By Tim Powlson is a senior business consultant and Luke Taylor is a programme manager at business change consultancy, Entec Si
While many organisations already had flexible working practices in place pre-lockdown, the need to maintain business continuity during the pandemic has seen a significant spike in the adoption of remote working technology. However, in order to increase their agility and resilience in the face of future uncertainty, it is essential that leaders consider any knock-on impacts of technology investments on other areas of the business, as well as how such transformation fits into their overall strategy.
In recent months, businesses have had to adapt to the challenges involved in operating during COVID-19 by rapidly implementing technological solutions. This has allowed some to maintain continuity and avoid falling into financial difficulty or even failing. Video conferencing tools such as Zoom, which saw a significant increase in usage during lockdown, and Microsoft Teams, have helped leaders to improve workforce wellbeing during the crisis by keeping staff connected, and reducing the chance of employees feeling isolated.
The ability to switch away from physical infrastructure to cloud-based services, such as G Suite, has also allowed companies to improve their creativity and team dynamic during the pandemic. As well as giving the entire organisation access to essential information, stored in a central and secure online location, such services enable employees to collaborate in real-time on a single document. The ability to use such collaboration tools combined with the circumstances of the pandemic have led some teams to try out such techniques – something which may not have happened frequently before lockdown.
In order to ensure investments deliver long-lasting results while also building business continuity in case of future crises, adopting a holistic approach to transformation is essential. Although remote working tools have played a huge role in keeping businesses running during the coronavirus crisis, focusing on these innovations alone is unlikely to improve business performance. Implementing new technologies without considering any knock-on impacts on the wider business may make it difficult to deliver long-lasting results from new technology changes.
Organisations should take advantage of the current remote working situation. For example, to review their processes and look for opportunities to improve their business model. There is no denying the fact that the technology changes made in recent months have allowed many businesses to enjoy more flexibility than ever before. They will also likely have impacted how both employees and consumers wish to interact in the future. As such, returning to old ways of working after lockdown may represent a significant step back for many. As we move towards a ‘new normal’ businesses should continue to evaluate and identify areas of improvement in order to ensure that the four key areas of people, processes, systems and infrastructure are all considered.
When lockdown was announced, many businesses were forced to rapidly introduce and get workers up to speed with remote working tools. When introducing further technology improvements over the coming months, it will once again be essential to provide employees with proper training, to avoid any drop in productivity levels. By addressing any queries and concerns the workforce may have about using new solutions, businesses can also help staff to better perform their roles.
The COVID-19 situation has been fast-evolving, requiring businesses to make quick decisions in response to changing Government guidelines. As such, looking too far ahead when considering how technology changes fit into the business’ longer-term strategy can be challenging. To help with this process, checklists can prove valuable short-term planning tools. For example, what is the organisation’s criteria for bringing staff back into the office, and what technology is needed to support this transition? ‘Infrastructure as a service’ or ‘software as a service’ solutions, can also help companies to adapt to this uncertainty by enabling them to only pay for services when they are needed.
Once the pandemic comes to an end, companies should also not be afraid to adapt to the ‘new normal’ by investing in technologies that meet emerging and changing consumer demands. For example, by adapting their infrastructure, businesses may be able to tap into a growth in online shopping by strengthening their online sales channels.
The inevitability of future business disruption should be a key driver for organisations when investing in the latest tools and technology. By constantly seeking opportunities to build resilience and business continuity into processes whilst adopting a holistic approach to technology transformation, businesses can introduce creative working solutions and mitigate the impact of future crises.