It was November 2019 when the first-ever case of coronavirus was detected in Hubei, China. It was in fact a month earlier when the outbreak was actually noticed and reported in Wuhan, China. Since then, the whole of humanity experienced an unwanted, unpleasant and unsettling change in their lives. A sea change in fact, for which no one was prepared. In the last year or so, the world saw global shutdowns, economies crashing, thousands of companies going bankrupt, millions and many more losing livelihoods, and so on. It is unfortunate that to-date more than 46 million people got infected globally and over 1.1 million succumbed to an invisible pathogen. The numbers are still counting and it will be some more time till life return to near normal.
Historically, living with any health crisis has always been difficult and so is the case in the ongoing pandemic. But as they say, with every new crisis comes new opportunities. The same thing happened all across. People adapted to new living conditions and continued with their journey called life. The same is the case with businesses. Many agile companies were quick to forge new processes to maintain continuity. They strived hard to keep servicing clients even in such despair. Most service-based companies allowed their workforce to operate from home. Many compassionate companies made ‘work from home’ a permanent policy. Those who were labour intensive and needed people’s physical presence in offices or factories adopted new processes to keep the production line operational. Output was affected though as a lesser number of hands-on the shop floors meant lesser daily production.
Business continuity plans that were in place prior to the crisis, however, appeared null and void when the actual crisis hit. The CEOs and their BCP managers had to start from scratch as they had no choice but to innovate processes for continuity. And quickly too! We mean who wanted to face a permanent shut down. No one, we guess!
With uncertainty looming around, each business learnt some hard lessons. Through this series of posts, we shall attempt to share many such learnings, many times sector-specific, that CEOs implemented quickly to keep moving their businesses forward.
So, let us cut to the chase and have a look at some top priorities of business leaders in covid-19 times to maintain continuity:
- The CEOs were compelled to ensure strict compliance with guidelines including health and safety protocols laid by the governments of countries in which their business operated. Safeguarding all key stakeholders including customers, employees, partners, vendors, etc. was and still is the topmost priority of the senior management.
- The businesses adopted a hybrid model of delivery – digital and physical. Companies while protecting existing channels, created a strong digital infrastructure for serving their customers, managing the workforce, collaborating with partners and working with the vendors.
- The companies also rapidly scaled up cloud adoption and leveraged SaaS platforms. Market trends showed a sharp rise in the use of cloud-based services in the last several months.
- The businesses also accelerated their digital transformation journey to replace slow, manual and inefficient processes with faster-automated solutions. This indeed helped businesses in improving productivity while a large portion of their workforce operated remotely.
- The companies became more prudent in allocating financial resources. They spent or allocated funds only on projects which are mission-critical. It helped them in preserving cash for any future uncertainties aiming to outgrow competition and capture more market share.
- The business continuity managers worked towards making processes more agile and dynamic so that they could cope up with an uncertain business environment and daily changing public policies.
- The CEOs quickly realised that travel for business was another area that needed rework. There was a shift in employee’s attitude towards travel due to a high risk of getting the infection while travelling. To complicate matters, the travel policies laid by the government changed from state-to-state and country-to-country. The businesses realised the potential of video conferencing technology which proved effective in conducting virtual meetings with all stakeholders.
- The organisations acknowledged the importance of sensitising employees, customers, partners, vendors, etc. on pandemics like covid-19, event(s) which had a low rate of occurrence but had extremely high consequences. As part of the preparedness drive, companies conducted regular awareness sessions on overcoming the existing crisis, managing continuous operations and getting ready for any potential threats of the future.
These are some very valuable lessons for each one of us in the ongoing adversity. We must strive to emerge stronger and better in the coming times. However, the storm is far from over and the CEOs still face a humongous challenge that will eventually test their limitations. Ultimately, they have to shoulder the vision of the company and keep moving forward continuously.
It is difficult for anyone to predict whether the world would be able to restore complete normalcy and by when. But one thing is for sure that those who are nimble and adaptive will thrive.