Back-to-work efforts are likely to require COVID-19 vaccine tracking systems, management tools, digital health passports, and a bevy of privacy and compliance risks, according to a Forrester Research report.
Vaccine management is one of enterprise software's hottest areas, but once herd immunity is reached the category will have to evolve. While the focus for these suites is on distributing, scheduling, and vaccinating people the applications will ultimately play a role in workforce management. Consider the duel between ServiceNow and Salesforce.
It's unclear how the ServiceNow and Salesforce roadmaps adapt in the future, but it's possible that their respective platforms will have to include compliance, privacy, and passport management tools in the future. I've been pondering vaccine management as a category and have gone from the software having a short shelf life to one that'll endure in a new form.
When vaccine management software will have to morph is unclear, but it's likely to involve passport management. Vaccination pace depends on the supply, distribution, new variants, and individual sentiment about vaccines. One thing is near certain: Many businesses and countries will need proof of COVID-19 vaccination for entry.
Forrester's report lays out a few key issues with return-to-work efforts. Forrester recommends that companies use caution with reopening plans as well as efforts to use digital vaccine and immunization passports.
There are a host of risks for companies' pandemic management plans. Risks include everything from handling sensitive data, discrimination, and customer and employee experiences.
Takeaways from the Forrester report include:
Vaccines aren't going to result in a complete return to normal at work due to COVID-19 variants and limited experience with the virus. Companies will need to continue to plan for hybrid work experiences and work-from-anywhere models.
Avoid no jab, no job policies. US employers can make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory, but there will be legal challenges over rules that employees carry proof of inoculation.
Employers should collect only the minimum amount of data needed to meet policies. Medical data needs to be encrypted and restricted.
Relaxing safety protocols can impact brand perception.
Forrester noted that vaccine passports are emerging globally amid much debate. Vaccine passport initiatives include:
Digital Health Pass
Real Vaccination ID
Vaccination Credential Initiative
COVID-19 immunity and vaccination passport
Emerging return-to-work systems will have to integrate with whatever standard emerges for vaccine passports. It's unlikely that those passports are going to be a cure-all for work. Even with vaccinations, companies are going to need to maintain safety protocols. After all, COVID-19 is going to be an endemic disease, argues Forrester.
In the meantime, employers are going to have to manage these 15 risks.
Forrester's list of risks is interesting because many of those issues happen to be best handled by some slice of the vaccine management market. For instance, safety, vaccine tracking, and CX is an area where Salesforce could excel. Other areas align with ServiceNow's expertise. Yet many of the compliance, discrimination, and employee data and privacy risks point to an HR player like Workday.
According to Forrester, enterprises need to prepare for various scenarios for the COVID-19 pandemic. The most optimistic one is that vaccine manufacturing and distribution happens without delay and return-to-work efforts become reality late 2021 into 2022. Other scenarios include vaccine shortages, low vaccine acceptance, and new variants that would delay a return to the office. The least optimistic scenario is that new vaccines will be needed, and companies adopt remote work permanently.