Covid-19 – a trying chapter not the end of the story
As Covid-19 continues to put huge pressure on health systems and markets all over the world, it is important to remember that it too will pass. It may seem difficult to acknowledge that fact in the present moment, when we’re dealing with so many disruptions to our normal lives, but it’s the truth. The important question, therefore, is what can organizations do now that will help them have a quick and clean recovery once the pandemic has run its course?
As with any challenge, the opportunity to turn things around lies within the problem itself. Many institutional actors will slash costs, stop innovation projects, and look exclusively inwards. The more future-oriented ones, however, will seek to distance themselves from the fearful pack. Today we look at what these more insightful organizations ought to consider as they seek to come out of these trying times stronger and more resilient.
The opportunity within the crisis
The time to act is now, though. Here is what to keep an eye out for.
1. Will Covid-19 change your industry sector, and how?
In order to not get caught unprepared by the future, you need to address it ahead of time. Have you given good thought to what Covid-19 might mean for the market you’re in? Make no mistake, the pandemic will pass, yes, but much like a river that’s overflowed, once it retreats back into its banks the landscape will be a little changed. Lots of silt everywhere, but also nutrient-rich sediments.
Some of these changes will present business development opportunities. Try to identify the best way to leverage them. If you head an organization, get your leadership team together and start identifying what these changes might be. Some will be obvious, some less so. Some will be more similar in nature to plucking ripe fruit, others will require more substantial investment to make feasible. Will the returns justify it? The results in this case might range from a new line of business to perhaps a new business model even.
Moreover, summon an innovation team and have them give serious thought to the opportunities that are out there, dormant. What product or service is emerging as a constant in the new Covid-19 reality? What ways to enter new markets or reach new customers are emerging in this increasingly digital-first economy? By thinking of ways of actively supporting growth instead of just cutting cost, you lay out the foundation for not only a solid recovery path, but actual expansion and market share gains at the expense of your conservative competitors.
What is important to realize is that overly fast decision making on new investments doesn’t mean rushed. Given the huge uncertainties today, any investment decision is a significant bet. Do your due diligence, ask enterprise-wide experts to analyze the impact and level of compatibility (with future strategic direction, with the current technology stack etc.) so that you maximize the odds of it paying off.
2. How are you making agility a part of your DNA?
Is it fair to say that this global pandemic has shown beyond the shadow of a doubt that enterprise agility is an absolute must-have, not a mere nice-to-have? We believe that should be obvious at this point. So considering that, how is your organization pursuing greater agility? In an increasingly more volatile marketplace, having the right change capabilities in place can make the difference between business as usual or out of business.
Being able to pivot according to new developments relies on an agile institutional mindset; agile processes; a loosely coupled, highly modular technology stack. For most organizations, migrating towards this state of affairs entails a serious discussion with stakeholders across the enterprise landscape. As change touches on all aspects of the business, it’s not simply business leaders that ought to brainstorm for the best way to move closer to these goals, but enterprise architects too. As we’ve said before, EAs can and must play a critical role in planning and operationalizing complex change in order to ensure that projects and investments actively support business goals.
Especially at a difficult time like this, when the loudest voices and panic may monopolize strategic decisions, having a fact-based approach is invaluable. Take a systemized approach towards the strategy identified by the company’s leadership. Ask the EA team for input regarding the plans drawn up and get the certainty that’s needed. Are you investing in the technology that supports agility, that is conducive to value in the future, that supports building towards the possibly new business model/lines of business identified before? How should investments be prioritized to ensure the biggest impact for money spent? A structured view would save businesses considerably by eliminating low-value initiatives and minimizing risk.
3. Does your talent strategy continue to support the business throughout this period?
Let’s be honest. Apart from innovation initiatives and investments, personnel is another area that gets the ax very quickly when the economic environment sours. But as we were explaining recently, slashing costs by making people redundant en masse is a crude tool for helping a company’s finances. A better approach would be to identify how these roles support the business, how important they are to business continuity, and be very targeted in your letting people go, if indeed you must let people go.
As far as current employees go, identify whether your current team makeup makes sense when compared against the plans for the future. Once you have a vision for what and how you want to achieve post-Covid-19, analyze if can you operationalize it. Do you have the people that know how to do deliver that future state? If anything, hiring is still on the menu, you may just be changing your order.
As for talent acquisition, let’s say perhaps your talent strategy was geared towards a great expansion you were planning. That doesn’t have to be wholesale binned. Try to see if dialing it down is not an option. Express to new arrivals and prospects that for the time being you’ll tread water, yes, but there is a plan to rev the engines and get to the really interesting work once things pick up. Their talents and skills will undoubtedly get their time to shine – in the meantime, however, can they apply themselves to a different area? Can they support getting back sooner?
Suggest to them laying the foundation of the next chapter, with less people and flash, to be sure. But that is still important work for the enterprise. Many will take up on the challenge. This way, you will have the people you need – seasoned, even! – when the recovery starts. So don’t stop hiring, but do take extra precaution to hire the right people.
Keep looking ahead
It may seem like battening down the hatches and turning one’s back on outside developments is the best strategy in this time of vulnerability. But that would only seal this time period as a ‘lost era’. We believe that instead of ignoring the future, organizations would do well to consider initiatives carefully and keep their strategic development avenues open. By investing in the future at a time when most of the market is busy focusing solely on the present, they stand a good chance to leave their competition behind and accelerate on their trajectory once the crisis is over.