When I took this picture with my family on January 1, 2020 in Sanibel Island, Florida, I had NO idea what lay ahead in the year to come. After spending the Thanksgiving holidays at home with my wife and daughters, and as we get ready to wind down a year that’s been unlike any we’ve known, I'm struck by how much has changed since that day. As a family, community and world, our lives have been dramatically different this year. We’ve found new ways to learn safely. We’ve had a Black Friday that looked more like Cyber Monday as deal hunters shopped online. And we know we won’t see all our loved ones this holiday season because we are staying home.
It can be tempting to focus on what has been lost or the things we are missing, but as I reflected on the year, I found a lot to be thankful for … and I’m not just talking about the fact that the Washington Football Team is leading the NFC East!
I usually travel more than 100 days a year. Many people in roles like mine who travel extensively got the opportunity to be more present at home. I know I’m not alone when I say that spending less time on the road has allowed me to be home more – enjoying simple things together like cooking dinner with my family, movie nights and daily walks together. When I am home, I have also found I am now more present, which has definitely been a good thing.
Flexing New Muscles
I know a lot of people used the extended time at home to learn new skills. In the early part of the year, I had high hopes for the professional development I might tackle. I wish I could report that I mastered something exciting, but that didn’t happen for me. I have, though, been impressed with the number of people on my team who dug into the curriculum at Intel Partner University and other industry classes to achieve new certifications.
Aside from keeping a regular workout schedule, I had to flex professional sales muscles and learn how to connect and build relationships in a completely virtual world. We had to get creative and embrace a whole new way of selling in a world that changed overnight. Whether you have been selling for one year or 20 years, the new sales environment hasn’t been without its challenges, but we found a way. I saw it as an opportunity to build new communication muscles or skills.
Another way the pandemic has changed sales environments has been the frequency customer engagements. We actually connect more often now because we’re not having to juggle competing travel schedules. We might not get to meet virtually for a long time, but we are certainly connecting more often.
And we’re finding that we don’t always need to meet face to face to stay connected. I’ve seen an increasing willingness this year to do things virtually that in the past we thought needed to be face to face. We are getting information out to people in new ways and even though we are working remotely, we are finding the virtual connections are boosting engagement. I think part of the reason is that virtual and online events let people access the content when they have time to focus on the material.
Industry Stepped Up
When the world shut down in March, there were a lot of companies looking for answers as to how we were going to operate when our entire workforce was at home. At the same time, people were trying to figure out how to make sure our kids didn’t lose the school year. The channel stepped up in a big way to get companies back on their feet and schools (and students) equipped to teach.
The beauty of the channel and our partner ecosystem is that we work across multiple industries so we can see what is working and what isn’t and apply those lessons to scale great ideas quickly. In a time when speed was so important, partners were the catalyzing force to drive solutions to scale.
At the same time, we saw partners becoming a central hub between developers, chief security officers, information officer and all the decision makers who needed to pivot quickly to deliver new solutions. Now more than ever, we saw that partners aren’t just the ones fulfilling orders, they are really helping guide, as a trusted advisor, and it’s a role we will continue to fill in the year ahead.
For many businesses, this pandemic has been devastating. We can’t gloss over the impact on people and businesses around the world, but it also presented an opportunity. I read recently that applications to start new businesses in the US are higher than ever, and up more than 77% since the second quarter of 2020. The fact that there are a lot of new companies being formed is good news for the economy, and I suspect that all those new companies rely on technology as a fundamental basis of their business. It is unfortunate but I suspect that in companies that are continuing to struggle, technology is not a key differentiator of their business model. Now more than ever, it must be.
The pandemic has also fostered trends and innovations that will continue to change the world. There can be no doubt that the digital transformation of existing companies has accelerated, and it has sparked the creation of new digital businesses. It is going to be interesting to see where it takes us!
Just look at healthcare. We started a healthcare business back in 2005 around the potential of using technology for remote monitoring and patient engagement. Fifteen years later, all the things we needed are now in place to make it possible including physician adoption, patient acceptance, insurance reimbursement, and the technological advancements to make it viable.
I’d argue widespread acceptance would not have happened as quickly if we had not been forced to respond to the pandemic but I am excited to see the further evolution of telemedicine as it starts to deliver promises of reduced cost of health care, improved patient care, and more preventative maintenance. I’m using healthcare as an example but there have been dramatic and transformative advancements in a range of different industries as we look to cloud, edge, AI and IoT to help us work safely, boost productivity and increase automation.
2021 Here We Come
The roll out of vaccine programs are the biggest thing on people’s mind as we head into the holiday season and look forward to the promise of a return to normal in 2021.
There can no doubt that 2020 forced us to rethink business models. There are countless examples of businesses who have reimagined the way they do business, interact with customers, and deliver services, and they are thriving. Watching how companies reimagine the way business is done and seeing how they have prevailed and continue to morph as we go into a post COVID-19 world, is going to be very exciting.
I am looking forward to the coming year because I think as the dust settles, it could be a better world than the one we left behind. The pandemic forced us to rethink the way we live, work, and play and there is a lot of good that I think will come from that.
Best Wishes to You All – My Colleagues, Customers, Partners, and Friends!