A recent discussion within our team posed the question, ‘What changes has Covid wrought to the business landscape?’ As we perhaps see some light at the end of the tunnel, after nearly two years of this, it prompted me to wonder what has changed as we aspire to returning to ‘normal’ (or will it be a ‘new normal’?) Interesting topics indeed for our sector and of course there are many effects from the pandemic.
Firstly, for any directly affected by the virus, personally or through family or friends, the main, possibly only concern has been health, safety, and well-being. Our thoughts and best wishes go to any affected by the disease. For many businesses, the effect has been devastating; many have gone under, taking staff with them. Others have found ways to survive, perhaps through alternative sales channels such as online. Still others have thrived, finding an opportunity in the mayhem, one that maybe was not apparent beforehand or may not even have existed.
For our sector, conformity assessment, auditing, and training, we entered the pandemic with considerable uncertainty. Our work for decades has been face-to-face, relying on in-person training or on-site, in-person audits. That had to stop at the beginning of Covid, not just locally but around the world. This forced the hand of many, having to find out how to do business in a remote fashion. Suddenly, remote audits had to be undertaken and started to become acceptable, even if only temporarily and through necessity. That remote auditing was allowed beforehand is true, but it had not been widely accepted and was often considered unacceptable compared to a ‘real audit’—meaning a physical, in-person audit done on site. Trainers, too, had to think how they could replace in-person courses with online offerings. Many have done so, again, through necessity.
Here at Exemplar Global, we encouraged people (and still do) to take the time to consider personal development and to invest in the future through professional development, too. The pandemic rendered that message even more relevant to auditors and trainers alike and we have aimed to facilitate that development with products and services both current and new, like the concept of our Audit Simulator.
This brings another dimension to the conversation: technology. The pandemic, completely coincidentally but fortuitously, came about at a time when technology is changing quickly. So fast, in fact, that we often thought we might be unable to keep up. Then Covid forced us to ‘keep up’ and consider technology and how it could assist in meeting and overcoming the challenges of the pandemic. If we did not have technology on our side, we would not be able to do all those videoconferences and we would not have been able to do remote audits with smart phones. Trainers would not be able to train online. Once, distance learning involved posting work for assessment. Email renders that obsolete.
What technology did was to enable a solution through the challenge of the pandemic for many. What is more, now that the ‘new normal’ seems near, it appears certain that life will not return to pre-Covid ways even if we could turn back the clock. The enforced use of technology and the digital world has become a preference for many, to at least supplement the ‘old ways.’ Although some still hope to go backwards, it is certain that most will not and will in fact embrace the new ways, technology and all.
Perhaps the most important impact of Covid on business, apart from the tragic effects on people and their health, has been to break the inertia and resistance, passive and active, against change through technology. Now that we have seen through necessity what can be done, we might begin to imagine, through choice, ‘What could be done?’ As technology continues to develop, imagine what we might do in a fully digital world. I feel sure that now the genie is out of the bottle, there will be no going back. The genie will remain out! Remote, use of technology, new ways to do things are here to stay and are becoming accepted, and even demanded, more than they have ever been before. The world has changed. The world in our sector has changed. Forever. Let us make it for the better.
For our part, at Exemplar Global, and to quote one of our leadership team, ‘Our whole operating environment is no longer physical, it is digital, and the tools this business needs to best operate in that model are now not nice-to-haves but critical.’ You have already seen some of what that means but there is much more to come as we aim to serve and support our customers and community in new ways. Let’s embrace change and create our ‘new normal’ together.