Author: Ross Bennett, Lead Automation Consultant, Ciklum
It may be a public health crisis above all, but the COVID-19 outbreak has quickly become a profound and unprecedented business disruption, wreaking global havoc at levels no financial model, economic forecast or business plan could have predicted, and with no clear end in sight.
While we may not know how this global crisis will play out, we do know it won’t be the only one business leaders will face in the coming years. With global value chains, increased human migration and climate change creating massive new risks, neither executives nor directors can afford to treat the COVID-19 crisis as an anomaly.
Whether a pandemic or another catastrophe, there’s no greater time to prepare your business for a world in which these disruptions are common.
Business leaders who do will put their enterprises in a position to endure the next crisis and to seize opportunities for growth, investment and long-term success in the recoveries that follow.
There are five key steps business leaders should take – or at least consider – when preparing for an uncertain future:
The effort companies put into automating their processes and systems today, will pave the way for a better future tomorrow. Automation allows employees to better support their personnel, streamline productivity, improve safety and reduce labor cost at scale. Pre COVID-19, companies were on a moderate, long-term plan to digitally transform via automation and RPA (Robotic Process Automation). However, the pandemic forced many organizations to turn to process automation ensuring business continuity.
While many leaders are cutting back and focusing on the ROI of automation and what it means to digitize their businesses, it’s important to think well beyond present times. Preparing for “any wave” begins with identifying and creating “new rules” that will pave the way to resilience, thus allowing organizations to adapt and respond to new circumstances quickly while maintaining business continuity. The first but crucial step for organizations still unsure of how to start should be asking, “how do we create an automation first organization?” They will find the principles associated with this mindset different from that of a traditional organization. When a problem arises, the initial thought of an automation first organization does not focus on how a human or software solution can solve an issue independently of each other, but rather, how a hybrid workforce model can.
When leaders focus on outcomes–automating the processes that make sense for their organization and establishing the systems to support the mindset shift needed–crisis-proofing their organization becomes simpler.
Given the current times, many companies have been forced to reduce cost by reducing staff, causing them to operate on a leaner organizational structure than they imagined. These changes have left businesses trying to fill skills gaps internally with their remaining team while simultaneously trying to maintain customer expectations and increase revenue. With all of these factors at play, companies can still win during challenging times.
To drive long-term impact and automate intelligently, leaders must link their automation strategy to their key business priorities. Determine what matters most, and automate the parts of the business that can deliver the most value first. Next, reassess and realign your organizational framework. Do certain team members need to be trained, are there skills more useful during this time in a different department? Take this time to reevaluate skills to bring out the best in your team right now. Lastly, evaluate if your company should build, purchase or partner to access the right people and technologies for your automation goals.
Lead Together, Not Alone
Regardless of your industry, it’s important to understand no one way is the right way. Leaders who recognize that their team is a key to transformation and innovation will always rebound because everyone is helping to navigate the storm. Hard times have a unique way of making teams stronger, instilling greater confidence and solidifying trust amongst departments. Understanding that your employees have great ideas, years of experience and their ears to the ground gives leaders intel they may have otherwise overlooked. During this time, leaders can use this opportunity to get closer to the details of their organization more than ever before. Check in with your operations team, not just the COO, and ask questions such as, “How can we improve efficiency? What bottlenecks are you seeing?” This will dramatically increase camaraderie and let your teams know they are being heard. It will also take you farther than a quarterly check-in meeting ever will.
Embrace the Remote Work Model
The author, Zora Neal Hurston once wrote, “there are years that ask questions and years that answer.” For decades, remote work was seen as a Silicon Valley-esqe work perk available primarily to those in the tech space, creating a bias amongst some industries as to what jobs could be completed remotely. This paradigm has been changing in recent years but the drastic shift caused by COVID-19 unexpectedly forced companies large and small, ready or not, into adapting this new style of work.
Whether your team is looking to transition to a 100-percent remote work model or embrace a hybrid work-from-home structure, the time is now for leaders to reimagine their organizational structure, post-pandemic. What is required to ensure success is imperative. As a leader, your executive team must become intentional about the culture they want to create moving forward. How will teams, systems, processes and approvals work under the new model and even more importantly, how will the company succeed with the changes in place? Just as an automation-first attitude is required to streamline workflows and reduce overspend, a culture that promotes remote working is needed for organizations to thrive during and after difficult times.
COVID-19 did not pick favorites when it infiltrated our business, livelihood and reimagined our future. However, what it allowed many industries and leaders to do is decide how we would move forward with all that we’ve learned during this unprecedented time. Much like the aftermath of a hurricane, as companies start to emerge from the rubble of the pandemic and inch toward “normal,” leaders must establish how to rebuild what has been dismantled with a fresh perspective; while reinforcing the great systems, people and process they had in place before this crisis began.
Contact Ciklum to learn more about how Ciklum can help you to prepare for an uncertain future.