I write this now from an unusual vantage point: watching in real time as hundreds of medium and large companies try to cope with the impact of an unprecedented global event. And what I’m seeing is pretty interesting. Yes, a lot of the talk track has to do with digital enablement or with working quickly in a changing environment, but even more of it has to do with having a development partner willing to flex with you to solve your current problems rather than sticking to the contract.
I work for a nimble and growing software development and consulting firm. We can (and do) work from anywhere at any time. It’s our model, so parts of this new environment are not a huge flex for us. You can imagine, though, how COVID-19 has created substantial disruption for our clients and, therefore, for us.
We have been lucky thus far in that much of our client base is made up of essential businesses who are still up and running and pushing forward. In fact, we’ve seen an upsurge in certain parts of our practice, which I think is emblematic of the current environment; we have all been forced to go online very rapidly, like it or not.
I don’ t know if it’s valuable for folks to know what we’re seeing; my hope is that it is. So, I’m going to share some of what I’ve seen and learned thus far from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Top 4 Lessons Learned (so far):
1. Pivot with your client, pivot with the business.
Example: Advanced data and reporting
One of our bench strengths at ProfitOptics is data and analysis. We are really good at pulling data from all over the place into one repository and helping companies come out with something meaningful. We were recently working with a client on a project that had been planned for months and ended up being derailed because of the impacts of the coronavirus. Instead of worrying about that, we leaned in to find out where we could add value.
The client still needed help. Rather than sticking hard and fast to our SOW, we listened to their critical customer facing data needs. We dropped what we were doing and worked with them over a weekend, preparing critical corona-related customer reporting that could be easily generated and replicated going forward. This activity helped our client shift to meet their customers’ needs and helped them keep moving forward in this challenging environment. Yes, the original project is still on hold, but, as their partner, we are continuing to focus on what they need to do, and we’ll get back to what they want to do when we can.
2. When it’s time to embrace change, lean into it.
Example: New flexible sales & eCommerce tools
We had a client who was about 80% rolled onto a new Sales Order Entry Tool/eCommerce platform we built for them when the coronavirus really started to hit the US. They had been slowly migrating to help their sales team acclimate while adding some new features. This new tool was more stable and more feature-rich, but most importantly, it could be easily accessed from any browser or device. When the entire sales force had to shift to home for safety, they fast-tracked the migration with our support, and the platform hasn’t missed a beat.
Our focus for them went from small fixes and enhancements to laser focus on speed and stability as their access to the platform intensified. It was heartening to see that our cross-browser compatibility testing had been thorough, and we’ve been excited to see that their current order volume (25% over normal) is being easily absorbed. Our client’s foresight to require easy access to the platform has turned out to be more important than any of us could have anticipated, and now we’re working with them on additional tools to help manage and maximize their increased volume.
3. Supply chain management needs specific focus and extra help.
Example: Item substitutions and restrictions
ProfitOptics has a number of clients in the healthcare distribution field that have been stretched to the limit by the current climate. Based on their own infrastructure and IT limitations, in some cases they weren’t able to pivot and provide their sales teams with the intel they needed on order/item status, item substitutions and replacements–specifically around Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) items and other COVID-19-related supplies. Knowing how critical this information is to the sales force (not to mention the customer), we collaborated with the client to repurpose development hours to create new rules, restrictions, data elements, and guidelines around specific items and categories.
We then worked to push those rules and restrictions into the sales order tools, so reps and support staff could help guide their customers to what was available and also be able to easily explain restrictions at time of order. They can also see item status (inventory or backorder status) as well as when information was last updated. This kind of communication can make all the difference to customer experience and has helped balance the supply chain, ensuring that people get access to critical supplies during this time.
4. Staff augmentation means we’re on the team.
Example: An important release means you go the distance
We provide staff augmentation services to our clients on both the business and development sides. One of our clients had a critical release last week, which was made even more critical due to the impact of COVID-19 on their business. Our team (business and dev) was up until 1AM testing and back on at 6AM to make sure the launch was entirely smooth and successful. This is a time when business disruption cannot happen. Having a flexible team that can work anywhere and who will be there for every release can offer a lot of comfort and stability at a time when so many other things are in chaos.
Because of the nature of our business, we’re used to switching gears, pivoting in the moment, and shifting with the environment. Our clients, to be honest, aren’t. The larger a business gets, the harder it becomes to move on a dime. Partnering with a good software development and consulting firm can actually help in this environment, so when you find a need, you can quickly hand it over, execute, and continue moving forward quickly. This is a time to come together as partners – and an opportunity to show how much we can all achieve together.