Three key areas of digital preparedness during Covid-19

19 April 2020 5 min. read
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While much of the focus of Covid-19 preparedness goes to the impact of commercials, supply chains and working capital, in today’s ever-connected digital world it is for companies just as important to ensure their digital operations are resilient to the unprecedented change. Michael Billimoria, a partner at DXC Technology, outlines three key areas of digital preparedness.

There is no doubt we are in some unchartered territory right now, and a lot of the impact of Covid-19 remains to be seen. Business leaders can do their part in ensuring that they are being mindful corporate citizens, good employers and use existing investments to prepare their businesses for uncertain times.

There is already some fantastic analysis and advice available for organisations from the World Health Organization (WHO) and more strategic opinions from trusted parties such as Harvard Business Review and McKinsey & Company on its special Covid-19 insights page.

But when it comes to digital preparedness, there are three areas organisations need to focus on: 1) Protecting employees, 2) Managing steady-state operations, 3.) Managing growth in uncertain times.

Three key areas of digital preparedness during Covid-19

1. Protecting employees

The first port of call for any business leader in a situation like this should be to consider the people in your organisation and ensure they are protected, but also that they are getting the right information at the right time.

This includes aspects such as the Master Data Management (MDM). You need to ask yourselves – is your employee information up to date? Do you know where your employees are located? MDM is always that process which is pushed to the bottom of the to-do list when it isn’t needed, but in crisis situations like this it is critical.

Second to this, effectively getting the right information to employees can be challenging, but it certainly needs to be prioritised. As almost all businesses are moving to a remote working model where they can, business leaders need to determine what channel – or better yet, multi-channel – is best for their organisation. This may include virtual information sessions, internal social media interaction, Q&A channels, and mobile alerts. This needs to be considered not just through sending out information, but also as a way to receive quality, honest feedback from employees.

Finally, 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 there is a lot of self-paced, online learning, which can help your staff both personally and professionally and also improve morale.

2. Managing steady-state operations

As the situation evolves daily, keeping business operations running smoothly will be a continual challenge for senior leaders as they may experience a downturn in revenue, increased cost of operating, or managing new types of risk such as supplier unavailability.

Firstly, senior leaders should review and test their business continuity plans (BCP). At a time like this, it’s important to review your BCP to ensure they are sustainable, rather than simple stop-gap solutions. For example, organisations that face downturns in revenue may need to determine what cost cutting measures might need to be put in place in the short term – what doesn’t need to be running?

Once you have ensured your internal operations are sound, secure and sustainable, next will be to look beyond this, and evaluate your product/service value chain in both directions – towards your suppliers and towards your customers. Getting this information about how they are impacted will yield key insights into supply and demand and assist senior leaders in making valuable tactical decisions such as considering supply chain contingencies, streamlining of processes, or changes in production schedules.

3. Achieving growth in uncertain times

Although growth may not be on many business leaders’ minds as they adjust, it makes strategic sense to try and look beyond this crisis and prepare to exploit new opportunities.

Now more than ever, business leaders need to use the data they have to gain better understanding and insights into their business. Of course, it’s important to prioritise areas to examine, such as supply chain, customer buying habits, procurement and marketing penetration. Gaining new information in these areas can be done with both a cost saving and revenue generating viewpoint, and even reveal new investment areas for the future.

Secondly, history tells us that great innovation come out of times of uncertainty and change. Therefore, within reason, now could be the time to encourage safe experimentation within your teams, as it could unveil significant business opportunities and stimulate revenue growth in areas that were not previously expected.

Study, consider, and take action

When it comes to digital solutions and preparedness, now is the time for business leaders to take a moment to review, consider and take action. While these recommendations are worth consideration, being realistic on what can be achieved during a time like this is critical.

Business leaders need to take stock and determine what the return on investment or risk mitigation could be of taking or not taking action. Uncertain times crave strong and focused leaders, so determine your own focus list and stand by that decision as we make our way through this together.