified during Zoholics Austin 2019 - during which I was in Google Cloud NEXT in San Francisco (and was jealous to say the least).
However, in May of last year the Zoho training floodgates opened. Ambi Moorthy (Global Head of Partner Development at Zoho) gave the good news and the nerd feeding-frenzy-geek-gasm commenced. Zoho rolled out an ambitious app-specific training and certification initiative for Zoho Partners around the world. Hundreds of partners got trained and certified over a month's span, it was done smooth as clockwork. We remain in awe of how Zoho orchestrated this - their trainers were up through the night feeding knowledge-hungry Zoho Partners across the globe. Wow.
We achieved three to four new certifications per member of our team (at the time there were six of us). These included certifications for Books, CRM, Desk, People, Analytics, SalesIQ, and many others. We remain teachers at heart and we take knowledge-transfer very seriously. Getting featured in the Zoho Spark Partner training portal is an honor that I could not be prouder of.
More training - from the neck down.
Being in confinement, we felt that we should support each other for the sake of our physical and mental wellbeing. So we started working out, at home, or outside, sharing our efforts to encourage each other. This has been very positive. We started a Health & Fitness channel in our Zoho Cliq (and recommend you do the same!). Some resources we found priceless: Chris Hemsworth's Centr, as well as Chelsea Piers' (possibly the finest Gym in North America) Play.
We peer-pressure each other to live healthier lifestyles. In all fairness, the fact that my family was stranded abroad unable to fly back for four months may have been a catalyst for me to find in fitness a long-neglected outlet for stress release.
Someone else who was unable to fly to Canada as soon as he wanted to was Krishna Venkatasubramanian (AKA SuperKrish). We were thrilled to have him land in Ottawa last month. He worked as a DevOps Engineer for half a decade (directly involved in developing products we know and love) and is the president of the Ottawa University Telfer School of Management MBA Association. Despite his tender age, Krish packs a wallop of expertise.
Due to COVID restrictions we were not able to pick him up at the airport, but we did what we could to make his arrival to Canada memorable.
Simple fact of life: the best Zoho talent in the world is in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.
This is why Cloud Lion finally decided to pounce and open a solutions hub in Chennai, not far from Zoho's headquarters. As of February 2021, we are at phase one, with a small team of full-time Lions. These guys are on a whole other level, with years of Zoho experience under their belts and an incredible work ethic - cloudlion.in is poised to become cloudlion.org's not-so-secret weapon. We look forward to visiting our Chennai Team in November of this year (COVID permitting). ஒரு குழுவாக ஒன்றிணைந்து செயல்படுவதால், எங்களை தடுத்து நிறுத்த முடியாது.
Think global, act local:
Cloud Lion has an international team with a global vision, but we do not forget our Québec roots. We feel a deep connection to this cold but beautiful place we call home. Canada is a young country, and we must never forget the true owners of the continent - our First Nations. We are honored to have helped Quebec Indigenous Tourism adopt Zoho One. We love what these guys are doing; empowering indigenous business owners in the tourism sector while promoting magnificent tourism destinations off the beaten path. We believe so much in what they are doing, that we went the extra mile and became an associate member. As soon as all of these restrictions are lifted, the Canada Lions plan to explore the great North.
Photo credit: Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC).
Another Quebec organization we decided to become affiliated to is AQT (Association Québécoise des Technologies). This 500 member strong community of local tech companies is a catalyst in our industry - a shout out to Guy Cote, one of their fearless leaders! There is more to Québec than maple syrup and hockey - our province is a host to a vibrant ecosystem of tech companies of all sizes, and Montreal is quickly getting global recognition as an AI hub.
We cannot talk about business in Quebec without mentioning our dear partner, Cercle Kaizen. This 200-member elite business networking organization is headed by Sylvain Boudreau (Québec's answer to Tony Robins), and Robert LaChance. In 1982 Robert broke a world record swimming in freezing waters of beautiful Lac Beauport (where we had had our Cloud Sur le Lac event a couple years ago) swimming like a titan for eight solid hours. He's done this at least 6 times. A respected business figure, a master of PR and the most down to earth guy you could meet.
One could say that Robert and Sylvain are both from a traditionally tech-averse generation -but don't let the grey hair fool you! They have both evolved into ambassadors of tech adoption, having both successfully transformed their business activities with Google Workspace and Zoho One. These guys rock their Chromebook Flip devices and are 100% cloud ready. Sylvain has even started training the local business community on how to successfully leverage videoconferencing. Could not be prouder of them.
Aptet aut mori - that's Latin for "adapt or die".
These brutal times have wreaked havoc on event organizing companies, people in the trade show industry, restaurants, tourism... it has been rough. Some of our clients were forced to shut down temporarily (some even permanently). To make matters worse, ransomware attacks have gone up 800% compared to pre-pandemic levels (according to the FBI). This is the time for you to ask yourself uncomfortable questions about your company's cybersecurity posture.
But it's not all doom and gloom. These last 12 months have also been a catalyst for innovation. Many companies that were slow to get onboard the Cloud train were forced to make a choice: adapt (quickly) or perish. Traditional old-school, filing-cabinet-filled work environments started collaborating with G Suite (Workspace), Office 365, or Zoho. Meetings started taking a virtual form, water-cooler chatter made its way to Hangouts/Slack/Cliq, and many silos dissolved.
Big tech firms scrambled to match (copy) each other's features, revise pricing, add value, and provide extended free-access periods, all in the altruistic name of market-share. Earlier this month, Chromebooks turned 10 years old. It has taken a decade, but their success has only strengthened during these testing times - eclipsing MacOS popularity for the first time as of last month. We are also observing that companies are increasingly migrating away from Google's G Suite (Workspace) towards Zoho Workplace - as there is simply better value for money, and better integration into CRM, Books and the rest of the Zoho One suite. Cloud Lion plans to migrate towards Workspace this quarter.
I know - it requires an open mind, but do consider going from Gmail to Zmail - you will be pleasantly surprised.
Source: "Cloud Workers are Key for Disruption Preparedness", Forrester study, May 2020.
This year we are spending more time on our browsers than ever before. Most regular people use Chrome. Most Mac users will use Safari (because it came pre-installed). For once I can say Microsoft's browser is not horrible (now built on Chrome). Mozilla is great, but have you heard of Brave? This new(ish) browser is the only browser used by the Cloud Lion team - and not just because of the lion in their logo. This browser feels just like Chrome, except it is at least twice as fast. Their user base (25M) has doubled in the last year, and shows no signs of slowing down. If you are using Chrome and want to switch to the fast lane then download Brave - no need to thank me, just being a good Samaritan.
Doing well is not the same as doing good.
Social responsibility is in our DNA, pandemic or none. Cloud Lion is compelled to help those who help others. Even though we are busier than ever, we chose to clear out time to go the extra mile for organizations such as YWCA, Centre Multiethnique de Québec, ABC Lotbinière, Reno-Jouets, Pleinair Saint-Sauveur (PASS) and Lion's Club - of course.
We are Lions, not sharks, and certainly not vultures. My team and I remain available to help any organization (for-profit or not) navigate through these challenging times. With so many choices, and in such a volatile context, it is not always easy for organizations to choose their next (tech) steps. One thing is for sure, it pays to sharpen your axe and adapt. But don't wait too long.
See you in the fast lane!
Photo taken in front of Eye-Am's beautiful boutique in Montreal - They were fortunate to go Google before this Pandemic hit.