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It is generally agreed that there are three main types of disasters: natural disasters, accidents and economic disasters.

What we seem to have this time with COVID-19 is a natural disaster with a dramatic short-term labor consequence that's causing an economic shock event—one from which we know we'll recover eventually.

I read on ABCSupplychain.com that “if we look at the crises over the last 64 years, we have had 9 economic crises, an average of one crisis every 7 years.” With the last one being in 2008-09, this is actually about two years later than could quite reasonably have been ‘expected.’ Also, did we plan for something like this?

There is already talk of this chaos going on into Spring 2021. The question is—what can we do with this precious time?

What we can do right now to 'keep the lights on'

We need to help office workers keep working from home and be as close to 'business as usual' as possible:

  1. Effective online meetings, communication and mobile working capability: In response to COVID-19, Microsoft has offered six months of free trial licenses of Microsoft Teams. You too should try it! Get yours here.
  2. Email and office products: No excuses here. We should all be able to access emails and office products from anywhere these days. And if we can't, fix errors quickly.
  3. Business systems access: Give all your staff this capability from home. If they are not easily accessible remotely, then you will have to wait for the next time they come into the office. When you get through this crisis, replace those systems or upgrade them in the next seven years.

My brother, a lecturer at Plymouth University with specific experience in Disaster Management, recently emailed ushis family and colleaguesto share some of his experience. He wrote:

“The initial response is to resist change imposed by the disaster. But when resistance fails, adaptation is the only way to ensure survival. We must decide what critical features of our lives and work need to be kept safe (by resisting change), and what we can adapt to ensure continuity (that may include abandoning certain practices and starting new ones).” - Dr. Andrew Fox, MEng CEng PhD MICE MPMI MAPM

A new way of thinking

Clearly, “keeping the lights on” is the No. 1 priority. Governments are doing what they can to help us get through this and manage our costs. But we can also use this time to adapt, plan and be ready for the inevitable recovery by getting ourselves into a stronger position to react quickly when it arrives.

That may mean some new thinking, abandoning certain practices and starting new ones. These don’t need to be costly or complicatedsome small, low-cost pilot programs can prepare and prove your new plans and get them ready for rapid deployment when the time comes.

Getting your house in order for recovery

I was reading an article titled '5 Lessons for Supply Chains from the Financial Crisis' on www.supplychain247.com where they observed that “In the crisis of 2008-09, industries such as machinery, metals and transportation equipment observed drops in customer orders by up to 42% within a single year.”

For all professionals related to supply chain, inventory management or even professional servicesyou will surely be hearing the call to stop everything and cut all your costs.

Continuity planning

No matter the cause, companies that react quickly will be able to continue operating their business with the least amount of disruption. But that requires planning and having a foolproof plan in place. Those of us who lived through the last financial crisis should have a plan already. Having one in place saves stakeholders precious time and effort and can minimize the chaos by immediately turning to the plan ‘handbook’ and communicating with those affected. Major companies are doing this sort of 'advanced preparation' already. As for small and medium businesses, I very much doubt it.

Whether you call it a continuity plan, a disaster recovery plan (DRP) or something else, it’s important to gather various stakeholders together to talk through possible crisis scenarios. Leadership plays a huge role in this, as back-end support is mandatory.

Gather together company representatives from every team for the planning. That includes entry-level warehouse workers, drivers, operations supervisors and managers.

In the now ‘virtual’ meeting, walk through what happens in each step of your supply chain process and document it. Talk about what happens if a certain system goes down; if the product isn’t accessible; if a warehouse has a fire; or if you lose internet connectivity.

Come up with a plan for each scenario so the business can continue to operate in a crisis. After the planning session, create a flow chart and then do risk analysis.

Business systems

The last step is to perform table-top exercises to make sure the plans will actually work. These sessions can be eye openers; especially when stakeholders come into the meeting with a particular idea and then realize what details are missing. They discuss which department should be up and running first. A lot of people don’t think of IT as a department, but the fact is that we need the internet. We need email; we need our business systems to help us.

If your business systems are not giving you what you need, now is a good time to review what to do about that. Clearly, ERP is too big and invasive a task to tackle now, but the way you address your customer management systems (CRM) or Analytics and Business Intelligence (A&BI) is not.

With as little as one or just a handful of cloud user licenses, you can kick off a project to streamline your sales processes and account management. Even your core customer service can be trialed with minimal external guidance. And all this can be done remotely!

Within 12 weeks, you could have an effective pilot ready to ramp up deployment or maybe even deployed—and you could be well on your road to recovery from any crisis! Analytics and Business Intelligence (BI) can look across your existing estate and provide valuable unified insights for the leadership team.

If you'd like to discuss this with us further, please request a call back here.

We all know that this extraordinary challenge will come to an end. Let’s make the most of this intervening time to better strengthen our recovery. 

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