It wasn’t long after the coronavirus transformed into a global pandemic that the folks at Salesforce began to think of how to use technology to ensure a safe return to work for the millions of people around the world forced into self-isolation or lockdowns.
Setting aside the massive economic hit in lost wealth and productivity, how could technology help to keep people safe once they did venture back to their workplaces? As more and more scientific research and medical studies were done, certain irrefutable aspects began to emerge. For example, we learned that the virus is spread through saliva droplets; initially, it was believed that keeping a distance of 6 feet would prevent infection so, to avoid such situations, social distancing and frequent hand washing became the initial means to defend against the virus. When it became clear through further research that the droplets could hang in the air for several hours or longer, this triggered a push to encourage mask-wearing in public places.
Salesforce Re-Purposes Technology Platforms
Salesforce took data like this, selected several proprietary technologies like Shift Management, Field Service, and Health Cloud to come up with a solution designed to help businesses re-open safely and ensure a healthy workforce at the same time. Work.com was ready to go as of June.
Salesforce is using the hallmarks of its various technology platforms – centralized data acquisition, powerful data analysis with artificial intelligence, and instant access to the results anywhere, any time – tweaking them to serve a different purpose and producing a critical new technology to help fight the ongoing spread of Covid-19.
When Murty Chennubhotla, Product Architect at Gerent, looked into Work.com, he was impressed but felt that Salesforce technology could do more.
“I felt this was, in a way, a short-term vision, where they're just looking at people coming back to work in the next six months. So, I started thinking about what happens after? This is not going to end anytime soon, and we have to be ready with something beyond the next six months. Pandemics will happen again. Everybody will have to remain careful in terms of how they work. That led me to the CDC’s website where I was surprised at how many health strategies they recommend, and I wondered how many of those are actually implemented in the organization? The answer is not many. There’s a glaring gap there.”
How Gerent Expanded Work.com
Murty consulted with Gopi Ramineni, Gerent’s CEO, to zero in on several areas where Gerent could create add-ons in support of Work.com, at the same time extending its usefulness.
The two decided on two core themes that Gerent could move forward with immediately: manufacturing and education.
Manufacturing is an area in which Gerent has years of deep experience, consulting on and implementing Salesforce technologies for companies around the world. Its nature is such that employees must be on-site to do their jobs which brings up the need for screening mechanisms. Murty Chennubhotla modified some aspects from Health Cloud which can link to EHRs (Electronic Health Records) and adapted them for a manufacturing environment.
Murty believes that manufacturing is going to be a key generator of jobs in the future. “Many companies want to bring manufacturing back into the country. Everybody wants to minimize the dependency on China. So manufacturing is, in my opinion, going to be a big industry where more and more people are going to find jobs. So, we have to have the strategies and methodologies in place to make factory floors safe places to be.”
As difficult and fraught with risk as the re-opening of businesses is, the situation surrounding school re-openings is even harder. The U.S. Education Secretary, Betsy Devos, cites several European studies, a German one, in particular, to support the Administration’s view that reopening schools is achievable since children, she maintains the German study proves, don’t contract or transmit the virus.
The Problems With School Re-Openings
While this view is predicated on a non-peer-reviewed study in a country that has the virus under control, there are still many questions when it comes to school re-openings. This was brought home in stark terms when Chennubhotla was forced to watch his daughter’s graduation via Zoom, rather than in person. He began to think about how to make it possible for kids – especially foreign students returning to the U.S. from their home countries – and teachers to get back to the classroom safely.
“How do you start tracking where foreign students are coming from? What is the situation in their country? Is somebody coming from Italy? Is somebody coming from India? Is somebody coming from Spain? How do you start monitoring that data, and contact tracing for the extended family?”
There is going to be a growing requirement for full access by schools to immunization records, Murty argues. This places an added need and emphasis on data security, something that is a strong feature of Work.com and the add-ons that Gerent has developed. The upshot is that schools would now have the ability to keep immunization records on file, securely and safely. The data could then be used to predict future trends or scenarios within the schools themselves.
Expanding Contact Tracing Within Work.com
The key to both the manufacturing and education add-ons from Gerent is extended contact tracing. Rather than stop at just the employee (or student), as Work.com does, Gerent’s add-ons include the student or employee’s family members, as well.
“What I did was start with the idea of someone coming from their home. So what is the current situation in their house? Who are their household members? Do they know whether they've been tested or not? Do they have any symptoms? So I've built an employee household object which can collect a lot of this data.”
To support contact tracing, Salesforce leans on its own Salesforce Survey tool which Murty has adapted for Gerent’s use. He says that by generating survey results, schools and other organizations can use the results, analyzed through the built-in artificial intelligence, to enunciate a problem and then formulate an action plan to deal with it.
There is more to come from Gerent, including extensions to Work.com for the healthcare sector and we’ll be exploring that in other posts on this site, in the near future.
Suffice it to say, both Gerent and Salesforce are stepping up in a major way to help manufacturing companies and organizations like schools with the means to problem-solve their safety issues and provide strategies for re-opening. Working with technology like this, every business and public entity can ensure a high level of security now and in the foreseeable future.
This technology can make or break safe re-openings; contact us for more information on how it will work for you.