2020 will be a year to remember – and forget – for many reasons. In the past decade, companies have faced tsunamis, typhoons and volcanic eruptions and a blizzard of governmental regulations, but we had never experienced global disaster on this scale before. From the worldwide COVID pandemic to the unrest over incendiary issues like race, law enforcement and politics, 2020 has been the most challenging year in recent memory. As disturbing and disruptive as this time has been for many, it has also brought about innovation and some positive transformations for businesses which will hopefully have enduring impact.

Global Transformation and Flexibility

When 2020 began, Integreon was steadily increasing its global footprint, and then COVID struck. Like many other companies, we had to pivot like never before. Our business continuity plan became our daily playbook as we drastically adjusted to move the business forward into unchartered waters. We had to rethink every core part of our organization.

In a compressed 2-week timeframe, Integreon enabled our 3000+ global employees to successfully shift from delivery centers to a work from home model. For the past nine months, Integreon’s employees in the United States, United Kingdom, India and the Philippines have been fully productive in their roles while working remotely.

The pandemic clearly illustrated that flexibility and proactive planning are not trends, but are instead irreversible requirements. All employers, employees and clients have had to adopt a far more flexible mindset for services delivery. Whatever is to come in 2021, it will certainly require adaptability and willingness to change.

Security on a Global Scale

Security has become one of the top concerns for companies and law firms, not only because of the ever-present fear of cybersecurity breaches, but also because of variables presented by the 100% work from home model. According to Gartner, “The worldwide information security market is forecast to reach $170.4 billion in 2022” and that statement was made in 2018 before COVID arrived.

Security must always be top-of-mind to protect companies from internal and external threats and uphold compliance requirements. Technology continues to be a key ally in making remote service delivery secure. Not only does the work need to be delivered in a secure environment that protects data from hackers and other nefarious sources, but also the technology must verify the identity of the person doing the work. Modern advances in biometric and facial recognition technology have evolved as useful resources, verifying that the person logging on has been authorized to access the relevant data. With technology-driven assurances like these, companies and their clients can be confident that security is embedded in a work from home world.

Technology also continues to be useful for replacing or reducing repetitive manual processes, producing faster and more accurate results. Companies are examining what humans do best and what technology does better. Recent developments like robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) are showing great promise in complementing human expertise.

Open Opportunities

This year has also given rise to new opportunities which will lead businesses into 2021 with strong momentum. Now operating completely virtually, we are no longer fenced in by geographic bounds. Companies can pursue business opportunities anywhere. Clients want their objectives met, and they are less concerned with where the work is being completed. We can recruit talent from anywhere in the world and deliver secure equipment so they can work effectively from wherever they are based.

Clients are more open-minded in seeking service providers now. If their internal teams or incumbent providers cannot deliver secure services virtually in this “new normal” world, different suppliers will replace them.

Exponential Rise of Managed Services

The pandemic and subsequent economic difficulties experienced during 2020 have catalyzed an accelerated demand for managed services. Companies are looking to quickly reduce costs and increase efficiency. Managed services providers offer scalable process-driven strategies to execute high volume, low-to-medium risk activities at predictable rates. The “made to measure” approach of managed services companies is based on proven models which are then expertly adjusted to fit the client’s needs. Working as an extension to the client’s team, managed service providers create security and stability, solve problems, and build efficiency. They also enable companies to remain operational and “business-as-usual” when faced with the next local or global adversity.

Uniting Virtually Across the Globe

Integreon is a large global company with eight offices in the US, Europe, India and the Philippines. Because of COVID, we have not been able to travel or gather together for nine months. In spite of this, we have worked hard to create a unified company culture and increase collegiality among all employees around the world. As a company, we celebrate One Integreon Day and have implemented new town halls and training programs to foster unity and positivity.

Expanded use of existing and new communication methods has been essential because our employees are no longer in an office setting and spread out across the world. Our clients are mostly in Europe and US, but we are sometimes delivering services from outside those locations.

The pandemic has brought a blurring of space and hours – there is no obvious “clocking out” for people anymore. Also, they are coping with emotional issues, isolation and social distancing. Concerned that employees may work too hard and never unplug, we are incentivizing them to take their vacation days and remind everyone to show greater empathy during this time. Nothing is more important than the psychological and physical well-being of our people. Without them, quite simply, we do not have a company, so they are our top priority.

Diversity and Inclusion

The senseless deaths of George Floyd and other African Americans have stirred up outrage and sadness across the U.S and beyond. Individuals, business leaders, and organizations need to seize the moment, actively listen. We must be open to finding ways to support equality and inclusivity regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual preference.

Corporate Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) programs have reverberated on a global scale. To be effective, these initiatives must permeate a company both internally and also externally with clients and the community. We see our diversity as a core strength manifested in our ability to recognize, embrace, and see the power in bringing our differences together to create solutions.

Moving ON to 2021

No one knows where the finish line is on COVID and other uncertainties which swirl around us. Yet we know we must keep running.

Flexibility will enable us to change again as new problems arise. Security will ensure that our clients trust us to handle their most sensitive materials. Well-designed technology balanced with informed process will help us streamline operations further and stay abreast of the latest tools.

Prioritizing our own company’s internal connectedness, communication, and inclusivity will serve our own team members, clients and the community at large. Empathy and leadership will allow us to build upon what has transpired in 2020 to make us and our peer companies better. Integreon is moving ON into 2021, stronger than ever before.

Bob Rowe

CEO of Integreon