The phrase “new normal” has become the de facto motto of the global pandemic that has wreaked havoc on businesses everywhere, especially small businesses. While the full impact of the pandemic threatens to be long-lasting, I know that small businesses and owners will bounce back in time because they are more resourceful and resilient than perhaps the media seem to be giving them credit for right now. Yet, there is no question that small businesses will have to adapt as things they were accustomed to may be changing forever.
Realities of the New Normal
The first reality has to do with the most basic aspect of the work — the office. In the new normal, the office or store is not necessarily the building you own or lease, but where you and your employees happen to be working. This is most likely your home office, if you are fortunate to have one. Illustrating this is the fact that I recorded my Cisco Live US iTalk session (see below) for the first time ever from my living room, braving possible disruptions such as my children racing through the house or some unplanned construction noise outside.
Another reality right now is the threat of cybercrime, which has ratcheted up recently for many small business owners. According to the FBI, cybercrimes have quadrupled during the pandemic, due at least in part to more people working from home, which tends to be less secure than a traditional office setting. Successfully protecting yourself from hackers can be life-and-death for small businesses, as 60 percent of small businesses go out of business within six months of being victimized by a cybercrime.
Solutions Aligned to Top IT Challenges of Small Businesses
As the technology partner for tens of thousands of small businesses, Cisco is committed to help. Our strategy is to develop product and design solutions that are aligned to tackling the top and most common IT challenges small businesses face every day. Considering the far-reaching effects of the new realities, it makes sense that the first five priorities of our strategy are designed essentially to be a “journey map” to help small businesses not only survive but thrive through the new normal and beyond.
- Work from Home — The most immediate priority was to help our customers and their employees be effective in meeting and collaborating securely from home or on the road. We are helping small businesses gain access to easy-to-use security, collaboration, and networking solutions that are also simple to install or available as pay-as-you-go bundles, making them ideal for small businesses.
- Cybercrime Protection — Second, security is more important than ever with work and business transactions happening literally anywhere. So, we are leveraging the industry’s broadest and most-integrated security portfolio to help customers safeguard against identity theft, hackers, and other cyber threats, including the far-too-common email phishing attacks and dreaded ransomware.
- Always-On Business — Next, we realized that business owners and employees needed a reliable way to access their most important data and applications on-demand. This required small businesses to maintain high levels of business and IT uptime. We make this possible with remote IT capabilities, like easy installation — made possible by cloud-delivered networking, security, and meetings.
- Workplace Monitoring — As small businesses return to their offices and stores in some capacity, we recognized the need for them to enable safe social distancing and real-time inventory monitoring, in order to comply with regulations and municipal ordinances. We help achieve this through artificial intelligence cameras and smart surveillance to measure human density and alert workplace personnel as needed.
- Future of New Office — Finally, we recognize as others do that the office space may never look or function the same. So, we are helping small businesses access communications, collaboration, and management tools to improve productivity in their reconfigured or expanded physical workspaces. In the future, we will see a lot more sharing of resources such as offices, cubicles, conference rooms, collaboration devices, etc.
You can learn more about the five pillars of our strategy and the new products we have recently announced in our press release. I also delve deeply into these topics in my upcoming Cisco Live US iTalk session entitled The Cisco Designed Portfolio: Right-Sized and Right-Priced for Small Businesses. I’m joined in the session by small business executives from Matternet and Lamark Media as well as Cisco technology experts from cloud, networking, security, and collaboration businesses.
As Cisco Live US is an all-virtual event this year, there’s no hassle of getting to the venue and finding the conference room. Simply register now and log on to the session at noon Pacific Time on Wednesday June 17th. No dress code is even required. Pajamas, shorts, or even fuzzy slippers are welcome. See, the new normal isn’t all bad.