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Remote Work and Business Continuity in the Age of COVID-19 – The Six Five Podcast
by Daniel Newman | March 25, 2020

In the latest episode of The Six Five, Daniel Newman and Patrick Moorhead discuss how businesses continue working in the age of the Coronavirus. In the next few episodes, Daniel and Patrick will be changing the format. Instead of talking about 6 hot news items, new episodes will be focusing on what’s going on in the world of work. Every business, big and small, in every industry is being forced to think a little bit differently.

Daniel noted that this is the first global pandemic in the age of social media. Sure, there social media existed during the MERS outbreak and Ebola and even with Swine Flu, but all of those were either isolated or the numbers were very small. Now we have the 24-hour news cycle and social media. Companies are having to respond in real-time. Companies are getting pressure from celebrities, from organizations, from politicians and political leanings to make decisions instantly. This is changing business continuity forever.

How Businesses Sell in this Era of Uncertainty

As I’m sure you’ve seen, businesses are basically having to rethink how they market and sell today. In the tech industry, Daniel guessed that there’s about a 70/30 split in responses. 70 percent of companies are leaning into digital and embracing the opportunities. They are pivoting by doing more digital events, webinars, podcasts, and producing more digital content. They are leaning in big time to build a new pipeline and create a new way to sell. But the other 30 percent are starting to panic.

Patrick pointed out that the show must go on and that the companies that will succeed during this time will focus on their customers and embrace digital communications and digital commerce. Digital capabilities are going to change, but companies need to embrace the fact that people are digital creatures by nature.

Daniel and Patrick discussed that while companies have embraced digital a lot has not changed in the art of digital sales and marketing. We’ve seen websites change and we’ve seen experience centers for companies like Peloton and Casper pop up, but these are not digital experience centers. These are brick and mortar experiences.

At this point, you really have two choices as an organization. You can lean into this new construct and enhance your digital practices, make the right partnerships, get more active with your PR efforts, marketing efforts, and sales efforts by embracing new tools and technologies or you can stay where you are which is missing the entire point of digital transformation. There’s hope that companies will make the right investments and lean into the transformation.

Finding the Balance When Working from Home

As companies are shutting down normal operations and working remotely, many employees are figuring out how to manage the switch. Patrick noted that having the right technology makes a big difference including the right security software and services. It’s not just big enterprises that need to worry about security and data privacy. It’s everyone. Also having tools in place for video interaction is paramount to getting stuff done.

Daniel then made the point that there are a lot of lists floating around about how to be successful working from home, but each person is different. If you are productive in pajamas then wear pajamas. If you can get three hours worth of work done in an hour and then go for a walk, do it. You’ve got to find your own balance.

We are in a modern era of productivity that’s measured by what you get done, not how long you work. Working at home can be isolating, so figure out how to stay in touch with people. Turn on your camera. Do team calls. Be really efficient. Use the tools. Use the technology. Talk to people in your home. Have your dog in the office with you. Find what works for you and be okay with pivoting a little bit. But most importantly, be agile.

As a business leader, it’s important to drive continuity and continue to drive forward through the fear of the unknown. It’s your best way to conquer it. There are certainly going to be challenges. Every company needs to have continuity plans for their respective business, their products, their services and the impacts of what’s going on with Covid-19. But the companies that are ready, will pounce.

If you want to know more about business continuity or how to move your business forward, get in touch with Daniel or Patrick. And be sure to check out the next episode of The Six Five to keep hearing our analysis on how businesses are impacted by COVID-19.

Transcript:

Daniel Newman: Welcome to The Six Five Podcast. I’m your host today, Daniel Newman, joined by my always esteemed, top notch global analyst, Patrick Moorhead, who’s roaring into the speakers right now. We’ve got a little bit of pent up energy as our travels have been grounded. For anybody out there that knows us and knows our show, knows that this time of year would typically mean planes, trains and automobiles around the globe, around the U.S., from one tech event to another, but if you’re listening to this event and you haven’t been buried under a rock for about the last two months, you also know that the world has turned on its axis over the last few months.

What was shaping up to be a crazy spring of tech events has suddenly put all of us in our home offices, as the coronavirus COVID-19 has braced us, taken our breath away, both literally and figuratively, and driven us into new depths and pivots within our businesses. So Patrick and I want to take the next couple of episodes and actually change our format a little bit because everyone that knows The 65 knows that we typically talk about six hot news takes and we give deep analysis on them, but we want to take this platform and take this opportunity to talk a little bit about what’s going on in the world of work, in the era of remote work and in this time when COVID-19 is forcing every business, big and small, especially the tech industry, but really every industry, to think a little bit differently.

Before we jump into the show, before we start talking about some of these themes, Patrick, how the heck are you, buddy?

Patrick Moorhead: Daniel, I’m going a little bit stir-crazy here, but I don’t think I’ve been home this long in nine years. It is nice to see everybody. I am working out every day. I feel great. It is nice to be here in Austin. I could get used to being at home.

Daniel Newman: I’m going to note that, so when things pick back up, I’m going to tell everyone that Pat doesn’t really want to travel, so you should have me hosting your events. Just kidding, my brother. No, but seriously-

Patrick Moorhead: That would be the best. I would appreciate if you would do that.

Daniel Newman: I got your back.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah.

Daniel Newman: I got your back.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah. So I’ll go from traveling 45 weeks a year to just maybe 25 or 30.

Daniel Newman: Right. You know, what’s funny is let’s talk about the progression here and just how crazy this is, Pat. Mobile World is a big event for us. As this was just starting to pique in China in January, rumors got out that Mobile World may get canceled. When you’re here and there’s nothing going on in January and there’s no cases really documented, it’s hard to fathom. How could an illness, a virus that at that time was not a pandemic yet in China be so significant that it’s about to take down one of the world’s largest events for technology?

You started to hear vendors were pulling out and there was fear and it was growing. It was this pinball. Then it was a snowball. It was funny because after that event … It’s not necessarily funny. Ironic might be the right word. After the event got canceled, I still had some travel, but there was still some events, but this snowball of events started getting canceled. That’s been talked about a lot, but I remember thinking to myself, “Oh, it’ll be kind of nice.” My daughter is a senior in high school. She’s playing her last year of high school soccer. I’ll get to be home a little bit more. This will blow past. It’s going to be tough, but it’ll blow past and we’ll pick up.

Last Friday, we get the call. School is out. It’s canceled for three, four weeks. Possibly indefinitely through the end of the year. It’s just amazing, from January to the end of … Middle of March, how quickly this progressed from possibly impacting a few tech events to literally shutting down the world. We’ve got shelter in home orders now in San Francisco and impending in New York. We’ve got restaurants, bars, social gatherings, NBA, the NHL, the Premier League shut down. This is different, Pat. So what I want to take about the next 15 minutes on this show, talk about, is business continuity in the age of remote work because in a world …

This is the first kind of major global pandemic that’s really taken the world by whole during the era of social media. You know, there was a little bit of Ebola, a little bit of MERS, but these were very isolated. The numbers were very small. Last time numbers got this big was probably Swine Flu. That was before the era of social was anything like it was. So now we have the 24-hour news cycle. We have social media exploding, Pat. On top of that, companies having to react to things in real time at a rate of never before. The pressure from celebrities, from organizations, from politicians and political leanings to make decisions instantly. Pat, this is changing business continuity forever.

In the United States, we have 4000 cases right now. That’s like one in what? Like a million right now is what that would add up to or one in 100,000. I’m doing the math in real time, so forgive me, but it’s a small number, but it’s growing pretty quickly. Now we’re all working from home. So let’s just start there. Businesses are basically having to rethink how they market and sell today. My early learnings, Pat, and we talk to the tech industry every day. For those of you in the industry, I’m seeing about a 70/30 split. I just want to start here.

I’m seeing about 70% of the companies I’ve talked to are leaning into digital. They’ve come to us and they’ve said, “We need to change the way we market and sell. We want to do more digital events. We want to get our story out and more narratives, more podcasts, more webcasts, more webinars, more digital content. We are going to lean in big. We’re going to build our funnel and our pipeline to be supporting a new way to sell.” Then there’s the 30%. I’m just being kind of honest. It’s not a scientific study, but I feel like there’s panic. There’s some panic.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah. We’ve heard the statement before, “The show must go on.” While we’ll have a few days where people are … They have to stay indoors and they have to get their kids set, they have to make sure their parents are taken care of, but the show will go on. The companies who I think will come out of this looking good, potentially even make some moves, are those people who are going to stick to what they know how to do, and that’s service their customers. Part of serving customers is communicating to those customers. Products still need to be launched, right? Products still need to be positioned.

I think for the next few days, there might be less of a focus on this, but I think as we get settled into our work from home environments, which you and I have been doing forever, people will shift back, likely next week, in how do we do commerce? In fact, I actually think it’s going to be nationalistic, which is do we want to have 20% of the labor force laid off? I saw some figures on that today, or do we want to get the show going, which brings us to what you were talking about, Daniel, is that a lot of companies are reaching out to us and asking, “Hey, what can we do differently? How do we keep this show going when we’re all at home?”

It does come down to digital marketing, digital communications and doing the best with what you have. Let’s say you are 70% traditional, 30% digital. For you to swing basically 100% to digital or, like you said, the laggards are going to do nothing, which is sad and pathetic. There are different rules of the game out there. I am sorry to say if you haven’t built a digital capability, you’re going to be in a world of hurt, particularly if it’s not something that is either SAS-based or remotely accessible on prem.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. I think you make a great point, and I think we can look at maybe … Weave this in the direction of the internals and the externals because those are the two major factors most companies are facing. How they’re handling this internally. How are they communicating it, deploying the workforce, supporting it and how are they messaging this out externally? I’ve seen a massive number of emails. Every company on the planet right now wants to tell us what they’re doing about COVID, which is understandable. I understand why companies want to make sure their positioning is out there, that they’re communicating, that they value customer safety and in this time, what they plan to do to keep people safe and keep their business continuity in place, but that to me is a lot of packaged messaging, all the same.

To your point, Pat, what I think companies really need to do is come out very aggressively now, talking about how they plan to fill the gaps from the events that are canceled. We’ll do a whole other show on events, but from events that were canceled, from launches that have been postponed, from customer orders that are being delayed, from supply chain issues that have to be navigated, from hiring key employees in roles that maybe are … I’ll be really honest, Pat. It is really easy right now with everybody being at home to sit at your desk, read social media, listen to the news and feel depressed. It is very easy to do that.

I’m not going to lie. I’ve had moments. Then you snap back into it. You go, “This is going to pass, but this is going to change things.” So you look at those two things. One, what can I control? Two, what’s going to change? To your point, I think that digital capability is going to change. Digital events, Pat, were not ever wrong. Have not been necessary for probably almost a decade, okay? For instance, for the last decade, there has been digital tools, event tools and softwares meeting online, video conferencing, that most streaming that could have communicated most of the messaging. We’re social creatures.

So the first thing is how do we keep our business social? Well, thankfully there’s been social tools, social media, digital marketing, digital content. There is video meetings that can be held. Get yourselves, people, on video. I can’t tell you, Pat, how many people, how many clients … How many meetings do you get on a video platform where people don’t turn their video on? It’s crazy.

Patrick Moorhead: It’s probably at least 65%.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. We’ll dig into this more when we talk about events, but this isn’t even about events. This is just about one-to-one selling. This is just about communication. You and I both run our own respective companies. We work with a lot of the same clients, but when we want to talk, how often do we do it without video?

Patrick Moorhead: Never.

Daniel Newman: We almost always turn the video on.

Patrick Moorhead: Only if we’re in a place with horrible reception, if we’re-

Daniel Newman: We’re driving.

Patrick Moorhead: -driving a car.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, but the point is it brings that human connection back. That’s one thing that I really think businesses in the sales and marketing side could start picking up on. The other that you mentioned is the digital practices have been lackluster. I mean companies have done it, but almost kicking and screaming. How many B2B … Especially in B2B. How many B2B companies have really moved their social media, their digital storytelling, their building and podcast assets, their creation of interesting, timely webinars forward beyond the same kind of level, Pat, that was done in 2003? When go to webinar was in its early hay days. Has it gotten even any better or have these practices just antiquated, aged and just continued onward, thinking that there would never become a time when we would be straddled to our desks and requiring a little differentiation to grab the market’s attention?

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah. I do believe the age of big data and SAS has moved us forward. It is pretty ironic, though, the company who owns Enterprise CRM is … Not Salesforce. It’s salesforce.com, okay? .com, right, was an era.

Right? Who has come along and redone it or just done it differently in Web 2.0 or Web 3.0? Maybe it’s Microsoft with dynamics. Maybe it’s up and coming. So I agree with you, Daniel, that not only has the technology not dramatically changed. The art of digital sales and marketing hasn’t moved. It’s interesting. When I look at the first websites and I look at where we are today, there’s been a lot of improvement in terms of speed, in terms of the amount of information, the quality of photography, let’s say.

It’s funny. We all thought that there was going to be a day when objects were going to be 3D. We were going to be able to turn, flip. We’re going to put on a pair of VR goggles and check out these products to decrease time to decision, but that kind of crashed and burned, if you think about it.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. I think it’s hard. I think companies have leaned in to traditional methods. Let’s get everybody to one location and let them witness it here. Let’s get everyone into the dealership. We’ve seen modernized companies starting to build these experience centers, but you think about it. It’s actually been a case for the brick and mortar, right? The Peloton Experience Center, the Casper Bed Experience Center. Rather than actually building truly digital experiences … Of course, it’s hard to know if you’re going to like a bed without laying in it. So there’s some reality, but how much closer could someone have gotten to buying a car if they could truly get in and out of the car and navigate it? We’ve seen those experiences get better and better. For how long VR has been in marketing, it hasn’t come as far as we might have thought it would by this point.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, and that’s true. I think Audi had some interesting experiences, and I think even Jaguar sold cars that didn’t exist based on 3D models using VR headsets, but here we are today, March 17th, 2020. Pretty much all retail stores, if they haven’t closed for two or three weeks already … What they’re left with is people buying online. With websites that are prettier … I look at the Apple website and it’s prettier. We have apps that make … Speed it up a little bit and add maybe a few more features. Frictionless checking out, but for the most part, it’s pretty much the same.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. I think the bottom line, Pat, because we could go down a pretty warm and tasty rabbit hole here, is that you really have two choices as an organization right now. You can lean into this new construct and enhance your digital practices, make the right partnerships, get more active with your PR efforts, your marketing efforts, your sales efforts, embracing new tools, embracing the technologies, looking at SAS, equipping your workforce with the right work from home tools, or you can really … This is that pivotal disruption moment from lagger to leader. This is that moment where if you have not transformed, you’ve literally missed the whole point.

If there’s one favor that will come out of all of this, you will see the companies that made the great investments, the right investments, that bought into digital transformation and executed it with great effort within their organization over the last five and 10 years will benefit by how they will come out of this. Now I did want to have one segment of this show, though, Pat, where I wanted to kick it back to you. I’ll give my thoughts, but let’s talk about work from home because you and I advise a lot of companies. Obviously, we’re giving our advice here on what we think companies need to do. Of course, you have to manage everything to your balance sheet, to your income, to your risk tolerance, to your access to capital, to your supply chain in terms of how you handle things going forward.

The reason I think we both stand so strongly about being forward here is because we’ve seen in history, no company has ever saved their way to a profit consistently over a long period of time, meaning you can pare back for a bit, but eventually, that will bite you. Those efforts, it’s always a lagging indicator. So you save for a little bit, but in the long-run, your growth will be stunted. We work from home every day. We work from home every day or we work from the road as our home, but now that we’re at home, what are your tips? For those that are out there that you’ve worked with for years, that maybe are just listening to this podcast, especially our friends in the tech industry that suddenly find themselves working at home, what do you recommend?

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah. Simply, I’ve thought about this more intently. I was just doing it for the last nine years, working remotely, is first off, have the right tech. Have the right hardware, have the right software, have the right services. Set up social boundaries and family rules, right? I’m going to dive into each of these. This doesn’t just apply to the big enterprise is having the right security and data privacy in place. I got an email from my insurance company. They are a not work from home company. I got an email that said they deployed all 15,000 of their employees outside of the enterprise, which was a huge shock to me because they were typically sitting at their desks with desktops.

They’re not going to take these desktops necessarily with them, but I wish I knew how they did it. I have a feeling I know how they did it. We’re going to be interviewing some folks from the biggest PC companies in the world in the next week, talking about how they did this, but good place to start is having the right tech. To me, interaction and getting work done is … You can do a lot with the tech. What I found is having the right camera setup, having the right microphone and having dual displays is a paramount to getting the stuff done.

You really do get what you pay for. I’m recommending if your notebook doesn’t have a good camera on it, pay $50. I’m a big fan of the Logitech C920. When it comes to microphone, you and I are both sitting here with microphones that are a couple hundred dollars. I don’t think it’s just for podcasts. You don’t turn off your microphone. I don’t turn my microphone off when we’re doing a Microsoft teams call or a Cisco WebX call. You really do get what you pay for. It’s really the difference between me hearing what you’re saying or not hearing what you’re saying. On the camera side, Daniel, there are a lot of research … I think we see this every day. The nonverbal cues that go into communications. The better the camera, the more I can see those nonverbal cues on your face.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, absolutely, Pat. Those are some great tips. If I can just sort of complement them, and I’ll be a little less granular, I’ve been working at home now for probably the better part of the last seven years. I did it a little bit on and off the decade prior to that, Pat, but one thing I’m really weary of right now is that everybody wants to say, “Do this and you’ll be successful working from home.” They want to give you their list. The thing about it is is that just like you at work, you’ve got to find your own stasis. You’ve got to find your own balance.

I wear shorts and pajama pants all the time at home, and I’m super productive. I have no doubt and I’m very confident in my level of productivity, but you’ll see a lot of news out there and a lot of articles that are, “Get dressed and shower and put on to work and wear a tie so that you feel like you’re at work.” If that works for you, do it. Others talk about regimens, right? Like not allowing yourself to leave the office during certain hours, like working in your office, so you don’t get tempted into playing your Xbox or watching television.

I think we’re in a modern era where productivity is really deemed by what you get home, not how long you work for. So if you can work in blitz spurts, work for an hour and get three hours’ worth of work done and then you want to take 30 minutes and watch a show or exercise or go for a walk, do it. As long as obviously you understand the policy of your organization. The thing, like I said, I’ve found is there’s a lot of sanity that comes in being at home or insanity. It really is a choice. My family, especially right now with kids out of school … I’ve got my three-year-old son, my teenage daughters, my wife. They’re here.

I’m very good at telling them when I need to be isolated, when I need them to be quiet, when I need them to respect my work, but I’m also really happy at 2:30 in the afternoon, when I have a 20-minute break from call to call to go out and mingle, just like you do at work. It’s actually that social existence that so many of us miss when we do work from home. I guess my big take here, Pat, because you gave some really great practical advice … Equipment, technology, is don’t get overly sucked into what all the “remote work” experts have to say. They’re everywhere. Everybody is a remote work expert now. It’s the social media guru of 10 years ago. Thank you very much, Covid-19. You’ve created an industry.

The thing about it is you know what makes you productive. Working at home can be isolating, so figure out how to stay in touch with people. What kind of social interactions? Like we said, turn on your camera. Do team calls. Be really efficient. Use the tools. Use the technology. Talk to people in your home. Have your dog in the office with you. All that stuff can be okay, but find what works for you and be okay with pivoting a little bit. Be agile. I think that’s my other advice is over a period of time, whether it was the tools I used, Pat, or the routine, I found a little bit of agility.

I work odd hours. I like to work early and I like to work late. I would say my least productive hours at times are between 10:00 and 3:00. I usually schedule calls, group calls and stuff, in those hours because I tend to have a hard time really focusing on writing and research at those times or committing myself to strategic business planning. I do that stuff really well at 10:00 p.m. when it’s quiet in my house and when nobody is around. Finding your groove. Find what works for you. Find your efficiencies. Wear pajamas or don’t. Get dressed. Take a shower.

Patrick Moorhead: I think just to break the monotony, you might change it. One day, you might wear a suit and the next day, you might be in pajamas. It probably took me three or four years to find my niche. Gosh, I think the first two years, I didn’t immediately take a shower. Right? It was pajamas and maybe what I wore to bed. Then after those years, I really got into, “You know? I really just feel better now getting ready before I get to work.” Taking a shower and then sitting down there.

Standing desks have been a godsend for me because you just can’t sit for three hours and not do anything. I gained a bunch of weight. This won’t be going on for months, I hope. It could. Hopefully it’ll just last for weeks, but the ability to stand up and, gosh, walk around the block. I went through a stage where I would do a ton of calls, walking around the block.

Daniel Newman: That’s awesome. I did that too for a while. I would take my calls on a walk or I would take briefings, where it was like groups, where I knew I wouldn’t be talking a lot. I’d mute it and I’d walk, so that I would get steps in. It helps you feel less insane. Going outside, Pat, can make you feel normal. Just getting fresh air because like you said, you can literally roll out of bed, down to your office, be in your office all day, never leave the house and you do. You get to feel a little cooped up. Given the circumstances right now, there may not be as much leaving as we’d like. Get that fresh air.

I think that’s a ton of good advice, and I hope everybody out there, like I said … We’re not saying this is it. Read your resources. Do what works for you. Stay flexible. Where we started this whole thing is if you’re a business leader … Driving continuity and driving forward into the fear is going to be your best way to conquer it. There are certainly going to be challenges. Every company needs to have continuity plans for their respective business, their products, their services and the impacts of what’s going on with Covid-19. Depending on where you are in the supply chain, what you sell, what you offer.

For the tech industry, we are just in the early phases, Pat. We are really in the phases where what tech does … If it’s infrastructure, we’re going to need more network fabric. We’re going to need more CP horsepower, more GP horsepower. We’re going to need more storage. We’re going to need all of it to basically support the growing need for businesses to run digitally. So in the tech industry, even if there’s a blip of negativity on the radar, traction right now is such a huge risk because I assure you, you and I both, Pat, from talking to dozens of customers right now, the best companies, the ones that you think of as the best … We all know who they are. They’re not standing down right now.

Patrick Moorhead: No. Yeah. In fact, they’re looking for the opportunity to take market share out of this. I’m a big believer in momentum. Those companies who have been working from home for a while understand how to work remotely, had made those investments, are ready to pounce. Quite frankly, they want to take your business away from you, who’s ever listening.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, absolutely. I’m going to end this one right there. Look for another episode from us coming up shortly after this that we’re going to talk about digital events and how to do them well because we’ve had a lot of inquiries from our clients. So we figured we’d launch that out at scale a little bit, but this show on business continuity, there’s a lot here. A lot more. Both Pat and I are happy to talk to you individually. We just really appreciate you tuning in to this episode of The 65. This is going to be a topic for a little while. We may come back and cover it some more, but for now, we hope all the tech industry customers that we work with, all the tech industry customers that we don’t work with are really thinking about how to push their businesses forward.

Don’t take your foot entirely off the gas. Be cautious. Maybe hover over the break, but don’t stop because the opportunities are going to be there. Tech will come roaring back. I believe it. It’s hard not to believe it, but I want to thank everyone. For this episode of The Six Five, for Patrick Moorhead, for Daniel Newman, thank you all for tuning in. Hit that “subscribe” button. We’re out of here. We’ll see you later.

Disclaimer: The Six Five Podcast is for information and entertainment purposes only. Over the course of this podcast, we may talk about companies that are publicly traded and we may even reference that fact and their equity share price, but please do not take anything that we say as a recommendation about what you should do with your investment dollars. We are not investment advisors and we do not ask that you treat us as such.

Daniel Newman
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