As the more immediate impact of mandated shutdowns, employee layoffs and shelter-in-place orders begin to shift to the longer-term goals of recovering from the economic impact, end user organizations will be forced to re-evaluate and reflect their needs.
For many companies, that means a reevaluation of IT priorities, budget expenditures and also a drive to adopt new technologies to mitigate the impact of future viruses. Cyber security also remains a concern, given that it is an ever-present risk, and a disruption due to being hacked on top of the current coronavirus impact could be fatal for even the largest corporations.
The one thing that is certain is the coronavirus pandemic will permanently change consumer behavior and corporate decision making. Companies will now be looking more to automate existing processes, reduce infrastructure costs and protect against future disruptions.
Not only that, but they will have to improve the reliability, security, and quality of network and cloud services, while reducing costs to offset declining revenue and margins and to free up budget for innovation.
Even if demand increases in the coming months, it may only be 70% of what it was. There will be pressure to lower prices and cut costs, while at the same time still expecting 100% quality in service from their systems integrators.
Given the challenges, I think we will see a move to managed services. Cutbacks in spending will impact in-house IT and infrastructure. As a result, more companies will be inclined to explore outsourced IT services from technology integrators that can install and manage a combination of phone (VoIP), physical security and network systems.
For a reasonable cost, managed services can immediately step in and provide a solution that will allow a company to maintain operations, help desks and even the infrastructure if needed.
Cyber security also remains a top-level concern and can be improved with the help of a top-shelf managed service to protect against hacking, fraudulent transfers, malware and ransomware demands, as well as concerns related to certain hardware made in China such as security cameras and phones.
Active monitoring and response to potential cyber security breaches and abnormal behavior powered by artificial intelligence is available from third party technology providers now for a fraction of the cost of monitoring it internally.
In addition, infection control, even at corporate offices, may become part of the “new normal” in corporate environments and other commercial operations such as universities, logistics centers and the like. This will be driven by an inevitable wave of new federal and state regulations post-coronavirus.
The good news is much of the technology required already exists and is being implemented in heavily regulated industries where security, infection control, visitor controls and access control systems are currently installed.
Aerospace and defense, for example, already audit the comings and goings of visitors: infection and biocontamination controls are utilized in hospitals and clinics; and sanitation precautions are demanded by the FDA in food processing plants.
Technology integrators already provide the technology for those facilities and it can be installed in an office too. As an example, at BTI Communications Group, it literally took a few keystrokes to make adjustments and change the protocols for the coronavirus for our customers that already had these types of systems in place.
Another place where we can expect to see a surge in end user need is in restriction of traffic. Corporate offices and other facilities that once allowed free movement of personnel, visitors and facility maintenance/construction personnel may opt to enact much tighter restrictions on access to the building or specific areas to prevent the spread of future viruses or guard against a return of the coronavirus. In many ways, this would mirror the infection control practices in the same manner as hospitals and clinics.
That kind of technology is already prevalent in hospitals. There are established rules about how employees and patients can move through the facility. In hospitals, there are medication rooms that only approved personnel can access. There are infectious disease wards where access is restricted.
To screen visitors and facility maintenance personnel prior to entry to ensure they are not actively carrying a virus, spot temperature monitoring devices such as infrared thermal cameras could be installed.
Industry standard thermal cameras already exist that can measure a person’s temperature. If a human being has a temperature of 101 or higher, for example, security could be notified and that person would be escorted from the entrance and denied access. This could apply to anyone entering, including employees, visitors, contractors and delivery people.
Once inside, places like conference rooms could be equipped with high-definition security cameras and access control systems to limit the number of people, whether for social distancing, compliance or security.
For example, a system could be designed to utilize access control readers and door locks to track the number of people that have entered the room. A notification by text or e-mail along with a screenshot of the images of the person entering would be sent to a compliance desk. If more than the prescribed number of people were in the room, access would be denied until others left.
With all these opportunities for systems integrators, with expected and continued cutbacks looming in the future at organizations across all verticals, technology systems integrators will have to offer these services at a much lower cost than in-house staff and infrastructure, with full transparency of all fees and charges. In other words, a much higher level of overall accountability will be required when it comes to pricing.
Technology integrators should bear the cost of providing an initial assessment of the company’s needs. The bid should itemize the costs for equipment and support. It should also anticipate future upgrade paths in order to provide transparency to future expenses. In this way, an end user knows their initial, ongoing and upgrade costs and can budget accordingly.