Strategies for successfully reopening after COVID-19

Thoughtful executives will prioritize planning for fully reopening their organizations now that the COVID-19 pandemic is subsiding. The emerging business environment is not like the past. The differences go well beyond customer and staff expectations for personal safety in places of business.

Successful organizations in the post-COVID-19 world will proactively think through what:

  1. Continuing work will be performed differently to keep customers, staff, and suppliers healthy while containing costs.
  2. New work needs to start to meet the revised customer expectations, reduce business risk and survive.
  3. New initiatives can start to grow and succeed in the new world.
  4. Work should stop because it turned out to be unnecessary during the crisis.

What should the leadership of organizations think about to thrive in the emerging new world that the COVID-19 pandemic experience significantly reshaped?

Effective remote work

When the COVID-19 lockdown loomed, almost every organization expanded its use of remote work at warp speed as many employees rushed home into self-isolation and social distancing. The supporting IT infrastructure was cobbled together just as quickly.

Post COVID-19, the actions for effective remote work include:

  1. Upgrading the supporting IT infrastructure for improved performance, security, and reliability.
  2. Educating employees on best practices for successful remote work.
  3. Strengthening software functionality for remote collaboration capability, document sharing and training.

The organization’s leadership should:

  1. Recognize that the social dynamics of in-person work remain essential to the organization’s culture and plan for in-person events to sustain this culture.
  2. Enhance HR policies to better define expectations for remote work.
  3. Support investments to upgrade information technology.

These workplace actions will increase customer service, employee engagement and productivity while reducing employee turnover and customer churn.

Enhanced e-commerce platforms

Before COVID-19, many organizations conducted at least some of their business on an e-commerce platform. During the COVID-19 disruption, as in-person commerce became impossible, the percentage of business conducted on e-commerce platforms shot up dramatically.

Post COVID-19, the likely actions to enhance the e-commerce platform include:

  1. Increasing capacity and reliability to reduce the risk of poor customer experience.
  2. Enhancing functionality for better customer engagement.
  3. Adding security without undermining customer experience.
  4. Implementing contactless operations to the greatest extent possible.

The organization’s leadership should:

  1. Improve integration between in-store and e-commerce experiences.
  2. Expand the range of products and services available on the e-commerce platform.
  3. Commit more operational resources to improve customer service.
  4. Rationalize staff safety practices in production and fulfillment centers to contain costs without sacrificing safety.

These e-commerce platform actions will increase revenue and create awareness of the organization in new markets and among new customer segments.

Digital transformation

Most organizations have been plodding along the path to digital transformation, even if they’re not conscious of it. Then the COVID-19 disruption suddenly made manual data capture and sneaker-net communication of bits of data impossible. The disruption glaringly highlighted the potholes and missing pieces in digital data management.

Post COVID-19, the likely actions to advance digital transformation include:

  1. Expanding enterprise content management (ECM) to reduce the remaining use of paper.
  2. Expanding the use of existing applications to improve automated support for the remaining manual processes.
  3. Improving data integration among applications to enhance data sharing and analytics.

The organization’s leadership should:

  1. Strengthen data stewardship practices to improve data quality.
  2. Sponsor projects to fill in gaps in the application portfolio to improve data accessibility while reducing the misuse of Excel.

Digital transformation will improve business processes, support the move to more data-driven decision-making and reduce operating costs.

Revised supply chain objectives

Before COVID-19, organizations optimized their supply chains primarily to achieve low costs. That cost goal resulted in a few or even just one supplier for each component or service. Worse, many of those remaining suppliers tended to be far away. The COVID-19 disruption demonstrated how risky this supply chain strategy can be.

Post COVID-19, the likely actions to lower supply chain surprises include enhancing applications that:

  1. Encourage design work to simplify components.
  2. Support procurement to improve inventory management with more resilience.
  3. Smooth the management of documents required for shipments to cross national boundaries.

The organization’s leadership should:

  1. Contract with more suppliers for more flexibility and redundancy.
  2. Opt for shorter supply chains to reduce transportation costs, elapsed time, and disruption risk.
  3. Build more visibility into who the suppliers to their suppliers are to understand risk better.

These actions will add resilience and efficiency and reduce supply chain distances while cost control remains essential in the new world.

Restructured organization of work

Before COVID-19, organizations used many meetings, often with too many participants, to agree on priorities and recommendations. During the COVID-19 lockdown, out of necessity or desperation, decision-making accelerated and involved far fewer people. To the surprise of some, the organizations did not collapse.

Post COVID-19, the likely actions to revise the organization of work include:

  1. Analyzing business processes for improvement opportunities.
  2. Implementing Robotic Process Automation (RPA) for contactless digital transaction processing.
  3. Strengthening collaboration capability and related training.

The organization’s leadership should:

  1. Drive decision-making lower into the organization, especially day-to-day decisions.
  2. Organize work more through small teams rather than hierarchical groups.
  3. Encourage agility to revise processes, move people, and implement technology.
  4. Evaluate the real estate needs that have likely decreased.

Organizations that move earlier, faster, and more decisively outperform their peers in important measures such as revenue growth, margins, and customer satisfaction. Please view this slideshow to see high-level changes sparked by COVID-19: 6 ways COVID-19 has impacted the internet.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Yogi Schulz
Yogi Schulz
Yogi Schulz has over 40 years of Information Technology experience in various industries. Yogi works extensively in the petroleum industry to select and implement financial, production revenue accounting, land & contracts, and geotechnical systems. He manages projects that arise from changes in business requirements, from the need to leverage technology opportunities and from mergers. His specialties include IT strategy, web strategy, and systems project management.

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