The first half of 2020 has been about crisis management for most businesses, but now, nearly six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, it is time to take a step back and strategize for the future. COVID-19 has had, and is continuing to have a huge impact, but it is impossible to predict exactly how it will play out. Plenty of people have speculated, but it is still too early to be certain about the pandemic’s final effects. The amount of contradicting information about the future and potential strategies can be overwhelming, especially for leadership teams. Most have focused on protecting employees and the business simultaneously, which can be difficult during times of such uncertainty.
If anything is absolutely true, though, it is that the plans and strategies we had in January are no longer applicable. 2020 has resulted in brand-new customer behavior, along with unpredicted demand spikes and supply chain interruptions that have changed business as a whole. These changes should prompt questions and revisions in relation to your previous strategy’s expectations.
A cautious approach is the most tempting as the safest choice, but it could also be the least profitable. As shown by the 2008 financial crisis, businesses that anticipated the downturn and had a defined strategy to take opportunities performed far better than those who lagged in acknowledging the recession. Updating strategy to be more aggressive with opportunities can both prevent losses as well as accelerate recovery from the downturn. But how do we refocus strategy to prepare for this new, uncertain future?
Start by viewing the current pandemic as a “strategic inflection point.” An inflection point is a decision point where all your previous assumptions about your business are no longer relevant, and new, fundamental decisions need to be made. Discarding all earlier beliefs about your business is crucial because it will enable you to discover the new, unmet needs and untapped opportunities that are now available. Attempting to maintain business as usual will force your business into survival mode, reducing your ability to adapt to the new, pandemic-influenced landscape.
It is easy enough to talk about revising strategy, but what new principles should we focus on now? Adaptability, resilience, and prediction are all crucial to surviving not only this pandemic, but any crisis that occurs in the future as well. All three of these characteristics are equally important; you should not place one above the rest. As this pandemic has shown us, all the prediction in the world will never be sufficient in the face of unprecedented events. This is where adaptability and resilience come into play – your business should be able to withstand and survive the initial crisis, and then be able to adapt to the changes that occur afterward.
Supporting these principles with analytics can cement these principles as part of your business’s strategy. Pulling together real-time and historical data from disparate sources will result in more accurate, valuable predictions. It also enables your business to have up-to-date, timely predictions based on the latest data, which is especially crucial today. Visibility into the most crucial parts of your business can also enhance resilience, since it provides insight into the key aspects of your business that must remain unchanged or should be enhanced. In the same way, analytics will also enhance the adaptability of your business as well, by illustrating areas in need of change or improvement, as well as aspects that may no longer be useful or profitable. A clear view into business and operating procedure is incredibly valuable to any business retooling their strategy.