The Year That Was & The Year That Will Be
This post is part of our series from Zoom’s Office of the CIO, a global strategy group focused on the communications challenges and opportunities facing CIOs and other enterprise technology leaders.
The year 2020 has truly been unprecedented in so many ways. Every industry and country has been affected by this pandemic. Everything has changed globally from both a professional and social perspective. The general consensus is that many of these changes are going to stick around in some way. In fact, many people say that COVID-19 really accelerated the trajectory we were on anyway.
COVID-19 caused a massive personal reset on how we think about our lives, what’s important to us, what our priorities are, and how we can be as successful and satisfied (or perhaps more) by changing how we work. And forward-thinking businesses will need to meet us there.
Think about this: In as little as 10 months, we have gone from an employee having to request approval to work from home to an employee having to request approval to work from the office.
Organizations have some serious re-evaluating to do in 2021 and beyond. Working from home or in fact working from anywhere has proven to be very effective for millions of people. They have been more productive whilst working the same (or fewer) hours and have a better work-life balance. Employers also realize that they can be geographically agnostic. They can recruit nationally and globally, and do not need to build these massive office complexes.
Everything from education to healthcare, retail, financial services, and professional services has changed so much that now, for the first time, people actually understand what “digital transformation” really is. We have always had great systems at play in companies and they are by default digital. But to truly digitally transform means we need to move away from analog processes.
I spoke with several of our industry leads here at Zoom and many technology leaders in various companies globally on what this accelerated digital transformation might look like in a few of these industries. Let’s look at some things we can expect to stick around – in business and in our personal lives – in 2021 now that we have begun the vaccination process in earnest:
The notion of distance learning and distance teaching took a firm hold in 2020 due to the urgent but necessary move to remote learning. The concept of “snow days” may become a thing of the past as it has been clearly demonstrated that kids can be taught remotely albeit differently. There is much to be gained by the remote model for some learners. When students move onto higher education, the experience of distance learning will be a major benefit as they can take courses globally and have more choices available to them. This experience of remote learning also prepares these young adults to be ready and equipped to work in a distributed workforce where they are interacting with other colleagues virtually on a global scale.
- Teaching and learning is forever changed; hybrid models are here to stay
- We’ll see a blending of traditional, non-traditional, and corporate learning structures as demand extends beyond obtaining degrees to include stackable micro-credentials to upskill, reskill, and “new skill” the workforce
- Further optimization of institutional operations to serve students, faculty, staff, and other constituents for hybrid environments
Being able to connect with a medical professional for consultations, reviews, and various other services has also changed. You can use a smartphone for heart rate, blood pressure, and visual observations, dramatically reducing the need for in-person office visits and thus increasing the coverage of medical professionals. This increases the productivity of all and introduces an improved life experience.
- The priority will be delivering more care without increasing the number of beds or in-patient visits
- Healthcare plan providers further support telehealth due to increased reimbursement, making telehealth more attractive to medical practitioners
- Adoption of telehealth services continues to grow for use cases including virtual triage, specialist consultation, and test result read-out appointments
- Mental health and therapy services are projected to be high-growth areas for telehealth
From retail to wealth management to investment banking, financial services have changed dramatically forever. In the UK, HSBC has begun doing Zoom mortgages, thus increasing the productivity of both the mortgage associate and the customer. Investment banking has also experienced the shift: Goldman Sachs did a $2.9B stock offering for Softbank completely over Zoom with no in-person meetings. Bankers can see their clients from the comfort of their homes without having to fly around the world, and they too can have greater productivity with an improved work-life balance.
- Dramatic migration of retail banking from branches to a virtual experience
- Wealth management advisers extend their “high-touch” value, leverage more subject matter experts with a single click, and scale past geographical borders via virtual platforms
- Investment bankers will be managing and executing more deals with less reliance on travel and in a more cost-effective manner
- Research and trading will become more virtual and distributed
This pandemic’s ripple effects are reaching so many other areas of our lives:
- Travel: Airline travel was dramatically upended amid stay-at-home and social distancing mandates. Airlines have done a lot of work enhancing cleaning protocols and other onboard safety programs. Business travel was hit especially hard, but I expect personal travel will accelerate much faster as people look to see family and loved ones and explore pretty much anywhere after being home for so long.
- Events: We saw in-person events go virtual overnight. Large and small events undoubtedly will return but most will have a virtual aspect for speakers and participants, plus recordings for those who can’t attend live. This will be especially impactful for family events like weddings, funerals, and birthdays when everyone can’t be together.
- Retail: Delivery of everything from groceries, bagels, restaurant meals, and even alcohol skyrocketed during the pandemic. All types of retailers as well as restaurateurs will continue to invest in e-commerce opportunities as well as beef up logistics and delivery operations to serve swaths of online shoppers who may not enjoy the fees but love the convenience.
- Entertainment: Netflix and other streaming services became our everything as movie theaters shut down, TV production stopped, and live concerts and plays ceased. Zoom became a punchline on “Saturday Night Live!” but also a necessary tool as the show resumed new episodes in the fall. I expect video to continue to be used for crew meetings, table readings, and other collaborations requiring the convenience.
This is a pivotal moment in world history, and so much change is already underway. I fundamentally believe that we are going to see even more dramatic changes in our lives. This acceptance of “video is the new voice” was especially accelerated during the pandemic, and now as we, the human race, get vaccinated globally, many of the experiences over the past 10 months will remain.
Ultimately, our ability to have better balance, better education, better health, and more fun in 2021 and the years to follow will enable us to be more productive, freer, and happier, so we can enjoy our lives, families, and friends more than ever before.