Awareness of the economic damage from the global pandemic continues to grow.

National debt is ballooning as governments attempt to prop up businesses and individuals. At the time of writing, the UK still has a fifth of the workforce on furlough which is due to wind down in October. However, just 20% of employers report they will be able to resume full financial commitment.

Meanwhile, the knock-on effect within many households has been to pay down debt and spend less. Especially for those fearing they will need to find new jobs later in the year. This impacts national prosperity in the UK which relies heavily on consumer confidence and credit to keep things afloat.

Of course, some individuals and organisations have never been busier or grown as fast. Anything that overcomes the restrictions of social distancing is thriving. Video conferencing, online shopping, online learning and schooling, cloud enterprise infrastructure and all the tools and technologies involved in the digital redesign of workflow, communications, and user interfaces. To name a few.

Others are less able to leverage their core value proposition. Especially those that rely on social density. The economics of transporting people assumes social density. The CEO of engine builder Rolls Royce forecasts a five-year recovery for his customers and has let go of 5,000 employees as a result.

Hospitality, retail parks and office space are also moving in the slow lane. Depending on pandemic cures and human confidence to mingle, f2f conferences, concerts and other forms of gatherings that pack people together may or may not recover anytime soon. I’ve been told that the survival of the Edinburgh Festival is in question if things stay the same.

So, if you are a CFO in an organisation that needs to adapt rapidly, either defensively or opportunistically, you will to want to tightly control outgoings, refocus investment decisions on priorities, and in some sectors, trim budgets.

During a recent online discussion on adapting service and CX strategies to recessionary pressures, some attendees had already been asked to find savings of up to 30%. Learning how to do ‘more for much less’ is certainly going to be a new pressure in many leadership teams for the foreseeable future.

The Silver Lining

We have been forced to adapt rapidly as consumers and organisations. There is now momentum from the urgency of the situation and innovation in terms of meeting emerging needs and priorities. In this sense, there has probably never been a better time for leadership teams who want to move things on and gain a reputation for original solutions and effective execution.

Part of that originality is finding better ways of getting things done. For both customers and employees. Organisational life is noted for its frustrations, complexities and time wasted in low value activity for many employees. Customers feel that impact in terms of high effort engagement with organisations.

There is a window of opportunity to deliver positive and widespread improvement to the way we support people to get their jobs done. We can already see how it works in the most successful organisations.

Cross-functional teamwork is a critical success factor based on the right mix of skills e.g. data, design, agile, change, tech to ensure diverse thinking and holistic execution.

So too is access to enabling technologies. Pandemic-induced remote working has driven home the lesson that organisations have to be equally robust in both their virtual and physical capabilities. However we end up blending working from home with office life, it will need to be underpinned with a digital infrastructure that enables secure, scalable access to data, knowledge, workflow, communications and core systems.

Within that mission lie the enabling technologies of knowledge management and predictive analytics. When combined, they become an effective solution to the challenges previously mentioned.

  • Getting things done becomes easier when we have the right information given to us without needing to search.
  • Getting things done becomes faster when options are dynamically prioritised to just the relevant ones.

These kinds of intelligent intervention become the way forward when we cannot afford the luxury of using time inefficiently as recessionary pressures loom. We need to keep customers on side. To state the obvious, they pay the bills. We need to maximise employee productivity by taking as much friction out of their day-to-day work life by helping them find the answers they need to do their best work.

At the centre of the huge effort now underway across organisational life is the mission for relevance and simplicity. Ignored for too long and tolerated as ‘just the way it is,’ we are all attempting to set new standards for what it should feel like when engaging with and working for the organisations in our lives.