Future-ready businesses were better prepared for a crisis before the pandemic, new study shows


A new Vodafone report examines commonalities of the most resilient, future-ready organizations and the challenges met during the COVID-19 crisis.

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

There’s little question the coronavirus had a major effect on businesses, many of which were left shuttered, partially open, or at limited capacity. A new Vodafone Business report (The Future Ready Report) revealed what policies and characteristics defined future-ready businesses, but also what sustained those companies during the crisis and their plans and goals for after the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to adapt to survive, and future-ready companies were better prepared and better in a crisis: 54% of future-ready businesses (FRBs) had a fully formed plan ( 30% of all businesses had a fully formed plan). FRBs were and are proactive, and 29% of FRBs agreed that the shutdown should be a reason to experiment with new ways of working. 

Despite nearly 50% of businesses reporting decreased profits (compared with 2019), 30% of future-ready businesses (FRB) reported a rise in profits. FRBs represent 20% of all companies and are identified by characteristics including adaptability, openness to technology, and clear transformation goals. Only 20% of all businesses qualified as FRBs. 

SEE: Return to work: What the new normal will look like post-pandemic (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Compassion may not have been as critical pre-coronavirus, but now, 44% of all businesses prioritize employee wellness and mental health, which is up 10% since before COVID-19. However, for FRBs, the figure leaps to 77%.

  1. Five key challenges that span industries, according to the Vodafone report:
  2. Businesses need to rebuild and reinforce resilience during the pandemic
  3. Businesses are quickly adapting to changing social attitudes and customer behavior
  4. Sustainability is becoming standard
  5. Data and the digital economy are fast creating new business challenges and opportunities
  6. Businesses must change recruitment and the nurturing of talent

The report concludes that social responsibility, sustainability, and purpose are still essential because consumers are demanding clearer commitments: 90% of FRBs reported supporting employees during the pandemic. 

Telecommuting and long-term isolating at home has taken a toll on mental health, as illustrated by the change in societal attitudes and consumer expectations. This prompted businesses to switch focus on ethical behaviors or further purpose. During COVID-19, 81% of businesses reported reaching out to support others outside of their organizations, compared with 94% of FRBs. Forty-six percent of all businesses and 58% of FRBs wanted to support local communities and their countries, a shift from pre-COVID-19 crisis. Distinctions were made between the business (48% all businesses, 46% FRBs), and customer retention (55% all businesses, and 62% of FRBs).

The report also found that the key to addressing growing skills gaps are to broaden employer diversity and increase workplace flexibility.

SEE: TechRepublic Premium editorial calendar: IT policies, checklists, toolkits, and research for download (TechRepublic Premium) 

FRBs are confident that their businesses will survive and succeed, with 57% of FRBs expecting profits to increase over the next five years, compared with 45% of all businesses. Technology will be their strength, reported 79% of respondents

 “COVID-19 has forced rapid change for everybody. However, some businesses are better prepared to deal with the issues that have arisen, and we want to help all organisations understand what they can do to match these ‘future ready’ companies,” said Vinod Kumar, CEO, Vodafone Business, in a press release.

FRBs are more concerned with future projects: 71% of FRBs made an average 2.6 new technology investments as a direct response to the coronavirus, and 44% of FRBs surveyed expect greater flexibility in the location of work, and believe telecommuting will persist, after the pandemic. FRBs were more likely to invest in cloud and online storage systems, telephone contact center systems, as well as new smartphones and tablets for employees. FRBs acknowledge that a post-COVID-19 business environment will result in many changes, and 68% believe the changes will be “easy to make.”

“Industries that hadn’t embraced technology are seeking to move swiftly into digitalisation,” Kumar said, also in a release. “We want to help companies move quickly into this new era of working, supporting them in becoming smarter, faster and more resilient, but not at the cost of their humanity.”

Executive Briefing Newsletter

Discover the secrets to IT leadership success with these tips on project management, budgets, and dealing with day-to-day challenges.
Delivered Tuesdays and Thursdays

Sign up today

Also see

How IoT is helping businesses navigate COVID-19


Aridea’s Fever Kit uses infrared sensors to create a contactless temperature-taking experience for professionals.

Image: Aridea

The coronavirus pandemic has placed the spotlight on the Internet of Things (IoT) technology, with many businesses using IoT applications as a means of adapting to the new normal. The majority of organizations are ramping up tech solutions in the wake of COVID-19, with 70% of companies confirming they will either be maintaining or increasing digital transformation spending, an IFS report found

SEE: Return to work: What the new normal will look like post-pandemic (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

“I’ve seen a lot of IoT use cases pop up in response to the virus. I saw someone created an app for the Apple watch that can tell when you raise your hands toward your face, to keep you from touching your face,” said Rob Moore, vice president of solutions development at Aridea Solutions, an IoT provider. 

One area IoT is playing a significant role during the coronavirus is in contactless interactions. Aridea Solutions, for example, recently released its Fever Kit, a no-touch, portable device designed to screen users for fever. 

Aridea is an example of a company that was quick to notice the need for IoT with the coronavirus. Previously, Aridea focused IoT efforts on environmental monitoring, but seized the opportunity to create an infrared sensor-based IoT tool for professionals. 

“The power of IoT is demonstrated in the speed and flexibility it allows,” Moore said. “We were able to take technology tailored toward monitoring environmental threats to other species and quickly adapt to monitoring and mitigating a direct threat to our own species.”

How the Fever Kit works 

[The Fever Kit] is a small microcontroller platform, a little box, five inches by five inches. It has six data ports on the bottom that you can hook various sensors to. We use one of those ports for the infrared sensor,” Moore said. “Then we have an LED wand that we use for the other port to give an indication of a good or bad temperature, when the person steps in front of it.” 

Companies can use this device as a quick, secure, verified way of taking an employee’s temperature, which is critical as fever is a symptom of COVID-19. Businesses considering reopening could place this mechanism at the front door of their office, where it can independently screen and track each employee who passes through. 

“You just step right up to it. Within five seconds, it gives you an indication of green or red, [as well as] a little a beep if [the temperature] is good and a buzzer if it’s bad,” Moore said.

“It’s completely non-contact, which was what we were going for, because we were hearing horror stories of people with the handheld thermometers that you buy at Lowe’s or Home Depot, that are not even designed for human temperature, trying to take people’s temperature and having to get within six feet of them,” Moore said.  

Aridea was able to develop the product in only a few weeks, selling about 200 Fever Kits to high-profile companies including Toyota and Georgia Pacific. 

One organization that is using the product firsthand is Metro 911 of Kanawha County, West Virginia. 

Prior to using the Fever Kit, Metro 911 was using handheld thermometers, which required a second trained person to administer the thermometer and log the temperature, said Russell Emrick, deputy director of technology at Metro 911. 

“This was slow, and even with masks and handwashing, required additional potential exposure to the administrator of the test,” Emrick said. “The Fever Kit has greatly simplified this process. The immediate benefit is a faster, easier, no-touch process. It has also proven more accurate and consistent than the handheld thermometers, especially on hot days.”  

IoT post-pandemic 

IoT products like the Fever Kit are extremely important and helpful during COVID-19, and they may not be going anywhere, Moore said. 

“We think that this is going to be normal now. We think most businesses probably should have been doing this even for flu season,” Moore said. “People come into work, they have a fever and they don’t realize it, and then they end up contaminating the office. There’s lots of sick days that the employers have to payout, just with the common flu. 

“With the coronavirus and new viruses popping up, we think this is sort of going to be the equivalent of how TSA has changed in the wake of 9/11. Now, taking your shoes off at the airport is sort of commonplace,” Moore added. “We think all businesses will have some type of temperature screening process from here forward.”

For more, check out  With COVID-19 as backdrop, CIOs are playing bigger roles leading digital transformations on TechRepublic. 

Tech News You Can Use Newsletter

We deliver the top business tech news stories about the companies, the people, and the products revolutionizing the planet.
Delivered Daily

Sign up today

Also see