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Covid-19 creates steep learning curve and significant opportunities – what have we learnt so far?

As we navigate the language of lockdown, I’ve noticed just how hard it is to avoid clichès when describing responses to Covid-19. It’s tempting to talk about the ‘lessons learnt’ but with the pandemic still unfolding, I think we should be focusing on what we’ve learnt so far – and how we can use that knowledge to adapt to future challenges.

I’ve never thought of learning as a finite concept. Whether big or small, a success or failure, there’s always knowledge to be gained from any experience. The sheer scale of this pandemic means we’re all facing a steep learning curve, yet I also sense a quiet confidence emerging with the realisation that we can do things differently.

As lockdown unfolded, we rapidly moved our global teams to home working, distributing equipment and ensuring our operations in each region met national government guidelines.  Looking back I can’t quite believe how much we have adapted – or how quickly. Many businesses claim to be agile but our people have truly embraced this core value to demonstrate real resilience in the most testing of times and I could not be more proud of the 1Spatial team throughout this period of time.

Remote working has taken many of us out of our comfort zone; it has blurred the boundaries between home and office, and created new challenges for keeping us connected as a team, especially one which operates internationally. We may not be able to physically recreate the office environment but we have introduced weekly social activities, regular meetings and a host of well-being resources to help maintain our mental health. It’s also been an opportunity to see colleagues in a new light, outside the traditional confines of the corporate world as children, pets and housemates have joined in calls. I think that this has made us stronger and I hope it has challenged some of our perceptions.

While the safety of our staff has been at the heart of our Covid-19 response, so too have our valued customers and all our business continuity plans have focused around ensuring continued high levels of support be provided to all our customers. Our teams quickly adapted to providing online support, project management and as a trusted advisor and partner to many of our customers we have continued this role seamlessly without the need for physical face to face sessions. In addition to this, by providing a virtual experience through online events, training and 1Spatial on-demand webinars, we’ve widened our audience, tailored our content and introduced many more people to our passion for unlocking the value of location data.

For example, we’ve just signed a multi-year contract with the State of Michigan which will see our 1Data Gateway cloud portal in use across hundreds of organisations, and in France we’ve won new business for the maintenance and evolution of EPTB Seine Grands Lacs GIS platform.

Customers are showing great ingenuity in embracing different ways of working and refusing to let the global pandemic stop delivery. Northumbrian Water has continued to innovate and progress its ground-breaking safety project measuring and modelling the depth of its underground network of water pipes. We were delighted to work in partnership with them through virtual workshops and group discussions via mobile apps and laptops to ensure the project did not get delayed.

Northumbrian Water’s Operational Solutions Manager, Clive Surman-Wells, said:

“When we went into lockdown, we didn’t think it would be possible to hold our workshop because we envisaged working on a shared flip chart, sketching things out and having lots of debate. 

“However, I’m delighted that by holding the workshop virtually and using some collaboration tools, we’ve been able to achieve as much as we would have face to face, but without the travel and as it turns out, in less time too! 

“I’m really proud that despite the challenges, we can continue to progress this really exciting and important project, as originally planned and on time, with our partners, 1Spatial.” 

We’re also collaborating with the Greater London Authority (GLA) on London’s Underground Asset Register (LUAR), one of two regional pilots of the National Underground Asset Register (NUAR) programme, funded by the Geospatial Commission. 1Spatial has been involved since the start of the project and has now been awarded a contract to continue working with the GLA to provide the LUAR data transformation platform into Phase 2 of the pilot.

So what are the lessons I’ve learnt from lockdown so far?

For me, it’s all about people, whether they are your employees, customers or partners. If you can support them in adjusting to different ways of working, provide new experiences for using existing tools and continue to help them develop, you’ll create an inbuilt confidence to meet the next challenge. You might not know what it will be, but having reflected on, and learned from what came before, you’ll be ready and able to react.

It’s always hard to predict the future. What I can say with confidence is that the Covid-19 crisis is showing how important location data is – from implementing social distancing measures to recording and tracking the spread of the virus. With 80 percent of data having a location element, there is clearly a role for us to play in whatever comes next.

Written by Claire Milverton, CEO, 1Spatial