There were early warning signs that something was going to happen from early January 2020. Coronavirus was in the news, the pace picked up through February and then into March with the lock-downs across many counties in Europe and US.

The number one business goal during this crisis is revenue protection – in short, survival. If that isn’t possible then it’s cost reduction, laying people off or more preferably furloughing. At some point, the lockdown will end.

How many organisations were ready with their digital and technology? There were three aspects to being prepared for this eventuality that digital and technology could mitigate:

  1. revenues – an online digital presence enabling all customer experiences and social media activity
  2. costs – the ability to enable all staff to work remotely and securely (desk free) and the pre-existing flexible working policy to ensure people understood the technology in advance
  3. operations – integrated technology that ensured minimal human interaction in warehouse and distribution centres etc.

Protecting Revenues

Only the organisations that operated 100% digitally were able to capitalise on this opportunity, but it doesn’t mean those business were ready with remote working technology – call centres, workers required to go into offices etc. – and it certainly doesn’t mean the warehousing and distribution centre were ready. Lower paid resourcing typically means the investment of technology doesn’t pay off as quickly as other areas of the business.

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Organisations that could operate 100% digitally but had a mix of physical interactions, and were able to leverage social media to flip purchasing on-line quickly for customers also had the opportunity to maintain and grow revenue.

There are very few businesses that can only operate physically now, but the failure to transform earlier both digitally with technology and brand means the market share isn’t just lost, it’s wiped out.

As the coronavirus evolved, some businesses didn’t – this is the final wake-up call for them if they survive.

Managing Costs

A move to flexible working has been taking place over the last few years. The smart employers have seen it enabling women to enter the workplace more easily and still have families, and men to be more active if looking after their children – gender stereotypes still prevail, but flexible working, supported by collaborative and mobile technology has closed the gap for many people in office based jobs. Flexible working has enabled more talent to be available to organisations.

The biggest shift lockdown has enabled is that everyone is comfortable with remote working and video-conferencing. How effective someone is working remotely depends entirely on the technology available and enabled at the point of lock-down. Was it available from day one – and did they know how to use it?

Many organisations were left scrambling around for solutions as quick fixes – quick fixes that cost more, aren’t integrated and don’t come with training and knowledge. They give the sense things are ‘OK’ – but the lack of preparedness has cost more in investment and productivity, and most will require reimplementation when people return to the office.

Coronavirus didn’t wait for the organisation to have flexible and remote working in place – it struck the organisations that were late to adopt new digital working practices.

Effective Operations

Many organisations do still provide a physical service. If this is consulting then enabling consultants to still provide a service remotely to clients would be key – with the client’s agreement.

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For the more traditional consumer and business to business services where physical goods need to be provided then warehousing and logistics during the lockdown is critical. And the only part where staff need to be physically present. It goes without saying that anyone who is vulnerable or needs to protect the family who are vulnerable needs to off-site, and those on-site provided with suitable PPE to minimise the risk of infection. Then it’s down to the technology.

How effective can you run a warehouse and logistical operations? Can people work independently and keep social distancing? Is there enough technology so people are not sharing devices? Is the technology robust?

Technology that just works in operations is key – the distribution in the supply chain in the crisis is another factor that impacts here, enabled time to deal with external factors and not internal platform and systems issues for operational teams enables safer working and the best customer service.

So how did you do?

Rate yourself against the three? From the point you entered lock-down and remote working with your business, to where you might be now a few weeks in, and beyond lock-down. Can you answer YES to every question?

Protecting RevenueManaging CostsEffective Operations
Everything a customer needs can be done digitally?  All office based worker are fully effective at working from home?Operations systems enable independent working for warehouse and logistics staff?
Social media is fully engaged with the customer experience?  No further investment in software platforms was required to enable remote working?Minimal staff are required to maintain pre-lockdown through-put (unless demand has increased)?
The business understands the impact COVID19 has on website traffic and product mix?Not relying on temporary solutions until staff return to the office?Systems and platforms are stable and enable operations teams to focus on operational issues that are not related to technology?