If you’re a decision-maker for an organisation, knowing how to respond to disasters and times of crisis is something you have to plan and prepare for in the best of times. COVID-19 has made this a priority for business leaders.
While the world stays at home, your concerns are manifold: How do you keep your business afloat during and after this crisis? How do you stabilise a business in uncertain times? How do you lead your business through these unprecedented times?
How IT leadership can stabilise your business in an uncertain economy
1. Reduce risk, adapt and adjust
Capturing an overview of the situation on paper, along with a plan on how to deal with it, is in itself a source of inertia. A Chinese proverb reminds us that great generals should issue commands in the morning and change them in the evening. However, managers are reluctant to share plans that are in flux, and hesitate to change them for fear of looking indecisive or misinformed, or of creating confusion within their teams. Create a living document, with a time-stamped “best current view” to aid you, your management team, and their staff to learn and adapt in a rapidly changing situation.
The need for business continuity planning (BCP) has been accelerated by the current crisis we find ourselves in. BCP provides the business with a game plan to resume business operations seamlessly in times of disaster. However, a BCP requires input from multiple departments with different and sometimes conflicting objectives, making this a full-time, resource-intensive project. This typically requires a dedicated resource to drive and manage the process, and most organisations struggle to implement this massive undertaking successfully. We are experienced and well-equipped to take you through this project and see you through this crisis, through effective BCP.
2. Cut costs
As customers are forced to stay away from retail and many so-called non-essential services we are forced to re-evaluate budgets. Here are some ways to help:
- Outsource: Reduce overheads by allocating your salary budget wisely. The many business benefits of outsourcing are relevant to your organisation now more than ever.
- Use IT better: Automate mundane admin tasks with ERP solutions and reallocate your admin-heavy staff towards more profit-producing tasks.
- Keep what works: Consider keeping the remote-office model forced upon us by Covid-19, if it works for you. It reduces high office rent, and research shows that most employees prefer the autonomy and ease of working at home, even being willing to take a salary cut to do so, and are much more productive.
- Upgrade to save: Consider optimisations that may lead to reduced waste and improved profits, such as shop floor productivity. If your old machines take twice as long to perform half the task than their newer counterparts, it follows that replacing the old equipment with new, more efficient pieces is a smart investment in improved productivity and profit.
3. Lead change through the crisis
- Communicate: During a crisis there is often a lot of fake news mixed in with what is true – this is true for policy changes and uncertainty in the workplace. Communicate changes promptly, clearly, and in a balanced manner. Always ask yourself these questions when communicating:
- Who am I communicating with?
- What are the communications?
- What do the communications look like?
- What is the wording?
Additionally, include contextual information and the reasoning behind these changes so that your team can deepen their own understanding and take initiative in unanticipated situations.
Use Zoom, Instagram, email, Whatsapp, and every other digital platform possible to keep communications open between you and your key stakeholders.
- Supply-chain stabilisation: Try to stabilise supply chains by utilising safety stocks, alternative suppliers, and working with sources to resolve delays and co-plan interim solutions, all the while communicating with all relevant stakeholders. Ask us how to use IT to bring visibility and control as a key strategy in supply chain stabilisation.
- Transparency, tracking and forecasting: There will probably be many unpredictable fluctuations caused by this crisis. Establish rapid-reporting cycles for real-time indications of how your business is coping, where your input is required, and how quickly operations are recovering. Sooner or later markets will judge which organisations managed the crisis most effectively.
- Be part of the broader solution: Support others in your ecosystem, and consider how your business can contribute. Focus on where acute social needs intersects with your specific capabilities — in other words, live your purpose.
4. Be resilient
The primary goal in managing changing and unpredictable challenges is resilience – the ability to survive and thrive through dynamic, evolving, and potentially unfavourable situations.
- Diversity: This speaks to multiple technical approaches, a diversity of ideas to solve a problem, or a cognitively diverse crisis management team.
- Modularity: Where a highly integrated system is efficient, a modular system — where factories, business units or supply sources can be combined in different ways — is more resilient.
- Evolvability: Systems that are built for constant improvement in the light of new opportunities, problems, or information respond better to dynamic crises like Covid-19. Trying something now, seeing what works and reforming around the results is likely to be the most effective strategy in the short term.
- Prudence: We do not know the exact long term implications of Covid-19, but we can plot plausible downstream scenarios and test resilience under these circumstances. It is prudent for organisations to take a fresh look at worst-case scenarios and develop contingency strategies around them.
Finally, embrace a changed world.
We should prepare for the reality that the Covid-19 crisis will change our businesses and society in important ways. The old saying, ‘this too shall pass’ could imply that we will go revert to the way things were before the crisis. However, a more proactive, positive approach is probably more sustainable; ‘we shall prevail’ is perhaps the better mantra. Once the urgent part of this crisis has been navigated, we will need to take stock of what has changed, and what we’ve learned, so that we can adapt, restructure, and grow forward.