Will the coronavirus pandemic change how retailers and consultants work together?
Retailers and their consulting partners must adapt to the coronavirus. Probably the biggest change in their business model is the travel ban. How do retailers, software vendors and their consulting partners do their work when they are barred from travel, not just internationally but domestically as well?
Large consulting firms like Wipro, Cognizant, Accenture and CapGemini traditionally staff projects with consultants from overseas and all over the United States for projects based here. Is it possible to consult effectively using only local people? Do we leverage telecommuting in a more effective manner? Is there a real substitute for human interaction?
Telecommuting has saved countless travel hours and is the norm for many organizations for some days of the week. However, there is sometimes something “lost in translation” when you try to communicate from afar. During the system development life cycle, there are times when personal interaction is optimal. That human interaction is necessary to avoid miscommunication that inevitably results in wasted time and effort.
One solution to the travel ban may be to staff projects with local experts. But in a time when projects require increasingly specific technical expertise, it seems difficult to find local resources. Arguably though, savvy consultants have been able to finesse information and see the “big picture.” The learning curve may be longer and these consultants may be more expensive, but the end result of being able to access local consultants in the community is invaluable.
Being an optimist by nature, I believe that businesses in general and retailers specifically benefit by localizing their workforce. This new model will keep money in the local community and will alleviate the stress and discontent consultants and their families feel with constant travel. The primary reason consultants leave their field is the unrelenting travel. The pressure to nurture a work/home balance creates an uncomfortable dilemma. Ultimately, this virus like many past catastrophes, has the potential to change the way we work forever.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing retailers and their technology suppliers and consultants as a result of the coronavirus outbreak? What workarounds will be most effective in limiting the disruptions that result from the realities of working in the current environment?