We have reached the end of an unexpected year. It started usual, as any other year, but the pandemic suddenly changed our work and our whole life at the beginning of the year, and it is still going on. The impacts of the COVID-19 required companies to become more agile, while businesses had and continue to require rapid actions to defend themselves today and tomorrow. We made a survey to see how companies have responded to this situation.
Employee and customer safety first
Companies try to identify the real needs of customer’s relative to the demand and create new future-proof lines of business. Regardless of their industry, most have intensified their focus on retaining existing customers and winning their loyalty with discounts and options such as preferential payment terms.
Organizations moved all the possible part of their operational processes remote, remote work and cloud solutions have become key areas of organizations’ investment this year. Transition to remote work required developments, so remote work services and solutions like desktop virtualization, technical support for remote work and service management, applications for analyzing and improving end-user productivity, cloud solutions (multi cloud) together with the scaling of customer demands for performance and support have become the companies’ investment area. However, security has remained paramount with preservation of budgets and investments in both proactive and responsive security solutions, threat prevention, and monitoring. Remote work is expected to reduce costs, but it was noted that companies and their leaders do have concerns about productivity; nevertheless, 92% of respondents have already transferred staff to home offices. Depending on the sector, 25 to 75% of these employees work from home permanently with 46% of companies not yet decided whether to transfer more employees in the future. Finance, accounting, IT, HR functions were noted to have the highest share of remote workers with customer service employees still working mostly from offices.
Maintaining profit and reduce cost
Clearly maintaining or improving profits has been essential, reducing costs and the scope of non-core activities. Clear procedures for cash flow and operating expense management have been and remain important. Also, increased focus on ensuring business continuity and stability, both short term reactive ways and longer term refresh and review of future crisis management.
To stay viable and retain sales level, businesses have analysed forecast demand by geography, sales channels, segmentation, developed flexible operational, organizational and financial plans to capture any pent-up demand (or adjust for over-served demand). To mitigate future risks, companies have looked to build resilience into operations, improve business continuity approaches and through systematic cost structure and balance sheet hydraulics to meet the present-day requirements.
Many organisation and customers have mastered leveraging digitalisation and partnerships to improve business sustainability, scalability, and agility, rethinking strategic priorities, and investing in or acquiring key capabilities to stay ahead of the competition and remain accessible to customers.
Many companies have been developing not only a short term, crisis driven focus on cost management, but a long term view to their cost base and operating model involving systematic rethinking of their structure utilizing technology driven transformation. Part of this is driven by business resilience and anticipation together with experience of new ways of doing business driven through the necessity of this last period.
Accelerated innovation and automation
We asked companies how they had accelerated automation projects to improve labor productivity. It turned out that 50% of companies were already accelerating their focus on automation with the Technology and Financial Sector the most advanced. It is also clear that technological innovation is driving the proliferation of data and the continued development and acceleration of cloud computing, a service that continues to change the technology landscape. Often hyped technologies such as AI, RPA, machine learning and big data solutions are seeing more widespread consideration and adoption as a result.
The past year has brought new challenges to almost every area of business operation. Bálint Takács, Softline’s Senior Account Manager in Hungary, summarized his experiences in this regard and also reported on the trends he expects in 2021.
Softline’s present and future is explained by Zoltán Urbán, the company’s regional business development and sales manager, who also addresses cloud evolution and the significance of knowledge transfer.
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