COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of society, business and relationships. For technology and service providers, the pandemic has forced the cancellation of conferences around the world, disrupted revenue streams and shuttered businesses. Technology general managers (GMs) must reset their product vision, strategy and plans to account for this new reality.
“Unlike an economic recession or the disruption created by a new technology, COVID-19 is an immediate event that changes how we think and work at the most fundamental levels,” says Mark McDonald, VP Analyst, Gartner. “That must be the starting point for any response or action plan.”
Here are the ways that technology GMs can adjust their product visions and strategies in response to COVID-19.
Raise the bar on personal empathy
A health crisis challenges everyone personally. Before taking any steps to alter product strategies, tech GMs must respond to current COVID-19 impacts by raising the bar on empathy.
Proactively reach out to customers to let them know that you share their concerns and are there to help. Avoid trite, overused or self-serving messages, such as announcements about being “open for business.”
Customers will remember empathy — or the lack of it — long after this crisis has passed
Many organizations are working in new ways, or working without fully staffed internal IT teams. Remind them of your available support channels, and monitor product and service utilization, incident tickets, error rates, and other indicators of customer and employee stress. Customers will remember empathy — or the lack of it — long after this crisis has passed.
Respond to interruptions in product launches
Although the coronavirus outbreak may adversely impact revenue plans and projects, it does not mean that business activity must stop. Engage the executive team and product organization to consider alternative actions to announce new or upgraded products.
For delayed product launches, consider offering a soft launch program or an extension of the beta/trial period program for a select group of customers in the meantime. If a product launch is canceled outright, develop new launch plans that take advantage of videoconferencing, mixed media and digital channels. With any of these routes, clearly communicate the updated product availability date and prepare to meet this commitment.
In some cases, it may be possible to go ahead with planned product launches
Adjust revenue plans, conserve cash, and revise expectations and commitments to investors and other stakeholders. In some cases, it may be possible to go ahead with planned product launches. However, this requires a realignment of product marketing and channel decisions to account for challenges in the current environment.
Evaluate marketing messages to radically simplify your buying requirements and conditions. Concentrate on converting current customers, as they are most familiar with your offerings and will have the greatest need for new and upgraded products.
Evolve product roadmaps in anticipation of post-crisis realities
Longer term, consider the impact of COVID-19 on social and commercial relationships. The shift to remote working, reliance on digital communications and increased use of collaboration software will persist after the crisis has abated, and must be considered in future product roadmaps.
Reporting, screen layouts and the user experience (UX) may not have been initially designed or optimized for online sharing via email or over a videoconferencing system. Reconsider broader customer experience (CX) and UX designs for this new reality. Make remote working a core use case in your product’s CX.
Consider this requirement as touching every aspect of information management, information presentation and the tools to curate information prior to sharing. The worst-case scenario is screen-sharing information directly with a customer. Any screens and reports that presume internal users only will need to be redesigned.