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The Remote Future Is on the Way. Get Ready.

Preparing Your Business for Life After COVID-19

Jitin Agarwal

VP, Enterprise Products, EPAM
Blog
  • Remote By Design

Our remote present won’t last forever. The COVID-19 crisis, as disruptive and challenging as it is, will eventually pass. And when it does, your organization must be ready. Which is why the smartest companies need to stop, hit the pause button and think not of the present—as most businesses have to-date—but of the future.

Remember the future?

You need to be strategic about what you do today, so that you’ll be able to thrive tomorrow. This doesn’t mean devising a single unalterable plan and sticking to it—instead it’s all about understating the modular nature of contemporary business issues and related capabilities, and avoiding a sentimental attachment to any legacy processes, offerings or methods.

This, of course, requires some strategic distance, which shouldn’t be too much of an issue for us since we’re Remote By Design™. The important thing to keep in mind is, as EPAM Continuum's Chris Michaud says: “The fastest way to the future starts with knowing where you’re going.”

The Future Comes Home, and Stays There

Virtually overnight, behavior and buying patterns have altered—wildly. Organizations must now adapt, quickly and effectively, to remain relevant. They must do so in a manner that is relevant to their unlikely new setting: the home.

In response, many companies are pivoting to digitally led initiatives. In-person sessions are going virtual, so clients can attend remotely. Serve customers digitally, and you’ll retain your place in the market and value proposition. Not only will they appreciate the ability to interact in this new model; a significant percentage may be likely to stay with a brand or an organization that effectively pivoted to meet their needs during these trying times.

Note: If you’re seeing a decrease in customer feedback during this crisis—view it as an early warning indicator that you actually have a problem and a potential failure point that you need to address.

Ask yourself this question: How could we not be getting more client feedback (good, bad or otherwise) if we're offering support and connecting with customers as we need to, given the traumatic world events? How could we not be having more dialogue with our customers? Identify your failure point and fix it, so you can gain market insights to ensure your long-term success. A properly instrumented platform, such as the ones we provide at EPAM, can enable robust customer feedback. Remote By Design was built with this in mind.

What Will Be the New Normal for My Organization After COVID-19?

When COVID-19 finally flees the scene, some companies will realize they can no longer operate with far-flung global supply chains, and that they will need to be consolidated, near or around customers—which could have even larger and more far-reaching impacts that we will discuss in future blog posts.

When thinking about the new normal, consider asking your organization the following questions: What lessons can be learned from shutting down vast parts of the global supply chain in a domino-like fashion, regarding a “must have” or a “nice to have” or what's a “fixed” as opposed to a “variable” cost? What becomes a minimally viable operation and a "lean," efficient operating model in the new world order?

The point is: When organizations look to the future, it's not just the challenges that must be considered but also the opportunities to pivot and use technology to enable remote operations and drive forward successfully. The key question when considering a post-COVID-19 era is: Does your company have a solid understanding of what makes it shock-resistant, strongly productive and able to respond to rapidly evolving customer demands?

How Will We Define Success in the Post-COVID-19 World?

Organizations need to take their customer feedback and input, as noted in our first point, and their crystal ball view of what the world will look like in the future, in our second, to craft a vision and definition of future success.

Establishing a set of criteria based on customer needs and requirements, which will ensure that your organization stays grounded, is what matters most. Doing otherwise runs the risk of arriving at the target—only to find that your company has navigated to a goal without customers or has resulted in a loss of business.

Taking advantage of the pivots in the market will mean that your organization can successfully transition to the post-COVID-19 world. Those firms that pay insufficient attention to the customer changes and market directional shifts may not be able to navigate these challenges successfully.

Your company needs to identify three to five core principles, and related metrics, as a set of future goals. Not only that: these same three to five goals and metrics are likely going to change. So you shouldn’t just define what future success looks like for your organization—as a snapshot in time—instead you must be prepared to reinvent these goals on a regular basis. In the current environment, you can do no less.

Recruit a Future-Proofing Team

Finally: You should consider creating a future-proofing team. Break off a small modular, cross-functional group, and give them a charter to wander into the future. Columbia Business School professor Rita McGrath would surely approve. “The great entrepreneurs and innovators… don’t just allow an inflection point to happen to them,” she writes in her latest book, Seeing Around Corners. “They connect emerging possibilities, deepen consumer insights, and explore new technologies to spark the changes that can get them—and keep them—on top.”

Having a team think ahead of the curve, and more importantly how to stay ahead in your organization’s response to COVID-19, may prove invaluable in the long-run. Consider the team as a periscope for your corporate submarine, without which you may end up navigating into a bad accident.

The team should consider three different time horizons to help your company: one-to-two months, one-to-two quarters and one-to-two years. Your small, cross-functional team should be comprised of the key functions and be part of your organization (precisely the sort of team described in this HBR article). In addition, the team must be modular and flexible, and depending upon the needs of the business, pivot to add or subtract members dynamically. These members can vary accordingly, joining operating groups or coming from them as needed.  For this team, speed is of the essence. It will live in a constant state of uncertainty. It does not have the luxury of “perfection”—good enough is just fine. This future-proofing team should focus on gathering forward-facing market intelligence, building scenarios and identifying options for the organization to respond proactively to COVID-19 and potential future events.

For each time frame, the future-proofing team will look to establish a probable baseline, build likely scenarios, determine appropriate corporate positioning, articulate strategic plans and imperatives, and establish a key set of indicators and thresholds for action.

By tasking a portion of the organization to become the future-proofing team, companies can ensure they adopt the cardinal rule of survival and success: Move now, move quickly, move decisively, move aggressively—and when the time comes, pivot and move again.

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