I would like to welcome you to the monthly newsletter for May. I hope that you and your families are all well in these difficult times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many others I have been working from home and trying my best to practice social distancing when outside. This somewhat unfortunate term seems like it will be with us for some time – or at least until a vaccine is discovered and found to be effective through passing clinical trials.
The COVID-19 situation is rapidly evolving and is causing not just a health crisis in many countries but also leading to potential major economic difficulties. This may result in many changes across different industries, including the university sector. The higher level of indebtedness combined with lower revenues is unfortunately a difficult combination for any organization to deal with – and this includes not just industrial companies and academic institutions, but also governments, and is something that will also be faced at the personal level by many people.
The pressure caused by the COVID-19 crisis is forcing organizations to work different – this of course includes virtual working (i.e. more videoconferences, teleconferences, etc.) but it also could potentially lead to an increased pace in the adoption of digital technologies, such as virtual reality and augmented reality. An example of a recent business-driven innovation is the rise of a new form of e-commerce, so called livestream e-commerce, which has become popular in China as a way for sellers and consumers to interact virtually during the pandemic. This has the potential to grow significantly and effectively combines a user experience of commerce with social media and entertainment. It seems that even during pandemics, new disruptive technologies and business models will continue to emerge.
As we look ahead it will be important for ASEM to remain relevant and competitive in such a changing landscape and therefore adopting new working practices alongside updating and enhancing the current products and services is important. An example of a new approach was in the last month where ASEM held a virtual Town Hall Meeting. This event was hosted by ASEM Headquarters and led by Gene Dixon (ASEM Executive Director Elect) and provided an excellent opportunity for the Society’s membership to be briefed on key developments being pursued by ASEM and also receive feedback directly from members. I was pleased to see that the meeting enabled interaction with a number of members and was clearly a success – I look forward to further meetings being held in the future.
I would also like to acknowledge the fantastic ASEM Practice Periodical issued this last month, which had the very timely theme of “This Crisis Will Not Go to Waste: Engineering Management’s Response to COVID-19”. Many thanks to Annmarie Uliano (ASEM Communications Director) for coordinating this issue of the Periodical as well as the excellent contributions by the authors: Woodrow Winchester III, Jesse Kamm, Teresa Jurgens-Kowal, Alexis Devenin, Harry Moser, Tanveer Naseer, Larry Mallak, and our former President, Frances Alston. Clearly engineering management has much to offer in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finally, I wanted to update you all that in the last month we held the ASEM Spring Board of Directors Meeting. The meeting was held virtually and not face-to-face due to the COVID-19 situation. But this did not stop us from having a whole day’s worth of excellent discussions. Indeed, I was delighted to lead the meeting and with the other members of the Board we discussed a number of important matters related to the operations and strategic development of ASEM. This included areas such as development of the Society’s portfolio of publications, strategies to support our certification program, preparations for the annual conference, international development of the society, marketing and development initiatives as well as other strategic projects. The meeting provided an excellent opportunity to discuss key issues to be addressed and for the Board of Directors to consider the priorities for the Society moving forward. In this regard, I look forward to working alongside members of the Board and others on these and other exciting initiatives for ASEM over the coming months.
Dr. Simon Philbin