From a far-off fish market in a place few of us had ever heard of, to trillions of dollars wiped from global stock markets, COVID-19 is now a very grim reality for tens of millions across the globe.
For business this is possibly the first major strike of what is to come in the future – global pandemics of super viruses that spread quicker than our medical technology’s ability to find a cure. These viral tsunamis will potentially strike at any time with major mortality and wider effects.
Construction in China ground to a halt; a worrying precedent for future countries to be affected. Property markets impacted from the USA to Australia and significantly, law firms such as Clifford Chance are reported growing numbers of force majeure claims across its network.
So, amidst the doom and gloom, while we talk about containment and wait for our smartest human brains to outfox the virus, what can business do?
McKinsey’s advice for one, in its 2020 Coronavirus COVID-19: Facts and Insights report, features a lot of bullet points that talk about stabilisation, preserve, identify, define. Again, as in days of plague gone by, containment and protection are the most pragmatic, sensible and immediate responses.
However, phenomena such as super-viruses aren’t going to go away. We are entering a new biological era where sadly penicillin isn’t the answer. Just as our medical technology has perversely pushed the development of viruses, it may well be technology deployed elsewhere that helps our daily lives and our ability to keep the wheels of business turning.
In the property and construction industry here in the UK, major companies, with national portfolios are restricting travel of their staff to sites. How then to monitor or control? Similarly, lenders, with large loan portfolios face a period where maintaining controls and protocols on their investment is going to require lateral thinking, or large doses of modern technology – much of which currently doesn’t exist.
F3, as a technology-led, real estate development management capital partner, works with companies across the spectrum and takes on as one of its missions, a focus to risk manage and mitigate. For F3, the conditions now presented by COVID-19 are putting us at full-tilt to keep our clients protected.
On the one hand, it puts our mantra of “smart people at pace” to good effect whilst on the other, we are working to deploy our technology into our clients’ business practice as they find themselves office locked, or, as we anticipate, working from remote and home locations.
Five years ago we started the development of fu3e. our proprietary development and risk management cloud fusion technology. It’s been a massive financial and cultural investment for a large number of factors. As we expand our construction, our population and our emissions, business as 1970s-usual cannot be the way we live and work in the 2020s.
By creating technology for example that removes the need for physical travel to regional, national and even global locations and digitising and centralising reporting away from paper spreadsheets the ESG impacts are obvious. In the light of this crisis however, what were groundbreaking technologies aimed at efficiency now get seen through a different lens. We have to help our clients – we also have to keep functioning ourselves as a business.
Global digital mapping, on-site photography and drone integration together with a consolidated dashboard of comprehensive risk compliance monitoring allows our clients’ internal and external teams to manage in real-time, securely and effectively.
In a sense, a single pane of glass, through which not only can they instantly understand their position and risk, but which also, in this scenario protects staff through that same single pane of glass and allows business to function.
With the UK Government projecting lockdowns to last a lot further into this year than initially envisaged, COVID-19 is the biggest single disruptor outside of armed conflict for a century.
As development managers across portfolios and risk managers for hundreds of millions of pounds worth of investment, the bigger the risk for us and our clients, the bigger the challenge.
Technology from smart phones to the cloud has changed the way we live our lives. Against global crises such as what we are starting to experience here, we are going to have to tame it and use it to continue to secure our future – not just from an efficiency and environmental perspective, but from the perspective of “business as usual” – or in this case, “business as unusual”.