Virus brings strategic clarity

While there is still uncertainty about Covid-19 and its impact, there is now perhaps greater clarity than ever on future developments in the channel, according to Eurolink Connect Managing Director Claire Maddox.

In the wake of Covid-19 channel organisations have an unexpected opportunity to take stock and reposition themselves. And for ICT providers like Eurolink Connect the nature of future partnerships will be governed by the strength of responses to the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown. Maddox observed some significant differences that will have a telling influence on future partnering strategies…

The most interesting aspect of this for me has been the vast divide in how businesses and/or individuals have reacted to the crisis. For example, we have seen suppliers who have innovated, reacted with optimism and stepped up to provide training and guidance, where others have battened down the hatches and gone to ground. Have a guess who we will be building relationships with moving forward.

• Covid-19 has produced good predictors of future ICT procurement trends, and Maddox expects purchasing to be governed by a number of new rules...
Future ICT procurement will in part depend on the experience that the buyer has had in the way they themselves moved into remote working. As an industry we face a lot of experts who have specific knowledge. However, the art of success will be around effectively joining all the dots in a secure and robust manner. It will be down to our industry to support and guide the innovation, as one of the biggest barriers to implementation is how you brief a new infrastructure if you don’t know what is possible.

ICT procurement teams may well know the obvious solutions like cloud systems and video conferencing, but do they have the knowledge to brief a multi-factor authentication into their networks? Do they know how to blend personal and office-based devices seamlessly? Do they realise you can have desktop phone systems that your team can take and plug in at home seamlessly? We’ll move away from a one-size-fits-all brief or tender and we will no longer be given item by item briefs. Instead, I envisage initial procurement based on a pricing and relationship differential first – are we in the right price band and can they work with us – before working in partnership to create and maintain the infrastructure that they actually need.

• The moment the UK went into lockdown all businesses entered a transition period. Attention has now turned to resetting strategies and reinventing how organisations operate…
We all know that the business world will never revert back to the way it was at the beginning of 2020, or at least that it shouldn’t. Businesses will become more flexible and I strongly believe we will see a blend of remote and on-premises working as we move into the post-Covid-19 lockdown world. We have also seen customers pivot and reinvent themselves to serve local communities.

We all know that the business world will never revert back to the way it was at the beginning of 2020, or at least that it shouldn’t

Having deployed our business into remote working we found areas where manual processes were still in place that can be digitalised. Our team and office processes have changed too. During lockdown we have recruited a new sales team member using Microsoft Teams to interview, proving that the process was just as effective as a one-to-one interview. We’ve carried out a full induction programme across the business and made our new recruit feel very welcome. This couldn’t have been done without video calling.

• Maddox says we must ensure that investment in security underpins the drive to new business and operating models, increasing the strength of remote working solutions…
There is going to be more need for secure remote working and businesses must consider their data. Many companies reacted quickly, as we all needed to, but without a thought about their security at the time and there will be lots of vulnerability in the marketplace, which provides us with a great opportunity to deliver the virtual remote working model. Having come from a telecoms background, developed our networking through our ISP model and subsequently moved into the MSP space, we are well positioned to support customers from end-to-end. 

• Maddox noted an appetite for online relationships from customers, and the success of collaboration platforms has prompted organisations to take a fresh look at themselves and establish a virtual approach to doing business...
Customer engagement is built through relationships, especially within the early stages, and the physical meeting and building of rapport are very important. But we have proven through these Covid-19 weeks that these relationships can be built across platforms such as MS Teams and Zoom, and they are more efficient and cost-effective. Before Covid-19 there was still resistance to video calling, however people have overcome the taboo and it has proven how useful it is, even to the biggest critics.

Just as we’ve transitioned presentations to customers to Teams, when it comes to project meetings we can have all relevant stakeholders in the virtual room at the right time. Often that isn’t possible in a face-to-face meeting. It is the most efficient use of time and avoids unnecessary journeys and pressure on resources. Meetings are also more concise and focused with video calling. There is a place for personal meetings as human interaction is important, but not as many as in the past.

• The channel adapted remarkably well to the unprecedented conditions brought about Covid-19. Having overcome the immediate challenge, Maddox believes that we now face an opportunity to accelerate innovation and growth…
I’m optimistic about the lasting implication of Covid-19 – not the virus, but how it will prompt a period of intense innovation and an appetite to try and ultimately adopt new solutions. In the short-term, it’s an unprecedented and awful biological incident, but we will all adapt and it will bring out the entrepreneurial spirit in levels we have rarely, if ever, seen.

We’ve been able to look at ways in which we can help and support those business sectors that are struggling, while showing others how we can adapt to support their new requirements. I’m also looking forward to 2025 when we can look back on this time and consider just how far we have come and just how fundamentally we have changed, how, where, and why we work.


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