i3 - September/October 2020 - 23

believe that the "biggest problem is getting product because domestic and
foreign manufacturers are shutting down or cutting back factories."
Nationwide Marketing Group, which provides buying, marketing and
operational support services to 5000 independent retail members (including Schaefer's and Silica For Your Home), has embraced collaboration
software, according to Frank Sandtner, executive vice president of Business
Services. NMG has extended use of the technology to reach its "very distributed workforce," he says.
"COVID-19 accelerated our use of Microsoft Teams internally and we
started to recognize many of our other partners and vendors were using
Teams as well. So, our use of video has expanded to our vendors in doing
monthly and quarterly review calls."
Patrick Maloney, NMG's senior vice president of merchandising, focuses
on the speed with which the company "moved and adapted to a remote
operation model." NMG had been using videoconferencing for nearly two
years and "found it quite successful, specifically for those working
"When COVID-19 hit, we were in a unique position that allowed us to
quickly accelerate the adoption of these platforms," Maloney says. "The
challenge was our extended touchpoints," requiring focus on consumer
demand, where "operating procedures demanded a 180-degree change
almost overnight." He describes "the things that make independent retailers unique," such as the assisted in-store experience and advanced product
knowledge." The NMG digital team focused on creating "a virtual environment that comes close to duplicating the in-store experience online," such
as texting services, online chat and video chat, Maloney says.
Sandtner explains, "We quickly realized that the fundamental nature of
person-to-person interactions has changed," citing especially the move to
far fewer and shorter face-to-face interactions. The shift away from personal interaction "involves more training for our field team on the services
we offer and very targeted interactions with our members."

Naeblys/Getty Images


Ingenuity has become part of the COVID-19 business evolution. The
Conference Board, in its reports on "Human Capital Response to the
COVID-19 Pandemic," concludes that increased remote working "could
become the most influential legacy of COVID-19." It acknowledges that
workforce reductions are "more likely among industry and manual service
workers" than among professional workers, who "are more likely to have
unique skills or institutional knowledge."
The Conference Board's studies also found overwhelmingly organizations are now focusing on workforce health and office safety.
McKinsey & Co., in its series of B2B analysis of COVID-19's impact,
contends that "the next normal" will see unending adaptations as businesses explore new ways to operate. For example, it sees a doubling in the
customer preference for digital relationships rather than traditional interactions. Its latest survey showed a pivot toward remote selling, with 96%
of B2B sales teams fully or partially shifted to digital sales - largely fueled
by the necessity to use it as the "only" way to reach prospective customers.
Nearly 80% of the B2B companies that McKinsey surveyed said they are
likely to sustain those digital shifts for at least 12 months - and maybe
forever - post-COVID-19.
Or looking at it from a slightly different perspective, Patrick Maloney of
Nationwide Marketing Group sums up the lessons of the rapid response to
COVID-19 crisis as making the tech industry "significantly more resilient." 
C TA . t e c h / i 3

i3_0920_20-23_Feature_NewWorkplaces.indd 23


Several reports - both quantitative and anecdotal - have acknowledged the "improved
environment" since the COVID-19 lockdowns,
with reduced air pollution as fewer cars were
on the roads. One study tracked a 25% to
50% decline in nitrogen dioxide levels (depending on the region) and another identified significant reductions (up to 11%) in
particulate matter (PM2.5) in areas where
business closed down. The World Economic
Forum, however, warns that these reductions
"will do little to address the issue of air pollution in the long run."
Whatever becomes of that process, for
now, experts extol the idea that by discouraging single-passenger auto trips (such as
commuting), companies can provide community services by enabling better air quality.
Coming amid the climate change debate, the
COVID-19 crisis has also triggered extensive
discussions about how both issues should be
addressed simultaneously.
"The crisis of the pandemic is highly related
to the crisis of climate change and to the economic crisis," said David Benjamin, a Columbia University associate professor of architecture and founder of a design group focused
on biological solutions. In an extensive Washington Post examination of COVID-19's impact
on architecture, Benjamin said, "We must address all three together." Others sum up that
view as abandoning LeCorbusier's centuryold manifesto that buildings are a machine,
replacing it with a vision of future buildings as
living organisms - not merely "green structures" but an entirely new type of construction
for future healthful living and working.



9/1/20 10:30 AM

https://www.conference-board.org/us/ https://www.conference-board.org/us/ https://www.mckinsey.com/ http://cta.tech/i3

i3 - September/October 2020

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