It’s extremely rare for change to come as quickly and forcefully as it has in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. Many organizations, even large enterprises, are struggling with the current reality and in charting a course forward. How should you respond in these times of uncertainty? How might the choices you make now affect your ability to move your business forward once mission-critical needs are under control?
At DXC Technology, we’ve had to deal with these issues ourselves, while also helping our customers throughout the world maintain their mission-critical systems and processes in the midst of crisis. Through this experience, we’ve quickly come to identify three priorities for large enterprises as they implement and execute on their corporate COVID-19 response plans — although these are not meant to replace any official government or registered health organisation guidance.
1. Protecting employees
First and foremost, ensuring that employees are well informed and protected is the highest priority. From a digital perspective, the best way to assist is through ensuring that the right information is getting to the right people at the right time. Therefore, senior leaders should be sure to look at:
Master data management (MDM)
MDM is a fairly mundane topic in the best of times, but in crisis situations it becomes critically important. Now is the time, in conjunction with your employees, to ensure that information is updated. It’s also a good time to gauge how difficult it is for employees to keep their details current. If the average employee has to log into multiple systems or can use only certain devices to update information, you should be investigating alternative solutions.
Digital communications are one of the most powerful ways to interact with employees when travel and large social gatherings are limited. Senior leaders need to consider how they will use a multi-channel approach not only to send out information, but also to receive quality feedback. While email communications may be one method, a multi-channel response will work far better. This may include virtual information sessions, internal social media interaction, Q&A channels and mobile alerts.
Review workplace and learning and development solutions
Digital solutions that allow employees to work from home or other locations have of course become critically important in this current operating environment. Leaders need to be asking themselves: How easy are these services to use? What roadblocks stand in the way of virtual employee communication? Is our infrastructure up to a significant increase in demand for audio- and video-conferencing services? What are the policies for managing sensitive data from outside the workplace?
Furthermore, leaders should consider what employees can do from a learning and development perspective while they may be working remotely or potentially quarantined. In today’s world, a lot of self-paced, online learning is available, which can help your staff personally and professionally, while also improving morale.
2. Managing Steady State Operations
Keeping business operations running smoothly may be challenging for certain organisations as the situation continues to evolve. This may involve a downturn in revenue, increased operating costs or managing new types of risks, such as supplier unavailability. Senior leaders should be sure to look at:
Reviewing / testing Business Continuity Plans (BCPs)
BCP plans tend to rely heavily on restoring critical systems. With COVID-19, however, the problem lies more in being able to access systems from remote locations. Furthermore, it’s increasingly looking as if this pandemic will not be a short-term problem but a prolonged period of uncertainty. That’s why it’s important for plans to be in place that are sustainable and not simply stop-gap solutions.
Organisations that face downturns in revenue may need to determine what cost-cutting measures should be put in place in the short term — what doesn’t need to be running? Beyond this, it may be worth investigating outsourced business process services to ensure that alternative workforces are available in case a large number of employees are unable to work.
Understanding value chain impacts
In these situations, large enterprises must resist the urge to focus too intensely on day-to-day operations. It can pay dividends to instead analyse your product/service value chain in both directions (backwards to your suppliers and forward to your customers). Getting information about how they are affected will yield key insights into supply and demand and will assist senior leaders in making valuable tactical decisions.
Simplification with automation
Now is a good time to look at the processes in your organisation that could benefit from simple software-based automation. These might include order processing, email management, transferring data between systems and payroll processing. Prioritise them by determining which would allow employees to focus on higher-value work. To get started, contact partners that provide robotic process automation (RPA) solutions which can be managed and scaled across the business.
3. Achieving growth in uncertain times
Some organisations will focus on how they can grow now or plan for growth opportunities after the COVID-19 crisis. It makes good strategic sense to look beyond the crisis and prepare to respond to new opportunities. Senior leaders should ensure that they consider:
Using data to the company’s advantage
Now is a great time to gain better understanding and insight into many areas of business, from both cost-saving and revenue-generating points of view. The opportunities here are endless, but each business should prioritize and then decide on the areas to examine, such as supply chain, customer buying habits, order to cash, procurement and market penetration. Gaining new information in these areas can inform new investment opportunities. Using an additional lens, smart organisations will look at how market conditions may change permanently as a result of COVID-19 and apply this insight to their new data models.
Considering alternative revenue streams
In a changed world, your previously sound business strategy may no longer be viable. Now is a good time to look at opportunities to build new revenue streams in complementary or parallel markets. Organisations should think about how they can leverage existing data, assets and human capital to create new platforms that could supplement current revenue.
History tells us that great innovation often arises from times of uncertainty and change. Allowing employees more flexibility to experiment safely in these uncertain times may lead to significant business opportunities and stimulate revenue growth in areas that had not previously been expected.
A compelling reason for action
Digital solutions will play a critical role in any organisational response to COVID-19. It’s important that senior leaders take the time to study and consider these solutions, and then take action — all in conjunction with their regular business continuity management. Leveraging organisations that have strong partnerships, proven experience and the ability to scale solutions quickly and effectively will also be a key consideration.
Ultimately, being realistic about what can be achieved during this time will also guide organisations. While the recommendations here are absolutely worth considering, senior leaders must determine what the return on investment or the risk mitigation effects will be of taking or not taking any action.
Michael Billimoria is partner, Digital Transformation, for DXC Technology in Australia and New Zealand.
Nick Mescher, DXC digital transformation executive; John Trebse, DXC sales capability leader; and Craig Theodorou, DXC region leader – Digital Strategy & Innovation, also contributed to this blog post.