How COVID-19 Is Spurring Empathy and Innovation in the Enterprise

June 10, 2020 Derrick Harris

True business transformation is always a daunting prospect. Throw a pandemic into the mix, and it might seem impossible. How is an organization supposed to make fundamental changes across culture, technology, and even business strategy when dealing with new, immediate requirements around working from home, social distancing, and more?

On this episode of the Cloud Native in 15 Minutes podcast, Gautham Pallapa of VMware's global CTO team explains how the COVID-19 pandemic might actually be a golden opportunity for certain organizations to make meaningful changes. From increased empathy for employees and consumers, to sudden digitization of previously physical experiences, companies have had their eyes opened and their hands forced—and what they've seen and experienced should stick with them whenever life gets back to "normal."

Here are a few quotes, and an audio excerpt, where Pallapa goes into more detail on these topics. But you'll want to listen to the whole episode to get the whole story.

Why now for digital transformation?

"The barrier to entry for organizations is pretty low right now, especially in a cloud native world: You have public and private IaaSes, you don't have to worry about the infrastructure anymore ... you have abstraction layers such as VMware Tanzu ... and VMware Spring Runtime that'll help you spin up applications in minutes. And then you don't have to worry about the scalability or the security portion of things, because a lot of it is now taken care of, and so it's much more accelerated to get something onto the platform quickly and have people consume it.

"... And with this pandemic that we are suffering through right now, it becomes even more important because everyone's working remote. You need to have different collaboration tools, you need to have different applications, and you need to manage your infrastructure and your applications remotely, which is the definition of cloud-native abstraction."

Rethinking agile teams

"Agile teams always used to stress upon co-location, making sure that you are exchanging information quickly through organic methodologies. And now, in a remote workforce, all those are going to be challenged because you don't have the concept of co-location. You have to have that virtual collaboration space and try to find new ways of interacting with people.

"So I think the ways of agile working are going to change, which is extremely interesting. It's also very exciting. The ways we collaborate are going to improve. There are a ton of apps that have just popped up, over the last few months, which tried to re-create hallway conversations, team chats, virtual coffees, virtual happy hours, water cooler talk, those kinds of things.

"It's very interesting to see how that happens. With distributed teams, we had it to some extent, but there was always the assumption that you had one large co-located team and then the distributed members were invited into that co-location space. And now, with it being a hundred percent distributed, it's going to be very interesting.

"I feel we're going to evolve much more from a collaboration perspective, and now it helps us empathize with all the distributed teams, as well, because every one of us are in the same state and it helps us connect more as humanity. And I think that is another silver lining that comes out of this."

A sample of the episode, in which Pallapa explains how the pandemic altered the usual definition of work-from-home, and how some organizations are responding to employees' needs around exercise, personal space, and realistic productivity expectations.

IT is stepping up, along with leadership

"The cultural shift within the IT organizations to help the supply chain logistics and the backend systems is tremendous. There are some clients that I've worked with who [were] deploying applications, or making improvements or making adjustments to their existing application stack once a quarter. And they thought that that was pretty aggressive. And now they’re deploying multiple times a week, just so that they can push new features that help the customers, that protect their supply chain folks, and the store employees.

"So, it's phenomenal seeing how we as humans have started to coalesce together and try to fight back and protect each other."

With crisis comes change

"Existential crises always drive technology innovation by leaps and bounds. It's adversity that actually helps us, or the desire to overcome adversity, that actually helps us progress forward. I personally feel that there are a couple of things that are going to usually get improved upon: The first one is the organizational culture—the definition of it and what it actually means for a large predominant group of people who are working remotely....

"Next, from a process perspective, there's going to be a huge amount of push toward automation. We want to get things faster and quicker, and we want to do it with less manual intervention, and also reduced risk. And so automation is going to be a big push. 

"From a people perspective, there's going to be more empathy and leaders are going to be more open. We've already seen a lot of these, with several leaders in the IT community stepping forward and releasing statements, supporting various causes. 

"And, from a technology perspective, for sure, we're going to fundamentally improve our abstraction, our ability to deliver quickly. The speed-to-market process of things is going to improve. The security of things is going to be hugely improved, in my mind, especially because of the different ways in which you can now deploy applications and the various points of entry. 

"And then, from a scalability and stability perspective, we're going to jump in leaps and bounds because now it's more existential. It is a necessity, it is not a nice-to-have anymore. So, fundamentally, we are going to change and improve and grow as a culture and a society."

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Cloud Native in 15 Minutes publishes bi-weekly (or at least it tries to), and you can find it on most of your favorite apps and platforms, including:

Learn more about what we talk about in this podcast

Business Transformation Simplified: The 4 x 3 Approach

Business Transformation Simplifies: 3 Guiding Principles

The 5 Pillars of Digital Transformation

App Modernization 101: An Executive’s Guide to Shipping Better Software

About the Author

Derrick Harris

Derrick Harris is a product marketing manager at VMware.

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