No Going Back – Virtual-First Business Model – Faster Than Ever Virtually

As one CEO said, “we are not going back, we are going forward into the virtual business world before our competitors do, new startups do and anyone else does, as we want to be the best in virtual business now. Our competitors will destroy our business if we don’t beat them virtually-first.” Dan P. 

Throughout business history there are clear business models of market dominance, transformation, decline and destruction. Forty years ago, new businesses started with a personal computer rather than a typewriter. The PC could do many things, not just one thing. Typewriters didn’t die right away but they are largely found in museums today. A decade later when the laser printer emerged it could print images, graphics and much more, not just text. There are many other examples as when CDs replace vinyl, digital cameras replaced film, even now as electric cars are replacing gasoline vehicles and soon driver-less autonomous vehicles will replace person-drive vehicles. Yes there will be problems but in twenty years driving a car for most but certainly not all activities will be a think of the past. Twenty years ago, or so, the internet was finally accelerating, not just a real innovation but seen by many as a means for replacing FAX machines and mailing expensive printed content. Look at what happened to those who were internet-first in their business model. Today, video meetings invented in 1964 by AT&T used in the iconic 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey are finally changing the way all kinds of business meetings are conducted and much more with hundreds or thousands of participants and viewers The point is that technology always changes the way we do business, some much faster than others and some dependent on a changing customer styles and user behavior such as the business suit has taken a while longer to decline. In other situations, things like working in an office may die much more slowly but will absolutely change dramatically. Why because for many though not all working at home saves so much time that was wasted commuting. We have dozens of other reasons like not working with people you actually didn’t ever like. The home is a sanctuary where people can not wear pants, play the music they like, set the temperature that suits them and so much more. Yet, we also see offices of any kind from military, school, industrial, office and government becoming more of a place for inperson events and corporate studios like television broadcast networks with large video and augmented reality demonstration centers. Buildings and offices will have to also evolve with health safety as a priority, we will address in future articles.

Today, companies are always facing the challenges of digital transformation or put more simply, automate anything and everything they can faster than their new or existing competitors. This concept has fueled the growth of many siloes which focus on narrow business functions such as process automation, sales management, team communications and others. 

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The point is that the pandemic will not necessarily accelerate digital transformation, however along with a virtual-first business model alter the trajectory and ultimate outcome. Just redesigning a business for telecommuting or as some say working virtually from anywhere is not just about technology but changing the company culture. Previously when you had a “collective” approach to your culture, your communications processes were designed for face-to-face meetings and inperson business operations based on a “hive” office environment. The pandemic destroyed both of those concepts at the onset and while many forms of “collective hive” will may come back, it will be very different if not completely different than before for existing companies.

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However, for the new virtual-first businesses that have emerged based on new ways to business and will grow with people hired on a “remote office” basis using technology to “meet up virtually” rather than, in some cases, never meeting the person inperson. There are a dozen other business models that we have identified incorporating a virtual-first business approach that will rise, struggle, succeed and fail like anyone business model. New technologies from 5G, IoT, and artificial intelligence along with its many variations such as robotics, machine learning, expert systems and others will also rise not as just another silo application to solve process automation or logistics but synchronized networks solving many problems not just a few. 

Summary – technology always changes the way we think faster than society can adapt to its impacts and consequences. The pandemic has shown us that we can adapt faster even when we are forced too, though the unintended consequences of all this are only beginning to emerge. In parts 3 and beyond, we will explore the virtual-first business model and see how fast, what new and exciting innovations will emerge into what will be the next billion dollar startup. We do know for sure there is “no going back” as whether this virus or the next has set the global stage for how the world must and will react, then act and be ready for the next one.

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