- COVID-19 is not over, despite promising news of vaccines.
- Tactical thinking is the way through for vendors and customers in 2021.
There are a number of very promising COVID-19 vaccines in the works, and that’s good news for everyone. But this good news isn’t a signal that suddenly all is well. COVID-19 is still a reality, and the logistics of manufacturing and distributing enough vaccine for everyone is decidedly non-trivial. The temptation is to point to an event or date and say that things will just return to normal on that day. There is also a mistaken impression that once the majority of people are vaccinated, the world will snap back – figuratively – to January 2020 with the same expectations, plans, and motivations. The announcements of promising vaccines, the turning of the year, the swearing in of a new American president, a January Brexit, none of these things are oft-wished-for, decisive breakpoints, just more challenges. The reality is that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed everyone’s course, and there is no going back. Instead, we need to deal with the reality of the world in front of us, changed greatly by the pandemic.
In late 2019 and early 2020, companies (vendors and customers) laid down or updated long-term strategic plans for the next two to five years. These plans have been thoroughly disrupted. In their place is short-term tactical planning that considers immediate needs. The promising vaccine developments do not change this. In 2021, the emphasis will continue to be on short-term planning, due to COVID-19, economic uncertainty, and political disruptions.
Vendors are long used to having big-picture campaigns. These campaigns shelter product and feature announcements and soft-pedal “don’t get left behind!”-style fear. Now is not the time to revert to the big picture. Vendors need to continue to follow the lead of their customers and remain tactical and flexible in their thinking and planning. Trends like work from home are here to stay, with customers seeing the money they can save by not having to maintain expensive office space. The pandemic kicked off a huge surge in security and has finally abolished the antiquated idea of perimeter-based security. Automation, robotics, and AI/ML have all gotten extra attention as customers learn to do business differently.
Vendors need to help set the tone that going back to the old strategic plan is not a good way moving forward, considering the changes wrought on the social and technological landscape. The time for long-term strategic planning will come again, just not quite yet. For now, until the world truly settles down – possibly in late 2021 or 2022 – vendors should think tactically and help their customers with immediate needs.