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How technology has changed our lives this year

How technology has changed our lives this year

The Good

The pandemic has changed the way we all use technology. At home and at work. This applies to adults, children, the elderly – everyone. We’re all using technology differently now.

Companies in particular have had to completely rethink the way their systems operate. At first this was just for the short term, but as time has gone on it’s become apparent that there is a very real public appetite for doing things a little differently.

It turns out if we all work from home we don’t just nap on the sofa. It transpires some of us actually work harder, smarter and better when we’re given more of a free rein to work in a way that works for us – and our friends and families.

These changes have affected the way individuals work, which in turn has changed the way teams operate, which has then affected the way entire companies are structured. This, in time, will change entire industries – probably for the better.

From online ordering systems to video chatting, industries are changing the way they work, all thanks to technology. But in order to manage these changes effectively – and not get left behind by the competition – companies must make sure they’re using the right technologies for them. That doesn’t mean the most expensive or the flashiest, it means the one that works best for the way they want their company to work. In many cases we’ve found this means putting together a bespoke system that’s completely tailored to individual companies – where they’re based, how many people they have on the team(s) and how and when they want to operate.

Now that in-person contact is not necessarily what everybody wants, new systems, solutions, software and ways of operating are being brought to market all the time. As this is what we work with day in and day out, it’s our business to always keep abreast of these developments, so that you don’t have to worry you’re letting an opportunity pass you by.

With brick and mortar institutions being temporarily (or permanently) closed during stay-at-home orders, it has become crucial for B2C (business to consumer) companies to have a digital presence and digital commerce capabilities. Similarly, B2B (business to business) companies have seen the benefits they could gain from establishing online direct-to-consumer channels to supplement their traditional selling channels.

But how can these companies get there? Typically, a full transition to digital selling and digital experience is a process and can take a while to set up and get to grips with. And in the past they’ve been a very expensive option. But that simply is no longer the case.

Now you have the option to install pre-built integration support to connect payment, tax, shipping, and order processing capabilities to create a fully operational ordering system in a fraction of the time it would take without these pre-built frameworks.

To further enhance this, you can also choose to have email notification templates, SEO support, and basic analytics reporting, to help your business thrive in the world of digital commerce.

The Bad

Rapid technology change has been both necessarily and great. Although in some cases it’s been more of a question of getting to know the technologies that were already there, but we’d never heard of. (Who knew Zoom was even a thing last year?)

But with all this new technology comes the need to get everyone – regardless of their age or experience – up to speed with how they now need to work. This is easier for some than others, and for most companies we’ve come across has been a bit of an uphill struggle.

Then even when they’ve managed to get everyone trained up and working cohesively, there are other pitfalls to having everyone in different locations…

Lack of technical knowledge – use of video conferencing and collaboration technologies is soaring. Workers are having to adapt without the time for training or to assimilate how video conference culture can differ.

Creating a professional environment – 50% of home workers have unexpectedly found a child or a pet burst onto their screen during an important video conference. This reflects the challenges in creating a work environment at home.

Tech-related tension – human resources leaders are worried about the emotional stress that technology is causing workers. It is too easy for arguments and fallouts to come from misunderstandings when using new methods of communication.

Lack of homeworking ‘soft skills’ – ‘soft skills’ such as communication, self-discipline, trustworthiness and adaptability are more important to working from home than technical know-how. These skills may not have been developed back at the office.

Differing expectations – ‘working from home’ means different things to different workers. For some, it is interpreted as carrying out a normal day’s work. To others, it means listening out for the phone whilst gardening, relaxing or home schooling.

Compromised security – the average data breach costs an organisation £3.92m. Many are caused by human error. Working remotely for the first time increases the risks. Some 32% of all data breaches involve phishing, and 29% stolen credentials.

These aside, a recent survey of 2,000 home workers revealed that a staggering 90% admit to bunking off regularly. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not tarring everyone with this same brush, not by a long stretch, but 90% is a lot. It sort of makes you see why so many companies were reluctant to introduce flexible working options… before it was forced upon them that is.

Nine out of ten confessed they are often distracted by food, games consoles and Facebook, while working remotely. This is the downside for companies – a lack of control over what their staff are getting up to. But that’s not the worst of it.

There is an even worse scenario that we’ve seen an awful lot of lately, namely staff going rogue. That is to say they’ve started working from home and have decided to take the bull by the horns and start up on their own (often with their former bosses’ contacts and clients in tow). There seems to have been a real spate of it recently for some reason. Everyone seems to want a bigger piece of the pie.

And at this dastardly end of the scale there’s also cyber attacks. There has been a huge surge in them over lockdown. Criminals have preyed on people’s vulnerability, when their guard has been down – and it’s been paying off more than we’d care to mention.

But no matter how brilliant your systems are, there is always the margin for human error – for believing that phone call, for answering that email or opening that attachment. Cyber criminals are more sophisticated and frequent in their attempts than ever before.

For us this has meant more protection requirements, the need for us to give more staff training, and the desire to put new and more watertight systems in place.

The Ugly

So all these pitfalls aside, there’s an even nastier beast running riot at the moment and using technology – and COVID-19, as a weapon.

One in five people living in the UK have felt more at risk of cybercrime and fraud since the coronavirus lockdown was announced in March. A recent poll by Ipsos MORI found that people felt most at risk of someone accessing their online accounts without permission, at 58%, and devices being infected with a computer virus or other malware, at 57%.

Since the UK went into lockdown on 23 March, 22% of people said they have felt more at risk of buying counterfeit goods online, and 20% said they felt more at risk of someone accessing their online accounts without permission.

In Scotland, 55% of people felt they were at risk of someone accessing their online accounts, including social media and bank accounts, without their permission, with 37% not feeling at risk.

Fifty-five per cent of Scots surveyed said they felt at risk of their devices being infected with a computer virus or other malware. Almost half (47%) in Scotland said they personally felt at risk of money being stolen from their bank account, with 41% feeling at risk of buying goods online that turned out to be fake or counterfeit and 49% at risk of someone accessing their personal devices without permission.

In the section above we talked about opening emails and answering calls, and most of these are after your money or data in some way or other. But the other side of this coin is those who are seeking to make a profit from shoddy products that claim to protect you.

Take extra care before buying face masks or testing kits online – or responding to texts apparently sent to you by the UK Government or the NHS. Because while lockdown has helped reduce the spread of the coronavirus, it is also helping fuel a rise in a particularly cynical branch of cybercrime.

Anxiety over serious economic problems – such as job losses and business closures – seems to be prompting some people to step up existing harmful online activity as a means of generating income

Some of the cybercrimes taking place are new. For example, early in the lockdown, some scammers sent fake texts, purporting to come from the UK’s HM Revenue & Customs, telling recipients they were going to be fined £250 for leaving their homes more than once a day.​

The NHS contact-tracing app also has the potential to generate clear risks for those vulnerable to fraud. People may be conned into handing over sensitive personal information by fake apps or scam texts supposedly from the NHS.

For as long as the internet has existed there have been fake online shops, but now instead of selling clothes, they are selling face masks or bogus ‘cures’ for the coronavirus. Terrible but true.

Having the right systems in place to protect you, your company and your family from these fraudsters is absolutely essential.

Stay Safe.

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