As the novel coronavirus challenges even the most prepared organizations, recent digital transformations are enhancing some executives’ capabilities to respond, recover, and thrive in the face of disruption.
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Many companies have invested significantly in recent years in digital capabilities to improve decision-making, increase agility, and bolster engagement across important stakeholder groups such as employees, customers, and suppliers. Now those investments are being put to the test as organizations mount their responses to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Already, it appears that readiness across different domains falls along a continuum. For example, those organizations that have invested in workforce mobility and virtual collaboration strategies are able to support remote work, where feasible, more quickly and effectively than those that have not. Such strategies might include videoconferencing tools, shared online workspaces, secure network access, and the like.
Prior investments in redundant or fail-safe data and delivery centers may now bear fruit in the event of localized shutdowns. And companies that responded to previous supply chain disruptions by investing in proactive sensing and mapping tools are better equipped to dynamically pinpoint disruptions to people or assets, monitor their escalation and impact, respond with alternate sources of supply or delivery, and closely monitor fluctuations in customer demand.
Yet even those organizations that have made these and other digital investments in resilience cannot presume readiness; optimal outcomes are not a foregone conclusion. In this moment of reckoning, leaders cannot know if they are resilient—in such diverse domains as operations, compliance, finance, IT, human capital, and brand and reputation—unless they have the right intelligence that tells them so.
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Obtaining actionable intelligence takes a combination of relevant, real-time, quality data sets—internal extended enterprise data and curated, open-source external data sources—analyzed with apt technology. Overlaying, say, real-time supplier data with Centers for Disease Control or World Health Organization data and government containment information on maps of affected regions may illuminate available options for adjusting supply chains, safeguarding people, and reducing business disruption.
Similarly, a workforce resilience command center can benefit from dashboards or heat maps that apply a vulnerability index to determine which employees may be most exposed, so that remote work capabilities can be targeted accordingly. Even among companies that have relatively mature digital resilience capabilities, few have that level of sophistication today.
Meanwhile, companies that may have underinvested in resilience are not sitting idle. They, too, are taking short-term measures to maintain operations, secure the safety of their workforces, and more; but their efforts may be costly, difficult to scale, and ultimately unsustainable. They should expect that many of these capabilities will be part of their new modus operandi.
Coming out of this pandemic, a new wave of investment and digital enablement is likely in such areas as event monitoring, crisis simulation and planning, real-time response, and crisis communications as companies examine their responses and prepare before the next one strikes. Notably, any resilience planning must include advanced strategies across employees, customers, and suppliers:
- For employees, technologies to enable productive remote working and detection mechanisms aimed at ensuring the safety of workers—particularly in industries such as industrial products, energy, and healthcare, where on-site presence is required.
- For customers, strategies for remote selling and servicing—even for tier-one customers—as tighter demand-supply planning and fulfillment will be required.
- For suppliers, improved visibility into and connection with their operations.
Any lingering doubts in the C-suite or the boardroom about the importance and efficacy of clear-eyed risk management strategies and investments will likely be quelled in the aftermath of COVID-19 given the scale of disruption currently unfolding. But beyond investment considerations, resilience ultimately speaks to a company’s ability to stick to its strategy, demonstrate a commitment to its workforce, act based on its shared values, and thrive in the face of adversities that may vary in their particulars but have become almost commonplace on the whole.