2021: Be ready for anything

By Tony Safoian | CEO

As we turn the pages of 2020’s final chapter, we can make a list of 100 things we’ve learned amid a true Black Swan event. 

Trying to process contradicting thoughts and feelings resulting from this tumultuous year can be overwhelming and perplexing.  

There are conflicting business realities – tech is doing great, yet so many businesses are not. Many of us have conflicting feelings – gratitude for our health and empathy for those who’ve lost loved ones. There are also contradictory levels of execution between the private sector, which shows immense resilience, and the government, which disappoints its citizens. I can keep going. 

Things get even more confusing when you mix optimism – vaccines have arrived! –  with the reality of the immense resilience of nature – the virus is already mutating. 

There is just one truth I’m able to lean on to maintain general order and sanity; it is the same truth upon which we will create a foundation for how to move forward with any viable plan for SADA and the thousands of companies and people who depend on us for the most crucial capabilities in their businesses – and for their economic well being:

“Nobody can predict anything, including me.” 

Think about it – we’ve all been wrong about a lot so far. When will things ‘go back’ to normal? When will travel pick up again? Shutdowns work. Shutdowns don’t work. When will we go back to the offices? School? Stores? Will the markets keep going up? Or down? Should I buy a house NOW? What about Bitcoin? All start-ups are moving to Austin, no, Miami.  

I watched the recording of when we announced in March that we all would be working remotely – when asked how long we would be working from home, I said, “We don’t know, but probably 3-4 weeks.” Go figure. 

Alas – we can predict nothing or next to nothing. And that’s okay. Because if we become accepting of that, we can operate using the basic principle: 

“Be ready for anything.” 

The concept of “being ready for anything” is so integral to SADA that we recently designated the word ‘Dynamic’ as one of our core brand pillars to encapsulate the fact that we’re ready for anything. We think on our feet and embrace change because we have the know-how to make fast, effective decisions that deliver the most impact. Here are some ways we’re thinking about what it means to be dynamic and ready for everything:

  1. We must meet our customers where they are NOW, not prepare for when ‘they come back’ to their standard behavior patterns. If you’re not able to service customers digitally RIGHT NOW, you’re dead. They may come back to more physical interaction, and that’s something we should prepare for as well. But when that does happen, the digital won’t die – the more pleasurable, memorable, and wonderful you can make the digital surface areas of how you sell to, support, engage with customers – existing and potential – the better your organization will be. 
  2. To make #1 work well, you’ll need to invest more energy than ever in data engineering and data science work. It’s impossible to create incredible digital experiences without gathering all the data you have about your customers and making it usable. Once you make it actionable, you can then try to figure out what insights are the most important and start integrating them into their experiences. At SADA, we’re working to become more like our own customers – with a massive amount of effort now being invested in both internal data projects around our enterprise platforms (Netsuite, etc.) as well as creating unique digital experiences for our customers. Now, all of our customers can get a 15-min SLA experience across all channels – chat, email, voice – for all of the Google Cloud products they own through SADA. They also have a wonderful ServiceNow experience where a single pane of glass shows their entire relationship with SADA and with Google Cloud. On that personalized dashboard, they can see what they own, what they are using, who their supporting team members are at SADA, financial information, and so on. We will continue to enhance this feature to meet the needs of customers as this offering and our customer base grows. 
  3. Empower your workforce, not for “WFH” (Work from Home), but for “WFAADAT”  (Work from Anywhere, Any Device, Any Timezone). That means using modern SaaS applications that don’t require VPNs or other archaic ways of managing security that limit productivity and compromise security. Don’t wait for them to come back to the office to roll out new productivity tools. Take an opinionated approach in IT about minimizing the sprawl that comes with ‘choose your own SaaS.’ Yes, user choice is a good thing, but that comes at a great expense – in both security posture and tons of information silos. You may be amazed about how many applications a suite like Google Workspace can replace. The bonus? If you do THAT part well, you won’t have to worry about what ‘devices’ your users pick. Let them use anything: Mac, PC, Tablet, iOS, Android – whatever. Just make the core secure, and the endpoints will take care of themselves. Also, spend time, energy, and make policy decisions to ensure their “WFAADAT” situation is as comfortable as possible. A few months back, we made “Stand-up desk” conversion kits standard-issue – anyone can order them as quickly as a new headset. Why? Because We have NO idea when we’re going back to the office. Nobody does.

The sooner we accept that ‘back to normal’ is an unknown state, with an undefined timeline, the more empowered we will feel to take matters into our own hands right now- the less we’ll be in denial, and the less we’ll feel the pressure to guess at the timing of things we don’t control at all and predict the behavior of a virus the world barely understands.  

I’m an incredibly optimistic person – you all know that by now. The realism of “I can’t predict anything” is not a pessimistic view that’s limiting in any way. It’s the most empowering posture you can have when planning for uncertainty in this infinite game. 

I wish everyone an excellent, healthy, safe, and prosperous 2021.

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