Given that I have got a bit more time available to me at the moment on evenings and weekends, I thought I would use some of it to write my thoughts on what I have seen recently and how I think recent experience should be shaping our thoughts and actions at this time.
Responding – how ready were you?
Naturally, in the first few days and weeks of the pandemic, many businesses who could continue to operate, were focused on enabling their people to do-so. VPN’s were hastily set up or capacity was added. Collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams were enabled to keep people together in a virtual sense. Technical solutions have been used to overcome some significant hurdles. This is not technology for the sake of it. This is where technology has immense business benefit and it is very rewarding to see. IT people up and down the country are some of the unsung heroes of business. Once people could work from home, the job is not finished. On-going work need to be done to make sure these services are robust and secure.
Many people have now become used to working from home where only a couple of months ago, it would have been unthinkable. It feels like the world has forced businesses and workers to re-think the idea of work being something we do, rather than a place that we go to. I understand that this is not the case for all occupations, but it is interesting to see the different ways that people have tried to keep “business as usual” whilst being at home. Whilst this has been a huge challenge for some organisations who were less prepared, for others, there has been minimal disruption.
Thinking now about the future
However, as we get into a rhythm of our new, current ways of working, it is important to look to the future. We have an opportunity to shape the type of future we want to see for our businesses. Some people will just want to get back to the way things were before the pandemic. Other people may never want to work in an office again because they have enjoyed working from home so much. Then there will be a significant number of people who are likely to fall somewhere between these two extremes.
We have all been thrust into this way of operating due to circumstances, but if we had planned for this, what would we have done differently? Whilst we are in the thick of the lock-down, it is important for all people within an organisation to identify the things that are difficult to do today because we are working remotely. Which business processes only partially work now, or which do not work at all? What are the challenges you face when trying to work remotely today using processes that were devised pre-pandemic? These are the things that need the next level of thought. These are the things that, in a few weeks or months-time, organisations will be thankful for the effort they put in today. Much in the same way as those who already had remote working technologies and processes established pre-pandemic, were less disrupted at the start of the lock-down.
Bringing business minds together with modern technology will help to overcome these issues. In the same way as we turned to technology to provide business’s initial response to the pandemic, we need to understand how we can change our business processes through the use of modern technology to enable our businesses to survive and thrive the coming months. The recovery of business, both public sector and private sector, depends on the changes that need to be considered now.
Many businesses already have the tools to automate processes or improve them. For many businesses, there is no need to spend money on new technical solutions, they merely need to use the ones they already have. Microsoft 365 provides access to many of these tools and by increasing the use of them, it helps to drive value from them.
Careful re-engineering of business processes can enable an organisation or parts of it to become location independent. When an organisation is location independent, the benefits are significant. Working from home and allowing people to be output-orientated becomes easier. Day-to-day management of people and processes becomes easier. Disaster recovery and business continuity options open exponentially. Also, through re-engineering business processes, work can speed up and accuracy can increase, thereby increasing the overall efficiency of a department or organisation. This type of business transformation needs to be driven by business requirements and business-focused minds working in-step with the technology which will enable change. Organisations should not view this as a project with a start and an end to it. Business transformation and continuous improvement of processes needs to be part of the organisation’s culture. Therefore, business transformation should not be viewed as an “IT project”; it must be driven by business users with responsive and forward-thinking teams (including IT) providing support.
Where will you be?
Those organisations who are using this time to prepare for the recovery of business post-lock-down, and who are actively looking for ways to improve today, are the ones who will be at an advantage. They will be best placed to manage the challenges that are ahead. They will also be in the best possible shape to cope with the economic environment we will all be operating in as we look to renew the national and global economy in the months and years ahead.