Running a business during the pandemic is already stressful, ensuring its continuity post-pandemic is an even greater challenge that requires careful re-evaluation of the current processes, organisational culture and workforce planning, not just upgrading the IT infrastructure.
How should businesses address issues that did not exist pre-crisis, straighten out new priorities, meet up with evolving customer demands, and explore new opportunities? To effectively devise a business continuity plan, consider these five questions.
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Can you weather the storm with the current business strategies and processes?
Reformed health regulations, novel government response, expanding pool of the remote workforce, downward demand slope, and an indefinite recovery phase, businesses will not function "as usual" post-COVID. As a result, companies must become more agile to respond to any disruption.
As the events of the pandemic unfolded, it became painstakingly clear that those adopting agile digital strategies rebound faster and score a more stable position compared to those that lacked adaptability.
Agile organisations empower their teams to operate in rapid learning and decision-making cycles. The approach gives those that are closest to the information the rights to make decisions as opposed to the vertical decision-making hierarchy in traditional organisations.
But first, leaders need to have on hand some forms of analytics tools to generate relevant and timely insights. Undoubtedly, high-quality insights go hand in hand with high responsiveness and agility.
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The pressures that businesses encounter today are unlike what they experienced pre-COVID. According to a report done by Aberdeen, the post-economic downturn has left companies to battle with a health crisis and impact on revenue and workers, changing customer needs, government oversight and restrictions, collaboration, disruption response and changing business models.
Enhancing agility yields a myriad of benefits, from shortening time-to-market to increasing collaboration, improving customer satisfaction, and delivering higher quality products and services.
Adopting agility on a large scale needs commitments from top management levels as it results in changing organisational infrastructure. Organisations can begin with prioritising functions that must become more agile first - sales, marketing, client service, or project delivery.
By identifying teams that need transforming, cultivating an agile culture, establishing clear goals for everyone to work towards, and providing employees with necessary tools to react to evolving client demands, organisations stand a higher chance of moving forward during uncertain times.
How do you empower your workforce to become more flexible to cope with unexpected events, especially when they are working remotely?
Working from home is already a trend that has gained significant acknowledgement in the corporate world in recent years. However, for the majority of corporations, working remotely is more like a "nice to have" perk rather than a part of the company’s DNA.
Workforce management and development plans were initially built with the brick-and-mortar office in mind. Thus, when the entire workforce shifts to a virtual setting, it is only natural that the upgraded strategy is not thoughtful enough and teams immediately run into issues surrounding:
- Communication and collaboration
- Personal interruptions (i.e., family members, pets)
- Technical support
- Access to office resources/ supplies
- Continuing critical processes and workflows
- Connectivity and access to business systems
Read more: How is talent management about to be permanently transformed?
Nevertheless, the pandemic accelerated the movement, prompting businesses to redefine their talent management strategies, come up with new performance metrics while providing their valuable talents adequate resources to minimise disruptions.
Leaders can also take this chance to revise the current organisational culture, structure, policies and even individuals and their positions to identifying potential obstructions to agility and innovative problem-solving.
- The culture: the legacy visions, beliefs, and behaviours might no longer be suitable for the new normal, thus, requiring leaders to justify their goals. This means redefining how work is accomplished, coming up with new performance metrics, and evaluating different alternatives to work hours and more.
- The people: remote work calls for unique skill sets, attitudes, and qualifications. Not everyone is willing to accept this new arrangement. Additionally, there are processes that must be done on-premise, making virtual working impossible for employees in these positions. Therefore, not only organisations have to select the right talents that fit in with the company's culture and are capable of coping with today's chaotic environment, but they also have to reassess the business model and existing job functions to eliminate those that no longer fit.
- The technology: the shift in the workforce calls for new technologies to help enable, empower, and engage your employees. Companies that realise and acknowledge the changing expectations of the modern workforce and the benefits that new technologies can offer will be able to manoeuvre uncharted waters better.
How can you help your clients to navigate in turbulent weather while ensuring service excellence?
Just like how companies struggle to remain profitable to drive through the bumpy road ahead, clients are also facing similar operational disturbances and unpredictable market conditions. Consequently, as companies' expectations and priorities shifted, the clients' needs and demands also evolved drastically.
Now more than ever, companies must maintain trust with clients and continue to provide quality solutions to help them unlock new opportunities despite the constrained budget. In other words, to operate effectively post-crisis, organisations need to reimagine the customer journey and incorporate innovative activities to deliver services and engagement remotely.
There is no better time to invest in artificial intelligence, analytics and other client-centric technology to obtain customers' changing behaviours and interaction patterns and deliver these insights to client relationship management specialists. More important, suitable analytical capabilities can help to create more personalised (and less transactional) client experiences while demonstrating that businesses understand clients new pain points.
How can your back office enhance their performance and become more agile?
It is crucial to prioritise back-office performance as it directly impacts financial results. Technology plays a critical role in optimising new practices in the back office, namely streamlining processes, automating manual activities (e.g., invoice issuance and approvals), increasing data visibility, and improving planning and forecasting.
Read more: 5 reasons to invest in workflow automation
Accounting is one of the core departments that can greatly benefit from advanced technology. The function is known for endless repetitive tasks, mountains of worksheets, and time-consuming manual handoffs, especially when the staff has to consolidate information intercompany or from multiple, disparate business systems. Reporting, auditing, and compliance should be automated, and automation is the key to reduce data errors and silos as well as improving efficiency and ensuring business continuity.
Deloitte anticipates that artificial intelligence will become mainstream by 2025 for white-collar jobs. The technology enables unthinkable efficiencies through automation, image processing, natural language process, predictive analytics, anomaly detection, plus many more use cases.
How can you protect your business' most valuable digital assets as well as sensitive client information?
The number of cyber attacks and security breaches surged since more and more people are working from home during the pandemic. As organisations are striving to develop a stable and functioning remote workforce, it is critical to also pay attention to protecting companies' digital assets.
Employees access internal information, client-related data from their home, and in some cases, using their personal devices. This puts tension on chief information security officers and cybersecurity teams to perform top-notch preventative and counterattack measures while keeping the daily operations undisturbed. However, transitioning from the legacy on-premise solutions to more remote-friendly ones is downright a loaded task at the moment, not to mention, expensive and time-consuming.
Read more: Phishing – What is it and what you need to know about it?
Cybersecurity is crucial and deserves to be recognised as one of the top priorities. Staff at every level needs to be educated about the importance, risks, and possible defence mechanisms to avoid potential attacks. Top management levels should address the data security issues even before any incidents occur.
Let's also not forget that security can be found in the cloud. Organisations that adopted cloud-based solutions have been navigating through this turbulent time with much fewer disruptions. And they continue to discover new opportunities, gain holistic flexibility and witness seamless collaboration despite being physically apart.
In such time of crisis, the ability to rebound quickly, acknowledge the changing weather and evolving market demands, thus coming up with suitable responses swiftly make businesses stay ahead of the curve. No one can yet give a definite answer as to how long the recovery will last. Organisations must be unprecedentedly agile to cope with any unexpected turn of events.
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