• Posted 09 May
  • < 1 m read

Post-COVID business strategies will be defined by corporate resilience and virtualization

By Nisha Deo

As businesses lick their wounds after a bruising few months, the smartest organisations will be looking for strategic improvements – not just panic responses to a pandemic. Who is looking beyond immediate recovery, towards virtualization and cloud migration? Which businesses are remodelling their vision for the next ten years rather than the next ten months?

Last week’s Emergence webinar Corporate Resilience: Practical Approaches and New Management Mindsets dealt squarely with these themes. Co-hosting with Everest Group, we pulled together a stellar panel: cloud computing expert and Container Solutions CEO Jamie Dobson, journeyed entrepreneur and WalkMe co-founder Rafael Sweary, and our very own David Poole, CEO of Emergence Partners. You can view the recorded version via this link.

Our panel agreed that the last 20 years have shown businesses to be lacking long-term flexibility and planning, with leaders largely favouring short-termist “bouncebackability” over building sustainable resilience. Resilience has been pushed too far down the organisation, reduced to box-ticking exercises like ISO and bare-minimum BCP processes in IT and audit teams. A future-ready organisation needs to place the issue at the forefront of its strategic leadership.

What have we learned? What will we do differently?

The first half of this year has presented an opportunity for enterprises to learn about corporate leadership. As we can see from Everest’s research for this webinar, 2020 has hammered home the importance of business resilience. Nearly 70% completely agree that more business continuity planning is needed, while over 60% realise the urgency of eliminating unnecessary processes from the organisation.

Technology adoption will form a large part of the conversation moving forward. For some, such as our tech-savvy webinar audience – 37% of whom said their businesses were well prepared for COVID-19 – this will require less than monumental shifts in mindset.

Others will need to address the basics before they proceed. Is there a tech-centric leadership programme in place? Is the organisation fundamentally data-driven? These are not just technical changes. Management structure and mindset has to change too. As our panellist Rafael Sweary put it, executives have often been “too fixated on technology itself, not enough on the user and the task at hand”. There is no one-size-fits-all, and context is everything – so the focus should be primarily on the business rather than the technology.

Is technology adoption set to accelerate?

One of the questions of the day is whether the pace of adoption can be accelerated in the current context. The consensus: it can, and it already has. Panelist Jamie Dobson told us he’d “seen clients accelerate more in the last two months than in the last two years – because they have had to.” A recent survey from Bain and Company of nearly 800 executives worldwide estimated that the number of companies scaling up automation is set to double over the next two years — and that coronavirus will almost certainly accelerate that timeline.

The danger is that we start to see acceleration without proper planning. Adopting technology without the mindset and vision to match is a futile venture. Companies must develop a clear strategy, gain corporate alignment, and establish ways to effectively measure and assess success. Implementation is an ongoing process, which should involve continually monitoring and improving the technology you adopt in the interests of the wider business.

There is the employee journey to think about too. Do we risk overwhelming employees with too many technical changes? HR might onboard a new KPI tool while financing changes the expense reporting process, all the while employees try to find their bearings. It will be crucial to remember that hands-on training and collaboration are less possible in this new remote-working normal, which may require a shift to technology more suited to self-learning. This means streamlining training and onboarding as much as possible, so that tools can have a more immediate impact.

An apt example might be the introduction of SatNav technology. It was designed for fast, easy adoption for users, and it changed the game almost immediately.

Virtualization: essential for business continuity?

Up to now, virtualization has often been regarded as an IT concept. But with a potentially huge remote-working shift on the horizon, leadership teams need to incorporate virtualization plans into their strategies.

We should think of virtualization as freeing us from the constraints of unnecessary labour, location and outdated IT structures. Take the table below: it demonstrates the enormous amount of time and effort that can be saved when rolling out something as significant and potentially cumbersome as a new CRM tool.

This is but one small example. The combinations of automation, cloud computing and human intelligence that can be unlocked with virtualization open the door to boundless possibilities, and new levels of corporate resilience. It’s striking that enterprises that had already migrated to public cloud environments have managed to settle into remote working arrangements so quickly, and on the whole have had an easier time of coping with the current crisis.

Virtualisation has become a strategic imperative, but there’s no doubt that it’s complicated business – an intimidating concept to executives with little IT clout. This happens to be the majority: 65 percent of senior executives in a survey by McKinsey were only “somewhat,” “a little,” or “not at all” confident about the decisions they make in digital innovation.

If their technology adoption is to accelerate, and their corporate resilience to increase, business leaders will need to embrace these new ideas with willingness to learn. In this recovery period, there will be a surge of technologies, tactics and tough decisions that will all have to be incorporated into a resilient business strategy. From there, success rests on having the mindset and the adaptability to stay strong and adaptable when a stumbling block presents itself – even if that stumbling block is world-changing.

Posted by Nisha Deo on May 09, 2020 in Business Resilience category
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