Last month I talked about how the coronavirus highlighted one of the key benefits of the cloud, namely the ability of staff to work remotely and log in from anywhere in the world — from tablets, phones, laptops and pretty much every other kind of device. Essentially, it enables businesses to function as normal even if they are forced to shut their physical offices to reduce the risk of infection.
Since early February, of course, the situation with Covid-19 has escalated dramatically. As of mid-March, it has seen a whole country, Italy, go into lockdown, been labelled a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, resulted in a travel ban for Europeans to the US and sent global stock markets into meltdown (Wednesday 12th March saw the biggest one-day fall in the FTSE 100 since 1987).
In order to restrict infection rates among staff, and also protect their bottom lines, a growing number of companies led by the world’s tech giants — Twitter, Google, Facebook and Amazon among others — have implemented remote working policies across significant chunks of their workforces; and with every day that passes companies in every other sector of the economy are following suit.
It’s now increasingly clear that that Covid-19 has taken the world to a point where the way we work and the technologies we rely upon will never be the same again. It’s not an understatement to say that it has changed everything. Once we get through this, I can see a sea-change in the way businesses operate and interact with other businesses — and the cloud will be at the heart of that change.
For starters, there’s every chance the world’s leading companies will demand that all relevant companies in their supply chains ditch legacy tech as a matter of priority and utilise the cloud, as that will offer greater protection in the event of future outbreaks. The cloud — and by that I mean genuine cloud technology rather than hybrid solutions — will become mandatory rather than optional. Any company that isn’t pure cloud-based will be seen as a weak link. Accountancy practices, which are crucial service providers to every business, large and small, could be required to switch their technology especially quickly — either that or risk losing clients. Those that get ahead of the curve on this front are likely to reap disproportionate rewards.
While the coronavirus pandemic will result in significant operational and technology change, it will also change the mindset of accountancy firms, enabling many to see, for the first time, the true benefits of the cloud. They will learn that remote working and productivity are not mutually exclusive — that your staff working at home does not mean they will be fast asleep in front of Cash in the Attic.
One of the key reasons for this is the real-time workflow and collaboration tools that are an integral part of cloud technology. Through the cloud, everything everyone does, wherever they are, is updated in real-time, which creates a transparency and audit trail in the workforce that is arguably not possible within a physical environment. Paradoxically, people become more accountable and visible through their absence. And the outcome of this increased accountability and visibility, coupled with the fact remote working requires considerably less overhead? More productivity and margin, and stronger revenues and growth.
Covid-19 is without doubt one of the biggest health issues for the past century, and its effects on markets and economies globally will be felt for many months, if not years, to come. It will change the way we live and it will also — fundamentally, irreversibly —change the way we work. But in the long term I would argue that change will be for the better.
Jamie Costello, Co-Founder of the cloud-based payroll provider, Paycircle