by Chris Cowan
When the Covid-19 lockdown was announced earlier this year, it’s no secret that many of us were fearful at the thought of isolation. Fortunately, for a lot of people, a determined spirit over the last four months has resulted in quite the opposite. Instead of staying hidden away, we’ve been using all manner of technologies to bring people together.
From video calls with family and friends through to contactless mobile payments, at no other time have on-demand applications and web-based software – software-as-a-service (SaaS) – been so visibly impactful on our everyday lives. Thanks to food delivery services like Deliveroo, SaaS has even kept our bellies full and Friday night takeaways going strong.
The beneficial influence of technology during Covid-19 has been felt across society, with perceptions of technology changing too. According to Vodafone, 71% of those aged 72 and over now believe technology has a positive impact on society – up a massive 20% since the beginning of lockdown.
But, arguably, no-where has the positive power of SaaS to bring us together been more acutely felt than when it comes to how we work. Planner, Trello, Teams, Yammer, Zoom, Hangouts…if you weren’t acquainted with cloud-based collaboration before lockdown, I’m sure you’re deeply familiar now.
Firmly pushing SaaS into the public consciousness, Covid-19 is the Black Swan event that really exemplifies why the software a firm chooses to use is one of the most critical factors in its success.
Last November, Gartner estimated the SaaS market would grow to $116 billion by the end of 2020. I expect we will surpass that figure by a long stretch. For many businesses, SaaS has not just made it possible to survive during the pandemic, but thrive.
According to McKinsey’s ‘Reimagining the office and work life after Covid-19’, of the 62 percent of Americans working from home during lockdown, just under half also claim they are more productive, and 28 percent that they are just as productive as pre-lockdown. Further to this, many firms also report more wide-reaching benefits. These include the creation of innovative new processes and a stronger team culture.
As a workforce, we should congratulate ourselves on how quickly and effectively we adopted new forms of digital collaboration at a moment of mass panic.
Using SaaS to pivot into remote working has made us more collaborative by nature. We give no second thoughts to sharing ideas via informal online chats and working in the same documents with our colleagues. The most innovative software even enables whole teams, no matter how geographically disperse, to develop and design new product prototypes together, and at speed.
In one swoop, Covid-19 could be the push many boardrooms need to stop debating where they begin with their digital transformation journeys, and simply get started.
A risk-averse culture, less than adequate collaboration between IT and lines of business and an inability to work across silos all rank among the top 5 reasons digital transformation projects failed in 2017 according to Harvard Business Review.
A few years later, and under extraordinary conditions, many firms are now beginning to reap the benefits of digital transformation through closer collaboration underpinned by software-as-a-service.
Of course, the real test will be whether this spirit continues under the ‘new normal’.
Western working culture increasingly values individual autonomy in choosing how we want to work. There’s a fine balance to strike when it comes to enabling employees the freedom to collaborate in the way that works best for them, and at the same time ensuring that businesses remain on the front foot when it comes to compliance, privacy and security.
Many organisations that hadn’t previously considered remote working and collaboration tools for their employees, and were instead forced to opt for a quick-fix during lockdown, will have their work cut out reviewing what worked well and what didn’t before putting more suitable solutions in place.
Ultimately, these challenges will be ironed out. Business continuity and success depends on it. Having quickly learnt during the ‘stress-test’ of Covid-19 what’s possible, business leaders in firms of all sizes now need to consider what continuing benefits and opportunities await.
In the face of adversity, software-as-a-service has proved its potential. Not only has it likely saved millions of jobs and projects from failure but hopefully, spurred on by the pandemic, paved the way for a more open and cooperative future too.