Beginning of 2020 have been marked by an unprecedented crisis that affects the whole world. The unique aspect of this crisis may lie in the structural nature of its impact. Finding the right balance between immediate actions and a long term plan will be key to business success.
How do you face COVID-19?
Most of the industries are currently running in a reduced mode, many of them, since weeks already. In such cases, weeks can seem like years.
For some companies, this difficult situation can only be faced with patience. Others urgently transformed their work structures into digital platforms: implement Homeworking, Online Meeting, digital signature… etc. to keep things running (somehow). They might have recognized that this change was not as hard as they thought. Again, for others, the digitalized way of working is not enough and the companies use the shutdown period to digitalize their whole set up, from operations to the customer journey. Furthermore, use their creativity and their production sights to develop useful products and put them to the service of society. One of the best examples is the snorkelling masks designed by Decathlon that will be used as respirators in the hospitals. A beautiful story.
However, all the above-mentioned companies have once common point: They must all get prepared to the post-COVID world.
If we focus on the Business Perspective, 2020 companies’ figures will be seriously challenged. Companies will have to review their priorities and sometimes take hard decisions to stay safe and healthy. Some companies are in difficulties, but this isn’t valid for the generality. It is not surprising, that E-Commerce activities are booming and a second boost after the COVID-19 crisis (while some of them were not prepared to face such boom) is expected. From a broader picture: expectations, habits and concerns will change. For customers, for employees, for the whole society. In all of this, we find a growing gap between being digital, international, immediate vs. being more physical, local, more responsible. Even if using the last trendy communication tool is hype, people are still missing the face-to-face discussion at the coffee corner. I invite you to have a look at the presentation done by Steven Van Belleghem on the impact of COVID-19 on Customer Experience:
One thing is sure: There will not really be a “go back to normal”. In other words, our definition of “normal” will change. With the worldwide reigning confinement, the way of operating has drastically changed and even if it is everyone’s hope that things “turn back to normal”, this cannot be considered as a reset to “before COVID-19”, especially not in the beginning. It is highly recommended for all companies to get prepared. We are not talking about completely changing our business models but there will be an “After”.
Let’s take a simple example: By now, we all experienced being in front of the supermarket, queuing in long rows behind a sticker, ensuring us keeping the mandatory distance of 1.5 m to the next person. Over the weeks, this becomes kind of a habit and acceptable. But what if the social distancing measures remain after COVID-19? Will aircrafts, trains or busses be obliged to fill only one seat out of 3 or 4? Will stadiums reduce 30% of their capacity? What will the queues look like at your next concert? What impact will this have for the companies and the society? Very simple questions with very complex answers.
Uncertainty requires preparation.
“Normal” will not be like before. Well, that being said and, rather than simply suggesting to “reinvent yourself!”, here are some concrete actions to anticipate change, whether we call it “Operational Readiness”, “Business Continuity” or “Post COVID-19 Preparedness”.
1. Create a dedicated task force to follow up on the situation
- Make sure that you have the right and updated information by using the official and accurate sources
- Do not limit yourself by only keeping track of your own industry trends, you could be inspired by others industry having synergies with your business.
- Make such exercise a recurrent activity for your teams. This could be the key success factor for your agility.
- Communicate proactively and regularly with your customers
2. Elaborate scenarios
- Focus on mid-term, rather than on short - or long term. It is not the time for a 5-year vision (which will be outdated the next year anyway). Neither for precipitation with very term actions which could cost you effort and money for things that might be reviewed afterwards.
- Build a reasonable number of scenarios. Depending on the level of details, this exercise can require 1 week or 1 year. Focus on systemic risks and impactful changes.
- Include a variety of experts/stakeholders point of views to get a broad picture. Everyone will be in the same boat. External Stakeholders and even competitors will raise similar questions to yours, so why not creating connections and show that their opinion matters to you?
- Stay positive. The aim shouldn’t be to spread negativity but rather to better prepare the future and enhance collaborative dialogues.
3. Make it happen in a smart way
- Don’t wait to take decisions before being constrained
- Implement gradually, taking into consideration likelihood and feasibility. Some measures can be taken right away; others might need some confirmation or further analysis.
- Quick focus on customer value and (future) revenue creation.
And you? How do you prepare for the new standards?
About the author
Maxime Prouvost is Director at Avertim. Maxime is leading the Solution Department aiming at Leveraging Knowledge, competitive intelligence and experiences to deliver agile, collaborative, innovative, sustainable and tailor-made Solutions. Maxime brings +10 years of consulting experience with a strong focus on Business Development Strategy, Marketing & Sales Excellence and Product & Services Management.