Accenture outlines tips to keep operations running and innovate in a virtual environment.
The coronavirus pandemic sent enterprises and economies into a state of chaos. Only 12% of organizations said they were highly prepared for the impact of coronavirus, a recent Gartner survey found. Leaders must be ready to protect their people and keep their company as stable as possible.
SEE: Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs (TechRepublic Premium)
Accenture's Continuity in Crisis report outlined how to run an effective business during a crisis. COVID-19 created many challenges for organizations as they adapted to remote work, including enabling the right tools, creating a virtual workspace, and protecting employee data, said Manish Sharma, group chief executive at Accenture.
"One of the most interesting aspects is how do you innovate in a virtual environment while keeping the business resilient and running," Sharma said.
Accenture was able to do that through the completion of multiple projects. With Avanade and Microsoft, for example, Accenture created Critical Supply Connect, Sharma said.
"Critical Supply Connect helps healthcare organizations that are dealing with critical supply shortages of PPE, or masks, gowns and gloves," Sharma said. "This platform accelerates the procurement of medical supplies by mapping demand and supply between buyers and suppliers. We enabled this through our digital workforce. We got people together, we brainstormed, and we came together—we did all the things virtually."
Successfully creating this environment is not easy, however, but the report outlined five steps businesses can take to get there.
5 steps to operational resilience
1. Establish a resilient culture
Sharma emphasized the importance of "calmness, confidence, composure, and compassion" during chaotic situations; this helps create a resilient culture.
Taking care of employees and considering their environments during a crisis is critical. To operate in a collaborative way and shift the manner in which a team works, the company must make sure its people are all right, Sharma said.
The pandemic might be the current crisis, but no one knows when the next will hit. A company's culture is tested during these times, and resiliency will come from caring for one another, reshaping priorities, being adaptable, and working together, the report found.
2. Create broader ecosystems based on social collaboration
Creating resilience also requires moving beyond employee workspaces to more personal ecosystems, according to the report. Companies wanting to go the extra mile should make sure their people have access to necessities like healthcare and childcare.
Sharma said Accenture made sure to check in on how its employees are operating in their new workspaces. He noted that they even took out hotel rooms at times for employees who needed a quiet space to work. Adjusting hours to fit the needs of employees with children was also a tactic they found helpful and useful, he said.
After taking care of those ecosystems, Sharma said the business was up and running like normal—just remotely.
3. Employ agile workplace models
Technology, data, and proper security can make remote work easy; however, flexibility with these technologies will be the new normal for businesses during this time, the report found.
Agile workplaces are critical as companies become more flexible. Having the right connectivity and systems that allow employees to log on and off, whenever they need, wherever they need is crucial—especially during a crisis, Sharma said.
4. Build a human and machine workforce
Adopting automation alongside human power is another important aspect of a resilient company, Sharma said.
Using artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics to complete transactional and monotonous tasks opens the human employees up for more complex, cost-effective projects, the report found.
5. Adopt a distributed global services model
"The last one we are seeing here is correlating all this together," Sharma said. "Using a command center to get one dashboard for every single piece: Where are the things going, how the metrics are doing, how we are doing with benchmarking—everything in a highly distributed global services model."
Because workforces are moving virtual, command centers must do the same. Leaders must be able to monitor operations from anywhere, and employees must be able to connect as a distributed workforce, the report found. Distributed global services models can accomplish that.
Overall, companies must "keep people safe, keep operations resilient, and then they can start innovating," Sharma said. "With the global command center, that has innovation plus the human and the machine workforce. Continuing to innovate in unprecedented times is the key thing for me."
For more, check out Business continuity plans and tech are lacking during the coronavirus pandemic on TechRepublic.
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