Beyond the Crisis: Building Foundations for Recovery and Growth
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Beyond the Crisis: Building Foundations for Recovery and Growth

April 14, 2020
9:10 am

B|G believes organizations can leverage COVID-19 adaptation measures not only to survive commercially, but also to rebound and rebuild consumer ecosystems. We advise leaders to pre-emptively and incrementally develop capabilities around three priority focus areas: (i) Customer Channels, (ii) Workforce Optimization, and (iii) Supply Chain Collaboration.

We are ready to help you communicate virtually with customers, conduct workforce planning, and digitize processes in the new normal

Emerging disruptive trends in global consumer and workforce ecosystems have only been magnified by the COVID-19 outbreak. For instance:

  • For consumers: digital-first and convenient e-commerce experiences have become an indispensable service for many households
  • For employees: flexible work arrangements have become a 'new normal' in the form of extended work from home (WFH) and telecommuting practices
  • For supply chains: increasingly globalized but geo-concentrated supply chains (e.g. China, India) are being diversified to include other regions

In light of such accelerated change, your firm's short-term adaptations to the COVID-19 outbreak could serve as stepping stones to more fundamental organizational transformation. For instance, making small investments today in cloud-based collaboration tools (e.g. Airtable, Asana, Microsoft Teams) could eventually lead to efficient and integrated remote productivity capabilities, spanning multiple branch sites and procurement networks.

By making early inroads into value-adding capabilities, your organization could save precious resources through adaptation projects which double as foundations for future transformation.

B|G recommends that business leaders concentrate their adaptation efforts on three focus areas primed for further disruption: (i) Customer Channels, (ii) Workforce Optimization, and (iii) Supply Chain Collaboration.

1.  Customer Channels

As traditional brick-and-mortar sales channels remain shut and opportunities to clinch in-person sales diminish, businesses will need to transition their sales strategies promptly towards online channels. B|G recommends that businesses divide their channel innovation efforts across 3 time horizons.

Short term: Increase customer service and engagement capabilities (next 6 months)

With virtually no physical footprint, your visibility to potential customers and ability to serve existing customers remotely are of high priority. If you have not already, communicate that you remain open for business virtually and begin transitioning to digital platforms to distribute your goods or services. Consider partnering with online marketplaces to explore new sales channels.

To manage increased usage of digital platforms for sales and engagement, invest in and master cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) suites. Such tools will help businesses bridge their sales, marketing, and operations functions, and enable a 'whole organization' approach to engaging customers. Organizations must ensure they follow best practices in selecting and onboarding software solutions to achieve shared outcomes.

Medium term: Innovate channels for targeted segments (6 months - 1.5 years)

Develop customer channel experiences tailored to specific customer segments. For instance, while millennial and digital native customers may be used to digital purchases via mobile applications, other segments may prefer traditional browser-based interfaces.

To achieve this, engage specialists in user interface and user experience (UI/UX) and consider strategic partnerships with online platforms.

Long term: Offer remote lifestyle experiences (>1.5 years)

Remote lifestyle experiences will eventually become a regular feature of many sales cycles. For example, museums and parks now offer virtual tours, car dealers provide virtual test drive experiences, conference organizers hold remote events, and healthcare facilities expand access to telemedicine.

By taking first steps to adapt to online marketplaces and consumer communities, organizations can incrementally develop digital capabilities to deliver branded virtual marketplace experiences. A great first step is offering podcasts or recurring webinars with consumers to build shared community.

2.  Workforce Optimization

Workforce management and planning should be a dynamic endeavor frequently revisited by executives. In this regard, lockdown measures have demonstrated the importance of internal communication channels, clarity on technology use and cybersecurity protocols, and responsive workforce management practices.

Business leaders will do well to promptly address gaps in IT infrastructure, workforce planning, and digital upskilling.

Short term: Digital productivity (next 6 months)

Businesses should consider extensive video conferencing capabilities that extend beyond simple voice and video functions. For instance, Zoom's whiteboard feature has made it increasingly popular for value-added executive brainstorming and sales activities.

Organizations should also consider digital productivity tools (e.g. Airtable, Asana, Microsoft Teams) which enhance and streamline remote work in a collaborative fashion.

Moreover, organizations should pre-emptively revisit their executive team and Board policies and procedures on the use of digital tools to enable remote use and decision-making.

Medium term: Upskill your workforce (6 months - 1.5 years)

Encourage employees to use their time to upgrade internal systems, improve skills, and design new or better products and services.

Rather than developing their own bespoke e-learning platforms, many organizations have simply pivoted to leveraging existing popular platforms - such as Coursera and edX. Simple enterprise subscription plans mean that entire workforces can pursue upskilling classes at personalized paces and proficiency levels.

Long term: Data-driven workforce planning (>1.5 years)

Rather than driving workforce optimization in terms of rationalization and headcount reductions, best practices emphasize holistic feedback cycles that enable iterative improvements in employee performance and behaviour.

B|G recommends deploying workforce optimization assessment tools now – such as Work & People Analytics (WPA)’s proprietary assessment - to understand immediate and long-term workforce needs and make informed decisions using an interactive digital interface.

3.  Supply Chain Collaboration

The COVID-19 outbreak is likely to result in longer-lasting reconfigurations of supply chains designed to build greater reliability and resilience. Gradually, everyday practices will need to be re-geared towards greater supply chain sustainability and collaboration.

Businesses will increasingly view supply chain stakeholders as long-term strategic partners - necessitating close and consistent communication on anticipated supply or demand changes.

Short term: Address interim demand (next 6 months)

Communicate your estimated demand or supply positions for the next quarter to stakeholders in your supply chain. Such gestures provide enhanced visibility to fellow industry stakeholders and demonstrate goodwill.

In anticipation of key supplier disruption, estimate available inventory along your value chain, and consider how to refine your inventory strategy to mitigate against supply shortages.

At the same time, prepare to manage rapidly varying customer demand. Resource prioritization and trade-offs should be made to reflect high-revenue or high-profit margin products that are in demand.

Medium term: Acquire management and monitoring tools for your global supply chain (6 months - 1.5 years)

The COVID-19 crisis has shown the need for more distributed, coordinated, and trackable systems.

Businesses should seek greater supply-chain diversification to reduce over-reliance on a small number of markets for components and finished goods. Some companies in B|G's partner network have already started this process due to retaliatory tariffs arising from the U.S.-China trade war.

Additionally, new supply chain monitoring platforms can improve end-to-end chain visibility and agility, allowing for quicker responses to fast-changing external events (e.g. Tradeshift and Taulia cloud software suites).

Long term: Internal value chain automation (>1.5 years)

The sustainability of just-in-time delivery practices will ultimately require enhanced value chain resilience. Gradually de-risk otherwise manual production or customer servicing processes through automated technologies.

For instance, businesses of all sizes now have recourse to affordable robotic process automation (RPA) solutions, which can free up staff time spent on repetitive processes for more value-adding tasks. Enabling people to reduce busywork and spend more time on creative problem solving enhancing both the employee and customer experience.

Other innovative industrial methods which have become increasingly accessible include 3D printing and IoT device-based predictive maintenance. How might you incorporate these trends into your operations as well?

Conclusion

With both businesses and consumers willing to change their behavior amidst adversity, the ground is fertile for radically disruptive innovation. Within B|G's network of clients worldwide, companies have already begun applying new technologies and operational changes to maintain continuity.

B|G has helped many organizations revisit their business models to implement short and long-term operational innovation, as well as workforce strategies to improve resilience and competitiveness.

We can help secure the necessary executive alignment and buy-in to enable impactful projects which delight your customers, empower your workforce, and optimize your supply chain.

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April 14, 2020
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