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No, You Can’t Just Hit the “Restart” Button: Five Factors to Consider for a Successful Post-COVID-19 Restart

Jitin Agarwal

VP, Enterprise Products, EPAM
Blog
  • Remote By Design

What does a restart look like? What should it look like?

A few weeks ago we talked about how becoming Remote By Design™ today can prepare you for a prosperous tomorrow. Well, there’s much more to say. These are truly unprecedented times. In the U.S., as of the writing of this post, more than 22 million people have filed for unemployment—an astonishing leap from just a few weeks ago. The magnitude of this is so tremendous, even shocking, that it can paralyze organizations from actually restarting. Don’t let it. You must think strategically—now—about planning your company’s restart. In this post, we’ll help establish a framework enabling you to take the first steps toward drafting a restart plan.

Where to start with a restart? Your team should begin by looking at five critical factors: people, processes, platforms, partners and places. A proper restart demands steady-handed navigation of all five.

People. It’s critical to think first and foremost about your people (employees, customers and investors). Why? It was COVID-19’s threat to people that froze the world economy and put us all into lockdown. Your organization must demonstrably convince all stakeholders that your people’s safety is ensured and has been the overwhelming priority during restart planning and execution. Every factor related to people’s security, safety and personal protection, in each stage and process, must be carefully thought out and addressed, preferably with outside validation. Fail here, and your restart could sputter and die before it really starts, or, worse yet, the organization might find itself back in lockdown—a double jeopardy that could be fatal for any business. In order to ensure an acceptable level of personal safety, your organization may have to reorganize its manufacturing lines, workflows and other operational models to optimize for social distancing, employee PPE and other COVID-19 considerations and not profitability, as has been the case with supply chains (and processes). Try this restart people-readiness litmus test: Would you want your loved ones to go to the factory floor, offices or other organizational facilities to work? If the honest answer is yes, you’re ready to go; if not, head back to the drawing board.

Process. Review your business processes: all of them. Yes, I know this is no small task, but it’s absolutely necessary. Review all organizational processes—manufacturing, operations, facilities or any other core or ancillary function—and see to it that these have been modified to reflect ramifications from COVID-19. This could mean your manufacturing protocols are redesigned to allow for six feet between individuals or break rooms with “room occupancy” limits. Or make PPE mandatory for operational areas. Or start temperature checks at entrances. Every process should be examined from the COVID-19 lens, particularly those that may have previously been classified as “standard,” as these can result in the greatest harm from COVID-19.

It’s typical in an organization for shift changes to occur at a set time for all employees, creating a mass of humanity moving through a facility at the exact same time and likely in the same areas. Same, too, for lunch and other breaks. While this may be efficient and cost-effective, it happens to be a superb way to spread COVID-19 and could create a hotspot in your company. How can you ensure your processes are correctly calibrated for a restart? If nine out of 10 process experts in your organization (and your industry) believe your processes are sufficiently updated to reflect COVID-19 era concerns—for instance, ensuring that each individual stands at least three arm lengths away from any other person and/or additional guidance from regulatory or health agencies, as appropriate for your geography—then you’re good; otherwise, identify your process failure points and address them.

Platforms. Attend to the platforms within your organization. I use the word “platform” to refer to the broadest set of “systems” and capabilities in your organization. This can mean the IT infrastructure of your organization—what people typically think of when they say “IT.” Such platforms are, of course, a big part of our Remote By Design solutions, and they include TelescopeAI™, a unified platform designed to support the digital transformations of adaptive enterprises. But platforms can also be your organization’s products or services or the major systems it manufactures.

Regardless of what “platform” means for your organization, you’ll need to re-evaluate how restarting these platforms will be orchestrated. In our supply chain post, we noted how various parts of the supply chain will likely be staggered in their restart. When restarting your various platforms, a staggered approach may ultimately be your only logical option. Restarting parts of the platform sequentially with the initial stages, then intermediary ones, followed by final platform elements may make the most sense. Another approach to platform restarts, as demonstrated recently by major multinational corporations, is to focus on a particular—sometimes small—geography first; for instance, by focusing on APAC operations, which may be further advanced in their restart journey. When an organization focuses on a limited region, it controls the parameters of the restart, thereby greatly increasing the chances of success. Once an organization successfully restarts operations in this focused region, it can use the experience as a test case for restarting global operations. Given that most multinationals operate worldwide, this geographically focused platform restart approach is a viable one. In short: For platform restarts, begin with small, isolated or early components, and then scale up.

Partners. We recently untangled the challenges of today’s supply chains, but those in the supply chain are just one set of partners to consider during a restart. We’re also talking about banking in Europe, manufacturing in Asia, distribution in North America, retail worldwide or any combination of these… not to mention legal, HR and global operations. The list of potential partners is massive—and it’s massively complex. The list of partners can even be more substantial once you factor in the various tiers of partners your organization has for each of these categories. When considering your restart, make sure you factor in a strategy to work with these partners, either individually or as a group. Especially relevant during this phase: Not every partner or geography will be operating on the same time frame or scale as your organization. One approach when implementing a geographic restart plan: Focus on partners in a specific geography, and augment these partners with those from other geographies where needed and skillsets where available. The rationale for this approach is that regionally oriented partners may be more likely to be further along in their own restart, and, therefore, might be able to help an organization successfully restart their own operations. Rule of thumb for partner restarts: Validate your partners’ ability to stand up their own businesses in-market as a precursor to their ability to support yours through your restart.

Place. Organizations need to take a thoughtful approach to restarting at their place of work. “Place” is a deliberately broad phrase; a “place” could be a doctor’s office, an office park, a factory, a warehouse or more. When restarting, think about place in the context of the topics above. Starting with people, work through the factors to ascertain how ready your place is for a safe restart for them. Then consider process and ask questions, such as: Should people be tested before entry? What processes need to be modified accordingly (lunches or breaks, let’s say, in cafeterias)? How should places redesign platforms (assembly lines, IT systems, etc.)? What interaction do partners have with these places, and how should this be managed intelligently in the post-COVID-19 era (drop-off and pick-up of goods or materials)? The place a business operates brings all of the various factors of its operations together; in many ways, it represents the culmination of your restart journey. 

It’s Not Going to Be Like Pressing a Button. Not Even Close.

The operating principle for your restart: This is not a big red button you simply hit. It’s a process and, depending upon your circumstances, it could be a lengthy and complicated one. So get started today. You’ll be happy to have a plan in place when your organization, and the broader market, demands your reentry. Get ready.

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