12 December 2022

As we all continue to navigate our way through the coronavirus pandemic, attention will invariably move from short-term action to reimagining how our businesses can operate and thrive in the medium and longer term.

With talk of returning to normal, there is an opportunity to move to a 'new normal', which is distinctly different but better than pre-coronavirus. For instance, many businesses have rapidly accelerated their thinking and actions on topics such as home working and use of digital technology.

Whilst it is still difficult to predict what the post-coronavirus period will look like, we can be confident that two topics will be ever-present at boardroom tables across the country: Productivity and Resilience.

  • Productivity improvement was a national priority before lock-down. Given what has happened in the first half of 2020, the need for increases in productivity at the national, business and individual level are now more vital than ever. 
  • Resilience, on the other hand, has not been the top priority for many businesses in recent decades. A focus on efficiency (reducing costs), quality (providing great service with minimal mistakes), and agility (ability to respond flexibly and rapidly) has previously relegated resilience (continued performance in the face of disruptions) down the pecking order of business performance priorities. Resilience will no longer be the poor cousin post-coronavirus.

Following the financial crisis in 2007, many of the businesses that recovered quickly and performed best took prompt and decisive action to improve operational effectiveness. In the short-term, they reduced costs, managed working capital and invested further in their key relationships (with customers, clients, employees and suppliers). 

Whilst these actions will still be important, this particular crisis comes at a unique time where there is a convergence of a number of macro trends; a global economic downturn, unprecedented societal disruption, rapidly changing service expectations and the availability and accessibility of powerful digital technology. Each of these has the potential to reshape businesses, but in aggregate their effects may call for transformational responses from businesses.

For those businesses where staff can work from home, we’ve seen the immediate value of digital communication and collaboration tools.

In the more medium term, we are seeing significantly increased demand for automation solutions such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA). 

Businesses are using RPA and other forms of process automation to improve productivity (e.g., using RPA software bots to operate repetitive manual processes) and resilience (e.g., using attended automation bots to support staff in contact centres).  Having experienced the pain of interruptions to service delivery, some business leaders are also considering the additional resilience benefits of having software robots as a ‘backup digital workforce’ to support in other disruptive scenarios or to cover peaks in demand for specific services and processes.

Regardless of the specific technology, we can be confident that businesses that utilise digital technologies as part of a well thought-out programme of improvement will be better placed to emerge successfully out of this crisis, potentially in a far more productive and resilient state than the previous 'normal’.