The pandemic gave tech more than a nudge. It sent it flying into the stratosphere.
In fact, technology became incredibly vital as coronavirus swept the globe during 2020’s second quarter. And tech’s importance hasn’t waned as people embrace “next norm” personal and professional behaviors. Instead, it’s risen. Every week, innovators seem to come up with novel ways to solve challenges, improve life, and ease stress through technological solutions.
Take the issue of eldercare, for example. Shelter-in-place and quarantine regulations separated people from aging loved ones. The result? Everyone felt the sting of loneliness and alienation. As a result, an imaginative tech concept has come to the forefront: “Health detectors” that could monitor people’s well-being in the same way smoke detectors alert for signs of fire.
Will health detectors be right around the corner? Maybe, or maybe not. But they are being discussed earnestly, and that shows that tech dreamers are working 24/7 and consumers aren’t saying “no” out of hand.
Of course, not all tech ideas are far-fetched or too revolutionary for consumers and employees to imagine like “health detectors” mounted on the ceiling. Below are several types of technology that shined during the pandemic and remain on-trend to become permanent fixtures of everyday working life.
- Technology that streamlines the sales cycle.
In the earliest moments of COVID-19, salespeople had to pivot quickly to continue wowing clients. What was the immediate answer? Platforms and software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers that enabled salespeople to rapidly switch to more effective, efficient virtual selling.
For example, take the classic paperwork shuffle of getting deals and proposals signed and delivered. In the best of times, that type of clunky, friction-filled proposal process could squelch an agreement. During the coronavirus, it became even more of a gamble with clients and employees scattered everywhere. To streamline the paperwork back-and-forth, tech companies like PandaDoc worked to close gaps and move contracts along. Document automation software like theirs became essential for productive remote sales. And even when we’re all back in the office, it looks like a trend that will stick around.
In addition to resolving their work-from-home paperwork dilemmas, sales teams also began relying heavily on service options like chatbots. AI-influenced chatbots were not new pre-pandemic, certainly. Nonetheless, chatbots including SAP Conversational AI and IBM Watson Assistant freed up overloaded remote sales teams trying to work harder to meet revenue goals. Today, chatbot tech is moving toward higher quality results as its demand rises.
- Technology that eases the challenges of telecommuting.
Many employees were taken by surprise when they started working from home. Though telecommuting saved plenty of businesses from floundering, it presented novel problems. How could everyone stay connected when they were dispersed? Would clients feel they weren’t getting good service anymore? Where would team meetings take place?
The answer to many of these questions turned out to be video conferencing software, especially via Zoom. Though Zoom was an entity before coronavirus, its reputation and coffers grew thanks to astronomical usage rates. By April 2020, Zoom was logging no fewer than 300 million daily users or 30 times its 2019 average. The platform allowed people to stay tethered throughout the national crisis. It even became its own verb: Users didn’t teleconference. They Zoomed.
Other technology proved equally important for enabling remote worker collaboration, too. Case in point: cloud-based software. Many organizations invested in centralized knowledge platforms and other solutions that could be accessed from anywhere. According to Morgan Stanley, even after the pandemic, nearly a third of the money earmarked during the pandemic for cloud communications is predicted to stick around.
- Technology that makes employees more educated and engaged.
Educated team members tend to be more confident decision-makers, which is important if they’re working alone at home. Before COVID-19, workshops often took place in person. During coronavirus, some businesses switched to digital training models and platforms.
The good news was that schools around the planet had already perfected countless elements of remote learning. Therefore, companies only had to mimic what was working in education. Nevertheless, the migration of moving training completely online seemed foreign to many people—at first. Over time, they became accustomed to the different rhythm and setup of online education.
At this point, plenty of businesses that successfully tried ed-tech platforms aren’t looking backward. Rather, they’re surging ahead, frequently mixing self-directed online learning with teleconferencing. And ed-tech has some more surprises up its sleeves: Virtual reality (VR) has shown great promise as a digital learning tool. Immersive VR experiences may sound like they’re for gamers. However, they could be next-gen tools that help employees learn job-related skills.
The technology everyone leaned on during the coronavirus has become somewhat normalized. Consequently, it’s not going to be jettisoned when a vaccine is available. It’ll just get more important as we round the curve deeper into 2021 and discover what lies ahead.