4. Prepare for the return and rise of a new workforce
Companies will need to manage a physical return to work that prioritizes health and safety, while supporting higher productivity. They also need to reimagine and restructure their workforce to meet changing business needs post-COVID-19.
Companies should consider the workforce capabilities and capacity needed and perform scenario modeling that takes into account three variables – the well-being of employees, impact on operations and the financial result. Furthermore, leading companies are exploring bold new ways to operate their tax and finance function. Many are beginning to explore new operating models where they invest in strategic tax and finance talent, while co-sourcing routine compliance activities with third parties who are making significant investments in standardized processes, technology and delivery centers of excellence.
COVID-19 has also accelerated remote work practices, and there is no going back. Enterprises must proactively manage these practices – providing the necessary collaborative technologies and remote working policies, accelerating digital upskilling, digitization of documents, implementation of RPA, and ensuring cyber-security – to increase workforce productivity and engagement.
5. Build resilience into the enterprise
The challenges from COVID-19 have demonstrated the brittleness of today’s supply chains and business models. Many company operations – liquidity management, supply chains, outbound logistics – were built to squeeze out cost. But in the current environment, their inflexibility has led to a liquidity crisis, line stoppages and component shortages that have threatened the life of many firms.
CFOs, working with COOs and other operations personnel, should conduct a systematic risk analysis of financial and operating processes. Potential breakage points – low cash reserves, lean inventories, distressed suppliers and shippers – should be restructured to build in greater transparency and resiliency.
The challenge will be building in these reserves without increasing costs. Aggressive adoption of digital technologies – e.g., sensors located in suppliers’ inventories – are likely to be an important part of the solution.
6. Recharge M&A
Times of disruption can also be times of opportunity. This will be especially true for firms less affected by this crisis and with strong cash reserves.
Distressed assets will need buyers. Even in the midst of crisis, it is not too soon for CFOs to be planning a recovery strategy focused on the upside.
This proactivity also applies to firms that emerge weakened by the crisis. Many companies may need to seek new partners, or to make divestments to raise cash. It is important that the firm’s fate is not dictated by outside forces. Instead, the CFO should step forth with a proactive strategy to navigate the recovery.
CFOs must embrace the opportunity to transform
Executives planning their recovery must push further than mere tinkering with issues thrown up by COVID-19. This is an opportunity to reframe, reimagine and reinvent that leaders should embrace with total commitment – and the key enabler will be the CFO.