Along with the way people work, learn, and socialize, the pandemic has fundamentally changed the way companies do business. And in this moment, those who can adapt to the steep challenges and new opportunities of these disruptions can position themselves for the future. That was the resounding message at the yearly HP Reinvent partner forum last month which this year attracted more than 5,000 virtual attendees from more than 140 countries who gathered to learn about new products, new business models, and new rules of customer engagement from HP leaders, along with the CEOs of companies like Accenture, Intel, Mastercard, and Microsoft.
“This is a defining moment for our companies and our industries,” HP CEO Enrique Lores said in the virtual event’s opening session. “We are witnessing the dawn of a new age ... but to fully capture these opportunities, we need to challenge the status quo.”
As tech companies grapple with the tectonic shifts of the past six months and the openings and responsibilities they have going forward, there are none so impactful as the way we think about work. Speakers emphasized that the pandemic has accelerated trends that were already under way across industries, such as workforce mobility, online education, and digital transformation.
PC and printers have become more essential than ever for working, going to school, running small businesses, and even seeing a doctor. Yet operating remotely has posed challenges — like internet access, bandwidth, and security — that demand innovative solutions. New tools are also required for maintaining collaboration and creativity at a distance. “We were able to stay productive because of a built-up reservoir of social capital,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. “You can be productive and burning down a backlog, but are you creating [something] new?”
In a world going digital fast, companies are also facing an imperative to equip workers with the skills they need to succeed. “This isn’t about teaching [people] to use new tools, but becoming on an ongoing basis a learning organization,” said Accenture CEO Julie Sweet. She emphasized that companies must tap digital technology to make learning widely accessible, as well as focus on personalized, “snackable” content.
The rise of personalization and the subscription economy
Among other big business model changes, the pandemic has turbocharged the rise of the subscription economy, which is projected to grow by a factor of 36 in the next five years. If you’re among those who count on a predictable delivery of razor blades, coffee beans, or even toilet paper, you’re in good company. It’s convenient for consumers (especially under quarantine) and as companies are figuring out, offering services and goods to consumers on a recurring basis can somewhat prepare them to withstand crises and pivot quickly compared to traditional product-based models, according to Tien Tzuo, CEO of Zuora, a maker of cloud-based software that enables any company in any industry to run a subscription business. It also helps cement brand loyalty.
“Companies that see customers as subscribers and are offering services to them on a recurring basis are finding that recurring revenue makes them incredibly resilient in this marketplace,” he said. “It’s easy for your competitors to copy your products; it’s really hard for them to replicate the relationships you have with your customers.”