Q&A: Embracing our unique digital workplaces wherever they may be

Q: What have been the key observations for you as a leader in remote working during the mass transition to home working?

A: The almost overnight switch to everyone working remotely has posed myriad challenges for most organisations and, more importantly, for the people that work for them. Even the most experienced remote worker has had to deal with the added complexity of extra responsibilities at home and changes to their daily routines. For those who are used to being office based, the transition has been an even bigger shift. People are a company’s greatest asset and leaders need to make sure they are doing everything they can to support employees as they adapt to their own unique situations.

What has stood out for me is how well and how quickly our people have been able to adapt, and how they have managed to retain a strong sense of culture and community, even without seeing each other in person.

Equally, seeing the high levels of productivity that can be achieved outside the office environment, by setting new behaviours and processes and making use of the digital tools, has been similarly eye opening.

Q: What is Adobe seeing from its customers in terms of tools, technologies and processes that are helping to ensure businesses continue to thrive? 

A: In the same way that supporting our people and helping them to continue to work productively and flexibly from home has been a major focus for us, the same is true for our customers. Many have responded to the current situation by identifying the fundamental technologies they need to stay operational and meet the needs of their employees and customers as quickly and seamlessly as possible.

It’s especially important companies remain digitally connected with their customers during this period. We’ve seen huge demand from across the public and private sectors for our Document Cloud applications that enable people to stay productive and collaborate from anywhere, while keeping their operations running successfully.

Beyond those fundamentals, all companies are facing their own unique challenges. Where the hospitality and travel sectors, for example, have seen their operations heavily restricted, others such as supermarkets have seen demand increase and pressure on supply chains and customer service teams intensify, all while having to meet heightened health and safety requirements.

In some cases, digital transformation programmes that might have been planned for the next few years have needed to be delivered in a matter of weeks. Whatever the sector or business, this is a defining moment.

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Q: You’ve made staying in touch with your teams and partners a priority during the pandemic. How important is communication at this time and what changes have you brought in?

A: It’s enormously important. Delivering a great employee experience is fundamental to maintaining a strong organisational culture and fostering a sense of community. With our people now working remotely, we’ve set up new internal social channels so our teams can continue to keep in touch informally and share their experiences.

As well as moving our team meetings and calls to video conferencing, we also host coffee catchups and even daily challenges where our people share photos of their entries and winners receive a donation for a charity of their choice. Finding ways to replicate the social aspects of going to work has been a big focus for us.

Q: From a strategic perspective, what should companies consider when deploying technology to ensure business continuity?

A: The current situation has accelerated many of our customers’ digital transformation plans or seen them pivot their intended investments from one area to focus on the solutions they need to stay operational. Things like cloud-based collaboration tools and e-signature technologies have gone from being somewhere on a list of priorities to being an absolute necessity.

However, there is a difference between staying operational and ensuring business continuity. The latter also covers the need to continue meeting the expectations of your customers and maintaining service levels. In many sectors, providing that same service entirely digitally might meet a pressing short-term need, but it could also change the way your customer sees you forever.

It’s important to balance short-term needs with a long-term view and consider how the steps you make now will carry through to a world with fewer restrictions, as well as how your customers will respond. For example, if you ramp up your digital offering now, will you be able to scale it back in the future or will your customers have changed their behaviour and expect it to continue?

Q: Finally, what advice do you have for business leaders at this time of crisis?

A: Leaders are faced with making great changes to both their business processes and commercial offerings as they strive to keep their customers and employees satisfied during this challenging period. They are also under pressure to make these changes as seamlessly as possible. It’s a huge task and one where digital technology plays a pivotal role for many of our customers.

Above all, it’s important to keep open minded, flexible, accepting of the situation we find ourselves in and remain supportive. It goes without saying that we are focused on supporting our employees, customers and community at this time and all of the other leaders I’ve spoken with from our customer and partner communities are doing the same.

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