We’re All Going to Keep Working, But We’re Going to be Smart About It

Now is the Time

I’ve been mentally working on this post for nearly two weeks.  “Post it too soon,” I told myself, “and you’ll look like an alarmist weirdo.”  But once we saw what was happening in China, Italy, etc., and once it was “in the wild” in Washington state, it was pretty clearly just a matter of time.  Put a ball at the top of a hill, give it a push, and it’s going to roll to the bottom while picking up speed.  Simple as that.  So here we are.  Let’s talk a bit about where “here” is.

Short Term:  Social Distancing is a Must

Folks, this thing is already everywhere.  In your recent commutes and workdays, it’s instructive to think that you’ve seen multiple undiagnosed people.  They’re out there.  Heck, some people reading this have it.  The cases in the US are being VASTLY underreported, because you can’t be diagnosed if you can’t get tested. 

And yes, for most people reading this, the fatality rate is low, but “low” is not exactly great.  How often would you voluntarily take a roughly 1 in a thousand chance at dying?  Seriously, blowing this off as a personal threat, even if you’re relatively young, is not good math.  And you, dear reader, wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for an affinity for math.  Lean into your strengths, and play it rational.

Of course, even if you suffer zero symptoms, you are still a great vehicle for someone ELSE to get it.  It “wants” to get from person A to person C, but those two people will never meet.  Don’t provide it with a willing Middleperson B.  We all know a vulnerable Person C – and interact with many more vulnerable people that we do NOT know.

Plus, you are the key to “R Naught,” aka R0.  Right now it’s estimated that COVID-19 has an R0 value of 2.2 – meaning, every person who gets it infects another 2.2 people – amongst a naive population.  That last part is important, because we are no longer naive.  Stay home as much as you can, interact as little as possible, and we’ll drive R0 lower.

A lower R0 means a lower “peak” of new infections, and a lower peak means “less chance of hospitals becoming unable to treat you.”  Even the 18-64 age range has a greater chance of dying when hospitals fail, so there’s good reason not to be cavalier about this.

Social Distancing = Reduced R0 = Less Chance of Hospital Failure
(SUPER crude modeling, but you get the idea)
(Total population set to 300 million, initial cases conservatively set to 50k)

Longer Term:  More of the Same

In the charts above, the timeline extends out beyond 130 days.  Barring a miracle, social distancing is here to stay awhile.  This IS the New Normal.

Our hand is being forced here, but there are also longer term benefits and changes that will persist even after this crisis passes.  Let me provide two examples.  First, we all know that telecommuting is good for us.  Good for us as individuals, good for national infrastructure, and good for our life support system (some people call this the environment).  Anything which forces our society to experiment with telecommuting on a grand scale is likely to stick around after this immediate need passes.

Secondly, I was talking to a CEO yesterday whose ten year strategic plan has been to abandon physical locations altogether and switch to a purely online model, but their customer base has been resisting the shift.  That company is now preparing to pounce on the opportunity presented by this development.  Whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing, this sort of thing is going to be happening.

Image result for stop with the negative waves man gifAnd Then…  Yeah, the R Word

As in, Recession.  Yeah, it’s pretty much inevitable.  How bad is unclear, but it won’t be mild.  You just can’t shut down large swaths of the global economy without sending (negative) waves through the system.

What this Means for “Us” Data People

Long term this is GOOD news for data people.  One of my earliest posts on this site talked about how BI spending defies recessions.  When the pressure is on, it’s even more important than usual to be smart.

And… it’s even BETTER to be Power BI people. Nimble, fast, cost effective is a FAR better version of BI than what we had back in the previous two recessions.  We’re all well-positioned to ride this out, even if the short term gets a little rocky.

What this Means at P3 – Let’s Cover the Bad Stuff First

For the foreseeable future, all physical public classes are canceled.  We’re not going to Charlotte next week, and we’re unlikely to be going to Phoenix or Denver during the following two months.  We’re not renewing our contract with our national venue provider, at least not yet.

All consultant travel is suspended.  All of our trips to visit clients are canceled.  No idea when we will lift this ban.  We’re gonna use data – data that isn’t available yet – to drive the decision.  We’re not traveling until we’re comfortable that we’re 1) not endangering our team   and 2) not being selfish about our role in the larger picture.  We want to keep R0 down.

But enough with the bad stuff.  Let’s talk about the upside, because there’s some serious substance there.

Good Stuff: We will now be…  More Like Ourselves

Even before all of this, 70% of our revenues were generated purely via remote work.  Our methodologies, and our team, are particularly well-suited to it, so we don’t have to be on site to work our magic.  We’ve typically STARTED relationships with clients face to face, for that oh-so-critical “mind meld”,” but then hyper-efficiently served their needs from afar.  So our existing clients largely won’t notice a difference.

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The Mind Meld Kickoff Now Merely Needs a Longer Wire

We don’t have an office to close down.  We’ve never had a real office, because we chose Team Quality over Team Location from the very beginning.  When only 3% of applicants pass the interview, we can’t be choosy about where you live.  So since our inception, we’ve had to learn to manage and run our company purely via remote means.  We’ve enthusiastically built a remote management and collaboration infrastructure using our good friends Power BI, Power Automate, Flow, and Azure.  (We’d be an amazing case study for Microsoft to show off – if we hadn’t gotten sucked into using SalesForce and QuickBooks rather than Dynamics in 2015).

So many times now, we have done things that few believed we could do.  “You’ll never scale up past just Rob.”  “You’ll never keep consultant utilization high enough to be profitable with your high-velocity, five-figure project model.”  “You’ll never be able to manage a team spread over four time zones.”  Blah blah blah the list goes on.

Why is this any different?  It’s not.  I’m proud of what we’ve built here at P3, and even MORE proud of how little it all has depended on me.  Our team is amazing.  I started this thing, but THEY built it.  And behind the scenes here, we’re already re-wiring our brains, systems, and workflows for the New Normal.  You should be, too.