Looking Back to See Ahead
HOW LAST YEAR WILL DRIVE SUCCESS IN THE NEW YEAR
For any organization that depends on communication and collaboration, this was a truly tumultuous year. Across America integrators stumbled across the finish line like injured marathon runners – reeling, confused, and almost disbelieving that we made it this far.
Now that we’ve had time to catch our breath and look more objectively on 2020, it strikes us that as challenging as 2020 was, it was also a year of transformation. For all the misery it caused, 2020 also spurred some positive changes and presented those responsible for communication and collaboration with truly exciting opportunities.
In the coming weeks, ClearTech will release an eBook entitled, How Technology Will Unite Us in the Distanced Future. The intention: to provide our customers, colleagues and partners useful information as they assess their AV technology needs in the new workplace reality.
Right now, however, we invite you take a look back on some of the signal events of 2020. After all, were it not for them our industry would look very different right now.
The year of the customer
Our president and founder, Christina De Bono, is named by Systems Contractor News to its Hall of Fame on the strength of her groundbreaking focus on customer service in the AV industry. Now eleven months later, with our clients relying on us more than ever, we can only marvel at how important her customer-centric business model turned out to be.
Higher ed envisions the future
ClearTech publishes an article entitled, “Flexibility, Sustainability, Serendipity: What it Takes to Create Tomorrow’s Campus Today.” Highlighting higher education institutions’ intense focus on anticipating and meeting digital learners’ needs in an increasingly competitive environment, the article now reads as surprisingly prescient by making the case for innovative thinking in a time of transformation.
COVID-19 delivers a haymaker to our very way of life, and to the way we do business. With no cure or vaccine on the horizon, Americans can only focus on preventing viral spread, and that means draconian lockdowns and this new thing called “social distancing.” Schools and universities, entertainment, offices, houses of worship, health care….all are thrown into unprecedented upheaval. And the AV industry finds itself in the very center of the vortex as organizations of every stripe scramble to adopt remote work technology and practices.
Like many other integrators, we at ClearTech leaped into action, equipping our customers with video conferencing technology, offering web resources along with hands-on guidance to help organizations make the most of video conferencing and working remotely. At this time, we also began collaborating with customers to help them anticipate what they’d need to do in the months ahead.
A massive shift
Gartner, Inc. released a survey of 229 HR leaders revealing that nearly 50% of organizations had transitioned more than 80% of their employees to remote work. Another 14% of respondents reported that 61-80% of their employees were working remotely. This only confirmed what all of us knew: The pandemic had “changed everything.”
Absorbing a body blow
AV and IT…facilities managers, architects, and designers…owners and executives…all grapple with COVID-19’s impact on the workplace. Just one example: Pre-pandemic, allotting 125 square feet of office space per employee was standard. With social distancing, that number rose to 200 square feet per seat. In order to accommodate the new reality of social distancing coupled with remote work, leadership began to completely rethink the office environment. Among their areas of focus: upgrading and retrofitting meeting spaces, adopting wireless and contactless technology, managing capacity with digital signage, providing better equipment to work remotely, improving streaming functions and looking at new sound masking technologies.
No summer vacation for higher ed
Educational institutions hope against hope that they’ll be able to welcome students back to campus in the fall. Based on all available evidence, they conclude that hybrid educational models will fit their needs, since – even in a best-case scenario – some students will return to campus, while others will instead opt for remote learning. Understanding this, we at ClearTech began collaborating with our higher ed clients to imagine a workable, effective response to the new reality (and we succeeded beyond our wildest dreams; see item below!).
EduFLEX is born
Here’s something we never imagined we’d say: ClearTech invented a product and now it’s flying out of our manufacturing facility!
Pepperdine University was our first customer. This Malibu-based private educational institution equipped nearly 200 spaces across five campus with Cleartech’s new EduFLEX™ offering – a self-contained, affordable and easily deployable hybrid learning solution that brings true UC capability to most any environment. Just a few months later, EduFLEX has been embraced by institutions from the Midwest to Maryland.
A few takeaways from the experience: Necessity is indeed the mother of invention. And good ideas take on a life of their own. As Jared Mukai, Ph.D., manager of AV technologies and special projects at Pepperdine said, “There were a lot of complexities we needed to work through on a very tight timeline to ensure we’d be ready to support our students and teachers with online class instruction by mid-August. We evaluated various scenarios but with the uncertainty of the new academic year, we knew we needed a solution that could support all types of learning environments. ClearTech’s EduFLEX solution…was the clear choice given its reliability, flexibility and versatility to transform distance learning environments into engaging teaching experiences.”
Signs of clarity
Once again, desperate times nudged ClearTech toward unusual measures and we created our first eBook, entitled Pandemic 101: Higher Ed’s Response to COVID-19. This compendium of recent learnings helped to answer the question, “How do you maintain continuity of education in a world turned upside down?” It took stock of the current situation and enabled readers to explore planning options that would address their current needs and anticipate future ones.
We’re all in this together
Though we spent plenty of time focusing on ourselves, we also tried to keep in mind that other people have more serious struggles than ours. In that spirit, ClearTech partnered with the Western Service Workers Association for its Fall Back-to-School Drive. We were able to raise funds to purchase 200 high-quality backpacks bursting with school supplies for students whose routines and family finances were radically disrupted by COVID-19. This event was part of a company-wide focus on using our talents and resources to support the communities that enable our business to function. Because if COVID-19 has taught us one lesson, it’s that we’ll only survive by sticking together.
Planning for the post-COVID-19 future
Working closely with our customers to satisfy their growing reliance on communication technology, ClearTech initiated a sweeping return-to-work educational initiative that will culminate with a January 2021 conference on reshaping the workplace. This will also coincide with the ebook mentioned at the beginning of this post. One thing that has become very clear to us during the pandemic is that customers need more than technology from their AV integrator partners: they need understanding and insight into their business issues. They require solutions that not only solve technical challenges, but address strategic ones. Our return-to-work initiative is just one element of a much larger endeavor to give our customers the tools they need not just to survive 2020, but to springboard from it.
A thought as we look ahead
We don’t say it often enough: THANK YOU to all our customers, partners and stakeholders for your support. Please don’t hesitate to turn to us for any help we can offer. Upheaval makes way for opportunity, and we will do our very best to help you take full advantage of it – in the new year and well beyond.