Tips for Thinking through Business Strategy in the COVID Environment
As we round the nine-month stretch of the COVID-19 pandemic and its disruption, many of us are feeling accustomed and familiar with the ways everyday life has shifted. Some of these adjustments, such as making fewer grocery store visits and gathering outdoors versus indoors when possible have been relatively easy to make, but for businesses, pandemic adjustments prove much more complicated. Discerning between short-term and long-term changes, along with shifting overall enterprise focus and strategy takes time and careful consideration. Focusing on a few key areas may help your organization determine how to reassess and adjust for the future.
Products, Services, and Delivery
The first question an organization might ask itself is, “What do we need to change in our strategy, both short and long term?” It’s a good question, but is broad and can lead to confusion over who can answer that question and how. Strategy covers a lot of ground such as your product or service, clients/customers, your employees, technology, finances, and much more.
A good place to start is to look at your sector. Benchmarking within your industry helps assess your company’s position in light of all of 2020’s changes. Ask leadership questions along the lines of, “What new services should we provide or do we need to shift our current offerings in a new direction?”
For most organizations, the “what” they do or offer dictates much of the rest. To answer this question dive deeper and ask:
- How can we continue to provide solutions remotely?
- Are the adjustments we made at the start of the pandemic still working?
- Where are our inefficiencies? Can adding technology address them?
- How can we attract new business in this environment?
- How do we revise marketing to fit customer’s needs?
By diving into this subject first, you can begin to determine changes needed to the most important facet of your business. Bringing in new technology, data analytics, and automation support to enhance products, services, and delivery as well as monitor performance of said products, services, and delivery is vital tool to utilize when reevaluating your services and delivery. Key to this process is evaluating the products, processes or services that have become less effective, or worse, obsolete in this environment.
Some simple industry examples are noted below:
Beyond the obvious question of how to provide the same on-site services in accordance with current CDC guidance, businesses are focusing their attention on how to deliver these services online. This requires a well-designed website that provides easy access to the items being sought, mobile applications supporting the products and services, and online payment processing access. Other key factors to consider would be enhancing technology controls (e.g. cybersecurity) and the demographic being served. The extent to which your key customers or client base have easy access to online solutions will be vital to determining how much time, energy, and effort should be devoted to building up an online platform.
As noted in the retail example, on-site services must meet CDC guidelines. Other key considerations here relate to online privacy (how to protect information from being overheard or shared), client accessibility to online solutions and virtual provider visits, the effectiveness of online services versus in-person treatment, and management of remote solutions including the technology supporting video conferencing and patient health charts. Patient demographics are also important to understand here. For example, virtual solutions that work well for younger patients could be more challenging for elderly patients who may not have the technological access or expertise to participate. Another consideration is the development of secure patient hotspots where patients can go to access online information privately without needing to go to a medical facility.
Employees and Skills
After determining the path of the organization’s services and revenue generation, it’s easier to jump into other areas such as, “Do we have the staffing and skills to deliver our services in this environment?” “Have we considered scenarios where a critical member becomes ill or suddenly passes away?”
Since organizational strategy and goals have been revised, re-aligning your staffing and skills is vital to reaching your new goals. Areas of focus can include:
- Are our staffing numbers and levels helping us meet our goals?
- Are our employees comfortable working with new technology?
- Do we have the right succession plan for employee turnover in internal teams and external resources?
- Do we have a long term plan to help with business resilience as issues continue to change?
Working through adjustments to staffing is complex, since people truly are the most valuable resource an organization has. Addressing risk by having an adequately sized risk management team can help with strategy and align goals with risk mitigation practices. In the COVID era, being proactive as well as practical will serve an organization well. Finding employees who can view challenges with creativity will foster innovation and new opportunities for growth.
Technology, Risk, and Governance
Key to making changes to your strategy is making corresponding updates to your technology risk, and governance approach. A new environment and technology suite means new controls and exposures to mitigate. Consider what strategic changes and updates should be made by asking:
- How are we doing with data management?
- Are we effectively managing these new risks?
- Where can we enhance governance and procedures?
- What changes should be made to managing third party vendors in this environment?
- How can cybersecurity management and processes be updated for remote work settings?
Documenting, assessing, and reorganizing the control environment helps ensure your organization has adequate protection and maintains compliance in the COVID-19 space.
Regardless of your industry and approach, now is the best time to evaluate your strategy, audit your goals, and use industry benchmarking to create solutions that will help adapt to COVID-19 changes. As you consider your longer term strategy, take into account the things that work well in this COVID environment and what did not.
Remember the future is not the past. Going back to the old normal can be a mistake that will have a significant impact on your long-term success. Now is the time to formalize your COVID-19 strategy if not already done and now is also the time to be working on your post-COVID-19 normal. Keep track of what your successes and failures have been so that you can incorporate those lessons learned into future planning.
Being able to stay nimble and sensitive to market, client, and personnel changes can help you create a more sustainable model for the future.
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