The New Normal

Have you noticed the phrase the “New Normal” has been creeping into newspapers, emails and blogs in the past few weeks? It has made me consider what it means and what will be considered normal when we are encouraged to step off the bench back onto the pitch and resume business activities again.

One thing that is easy to forecast is that the business to business world will be different. Ask yourselves the following questions:

  • Will I be taking a flight or a train to a meeting, conference, seminar, or expo anytime soon?
  • Will I be happy to go back to the office – commute using public transport, share space and facilities with my colleagues?
  • Will I accept visitors to the office to review my Print, Stationery, Network, Telecoms, or any of the services we use in our offices on a day to day basis?
  • Will I accept technicians onsite to fix a printer, server, or vending machine?
  • Will I be happy to visit a supplier, partner, or customer in person?
  • Will I be comfortable to interact with a shared piece of equipment – like an MFP to access my printed documents?

If your answer is a no or even a very reluctant yes to these questions, then the business world will have fundamentally changed. The online business meeting will be part of the new normal requiring new skillsets and reducing the human interaction we have taken for granted until now. Workplaces will be less crowded, companies will be relying on split shifts, or moving people to working from home completely and reducing the proportion of workers who go to the office for their work. This will change the document requirements and processes of organisations everywhere.  It is inconceivable that employees will have a device sitting on their bookcase, that is large, needs an engineer and produces a high volume. Printing will be a last resort in any process not the norm. There will be no point in an administrator worker saving a physical copy of a document at home. The kids will not need to see it and the dog can’t read. It will have to be saved online so others can have access.

Consider the current practice of most office workers of a certain age (like me) who attend a meeting, in a meeting room, with colleagues to discuss a project. Through habit I print off the agenda, perhaps the minutes summarising actions so far, maybe the odd spreadsheet and occasionally a copy of a relevant presentation. I have noticed since lock down, having attended dozens of online meetings, nothing is printed. The agenda is shared via the invite and on screen during the meeting, as are all the other documents. The presentation is on screen be it a PowerPoint or software demonstration. Spreadsheets are replaced by dashboards and Business Intelligence.  When it is finished the recording of the meeting is distributed, capturing the presentations in whatever medium they were given and including the discussion around the subject of the meeting. All of which means the content is richer and more valuable than was previously considered normal and frustratingly you cannot print a recording.

None of these technologies are new – but the speed of adoption we are currently seeing makes it the “New Normal”. In most cases it an improvement of processes and represents a huge opportunity for the Business to Business Channel but we need to embrace it, plan for it and crucially adapt because it is going to be very challenging.

Phil Madders – PAE Business, Managing Director

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