Cornelius Heinemann
Cornelius Heinemann, Executive Vice President Broadcast and Media at Rohde & Schwarz

Broadcast and Media Newsletter jul. 08, 2020

What can we learn from lockdown?

We live in uncertain times. But can lockdown encourage positive change and embolden progressive mindsets? Cornelius Heinemann, Executive Vice President at Rohde & Schwarz sees opportunities for the company to grow and evolve.

There have been crises before and each time the agony is different, but COVID 19 is different since it is a global health crisis instead of an economic crisis. One massive impact is the almost instantaneous cut-off of any personal contact with customers – be that through face-to-face meetings or through tradeshows such as NAB and IBC.

Rohde & Schwarz is a German-based company and so far Germany has handled the pandemic quite well. However, this is a global pandemic and we need to address all the areas where our company operates. Rohde & Schwarz is a rock-solid company and we need to confirm that our contingency plans and special measures are equal to the exceptional demands that this situation generates.

If this crisis had occurred 10 years ago it would have been much more serious for us. Today, there are new enabling technologies which help our staff work remotely from their home offices. Also, our products have been evolving towards remote operation scenarios – software-defined solutions, which help our customers to work remotely and enable our service teams to support them remotely.

Today, even our most traditional hardware solutions such as transmitters are software-based so it is straightforward for our support teams to remotely access, analyse and diagnose any issues that our customers might encounter and enable safe operation.

However, while we are coping in a socially distanced world, there is still no way that we can replace the human interaction you get at a tradeshow or in an office environment. In this regard, I am very much looking forward to the return of traditional ways of working that we took for granted for so many years – both in terms of customer interaction and personal interaction with my colleagues.

I am a big fan of tradeshows, and for sure I believe they will return. However, there is a responsibility of the event organizers to make sure that they are events worth visiting and worthy of our investment. The organizers have been working hard on their websites and apps, making them more efficient and effective. But the critical point is their ability to facilitate face to face contacts with the people and organizations that are most valuable to us.

Will all companies survive the pandemic?

No, not all companies will survive the pandemic. If a company had a tight cash flow going into the crisis, they will struggle. Start up companies without the kind of financial reserves that take years to accumulate will also struggle unless they have generous investors. In general, this situation can create a strong focus on short term thinking – how can we get through the next quarter? Short-term thinking is a challenge – at Rohde & Schwarz we have a tradition of investing in long-term strategies, in fact eighty years tradition.

The pandemic may impact badly on certain market segments – such as live events. But, if we consider it to be a strategically important market for us, then we will continue to invest in that market so that we are well positioned when, eventually, it recovers.

We went into lockdown quickly, but it will take longer for our industry to restart. If you take the live sports sector as an example. The ghost games we currently see in the Deutsche Bundesliga are a bit bizarre but they are necessary – not least from a commercial perspective since they generate advertising revenue for the broadcasters.

Out of crisis comes opportunity

We are seeing positive signs of recovery. We have good attendance at our webinars and we’re staging significant numbers of remote presentations to existing and new customers. We are just starting to see the restrictions on social distancing relax and this is so important for our business. We need to be careful: at Rohde & Schwarz we keep our security measures in place, but it is positive that we can start to interact again.

There will be some long-lasting effects of the pandemic. Rohde & Schwarz is a traditional company where our staff, largely, work from offices. However, we have discovered that remote working can work well. If this is the case for us, then it will be the case for our customers as well. They need to modify their infrastructures to accommodate more remote working. Our move towards software-defined solutions is ideal for this scenario.

For many years, concepts such as IP and the cloud have been discussion concepts, but always the traditional SDI requirement, complete with BNC connectors and cables was still present. I think this crisis will help change mindsets and maybe it will help embolden people and encourage more progressive approaches. As the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining.

At Rohde & Schwarz, we can help our customers make these strategic changes. It is all the more important for us to be in regular contact with them. We have developed new online, virtual means of interacting with our customers and we will continue with these. However, the tradeshows still have a special role to play in terms of customer engagement.

Our business is essentially relationship based and the big tradeshows bring value in this regard. In our business, the sales cycle is typically 12 months or more, and it requires a great deal of personal interaction. However, we still need to ask how can we make it easier for customers to buy from us – for example, what lessons can we learn from the selling phenomenon that is called Amazon?

In conclusion, it is clear that lockdown has been a challenge for everyone. However, I’m a natural optimist, so I see great opportunities to learn and to change positively from this. Rohde & Schwarz is a company with a very solid foundation – we were there, we are there, and we will be there to support our customers. What we are doing is using this crisis to learn about ourselves, and in some way to reinvent ourselves so that we are better able to serve, support and add value to our customers’ business operations.

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