Even as they deal with the immediate impact of COVID-19, organizations should be thinking about how they’ll thrive in a post-pandemic world.
Business leaders today are rightly focused on the huge business continuity challenges posed by COVID-19. First and foremost is ensuring that employees are as safe as possible, securing financial sustainability, assessing the resilience of supply chains and reinforcing crucial systems to support unprecedented levels of remote working and online trading – while withstanding an upsurge in cyberattacks.
Unsurprisingly, the organizations that were furthest down the digital transformation journey before COVID-19 struck are tending to adapt to the crisis better than their peers. Their business models and working processes meant that they were able to pivot more rapidly or accelerate changes already underway. The businesses that lack a robust digital backbone or an online presence have struggled, as have those exposed to bricks-and-mortar retail, transportation, energy and tourism sectors. Meanwhile, software companies providing collaboration tools, software as a service and cloud capacity are seeing unprecedented level of demand to meet rapidly changing customer and business demand.
However, businesses, no matter how digitalized, need to try and look beyond the immediate business continuity or liquidity issues caused by the pandemic. As more focus turns to the loosening of restrictions in place by governments, we think businesses should be reframing what the future may look like.
What lessons should we take from this unprecedented pandemic to prepare for the “new normal” following COVID-19? How can we enable our organizations to thrive in a post-crisis world? Perhaps we can start by thinking about these four things:
1. Devise a lockdown exit strategy
Many national economies are experiencing unprecedented drops in GDP. Hence, governments are thinking seriously about “lockdown exit strategies” that will allow them to reboot economies while minimizing the threat to human lives. Similarly, businesses will need to figure out how they restart their operations while continuing to prioritize the well-being of their staff and dealing with the aftermath of lockdown and its immediate implications. This will require them to consider if and how staff return to offices or visit customer sites – while maintaining social distancing protocols.
Few businesses, if any, will return to the same working and customer service practices they enjoyed only six months ago, with short-term impacts to productivity, costs and employee morale. They may need to introduce greater agility and flexibility into their supply chain so that they can switch to new suppliers if necessary.
2. Consider the changing role of the state
The crisis has had the effect of dramatically expanding the state in many markets as governments have implemented strict rules to save lives and unveiled massive stimulus packages to save jobs and businesses. These measures have come at a huge economic and social cost, which is why many governments will be focused on ensuring that their countries won’t have to shut down to the same extent should another pandemic strike again in future. Following the financial crisis 10 years ago, governments around the world introduced more than 15,000 pieces of new legislation to strengthen the global financial system. You need to think about how new regulation may impact your organization’s business model and factor that into your strategy going forward.
Rather than invite a coordinated global response, the common threat of the pandemic has created more division and, in some cases, intensified competition. Going forward, we are likely to see greater regulation – potentially in areas such as employment rights, accessibility of data and the cash and liquidity buffers held by large businesses. We will likely see a rapid acceleration toward “e-government,” the digitization of health care and role of the state in its universal provision.