Rules for Businesses to Survive COVID-19 and Beyond
The COVID-19 Pandemic has created unprecedented health crisis and challenges for healthcare, entrepreneurs, small businesses, and those in lockdown. Everyone is feeling the impact of this global crisis, from shutdowns, to the loss of jobs to changing consumer habits.
For small businesses, the challenge is to figure out how to stay afloat during the lockdown with new social distancing restrictions, and how to adapt to the rapidly changing work from home environment. It’s clear that the effects of this pandemic will linger for some time, and it’s essential for businesses to stay agile and resilient in order to survive in our new normal.
Disaster Recovery is Not Just IT’s Job
Business leaders must now view “Disaster Recovery” as more than just a software to address narrowly defined what-if’s. With the current global pandemic, Disaster Recovery must be a fundamental part of their operations, including planning initiatives for known and unknown risks, even post-covid.
To withstand and recover from disasters, organizations and business owners must be aware of the potential short term impacts of the pandemic on their supply chain shortages, partnerships, public health, providers, real estate and challenges faced by closures and reopening. Although it may be difficult, those who adopt these principles will be better prepared for future disasters, and have the best chances of surviving through the current crisis.
Disaster Recovery can no longer be abdicated to a particular department or stakeholder. Not even as part of a broader business continuity plan that sits in a binder on someone’s shelf. It must address known threats, and (in the words of Donald Rumsfeld) the “known unknowns and the unknown unknowns.” And it absolutely must be so ingrained in regular operations that it’s part of who you are.
Impossible, you might think. I can’t plan for the “unknown unknowns,” much less build my regular operations around them.
There’s no denying that it’s a challenge. Nothing you read here will provide iron-clad protection against all possible outcomes. But those who adopt these foundational principles can not only outlast impacts of COVID-19 crisis, but have better sustainability against whatever comes next.
Workflows Must Work Wherever and Whenever
Traditional Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery plans have virtually ignored the realities of social isolation. Now, with physical distancing, remote work is essential to business survival. Customer interactions that once required in-office visits must now be moved online. And collaboration among remote employees with email and spreadsheet must be made more efficient.
Coronavirus has not only changed where we must work, but when. With schools out of session and kids home, employees now find it difficult to be productive during traditional business hours. Organizations must now experiment with ways to manage by output instead of by time-of-day.
Unfortunately, all of this is easier said than done. Proprietary or mass-market business software are often built for how things have been done in the past, not how they suddenly need to be done right now.
Automation is an increasingly important tool for streamlining business processes. By leveraging no-code and low-code platforms, businesses can quickly digitize offline processes and redesign critical workflows to become more resilient in today’s uncertain environment. Automation enables individual contributors to take greater ownership of their tasks, freeing them from depending on single managers to oversee processes from start to finish.
Moreover, automation can be used to automate anything that can be distilled into rule-based execution, while reporting functions can be used to ensure that quality standards are still being met and to allow workflows to be pushed forward from anywhere, anytime. With the right apps and metrics tracked on LinkedIn, businesses can easily make the most of automation to maximize efficiency and productivity.
Adaptability Must Be Part of Your DNA
“Past Performance is No Guarantee of Future Results” is a disclaimer relegated to the fine print of most mutual funds, but it should be taught in Business 101.
There’s safety in Standard Operating Procedures. They’re born from past experience, and bring efficiency, improve consistency and are easy to (middle) manage to.
They can also be a crutch. How many of us have worked at companies where the only reason things seem to be done a certain way is “because that’s how it’s always been done?”
It’s so easy for organizations to get comfortable with what works, that they lose the capacity to adapt when it stops working. Perhaps never has this been more clear than in the age of Coronavirus. Already, untold thousands of businesses have permanently closed their doors, and millions are out of work.
Naturally, some business models will suffer more than others amidst quarantines, travel restrictions and other pandemic-related realities. Even so, the foundational problem underlying many of these casualties is a failure of flexibility.
To avoid a similar fate, businesses must answer some hard questions, and quickly.
Do we have what it takes to adapt to a rapidly changing situation? What operational or technological systems that have worked in the past are no longer serving us? What can we change?
And perhaps most tellingly, what can’t we change? And why?
To survive during this pandemic and beyond, the list of what can’t be changed should be vanishingly small. Things done because of the personal preference of managers? Not on the list. Things we can’t change because our technology won’t support it? It’s 2020. Get better technology.
Things done because that’s the way it’s always been? Everything has changed. It’s time to move on.
Focus instead on the goals and principles behind the Standard Operating Procedures. If your team understands the critical reasons why the procedures were put in place, they can be trusted with more autonomy to adjust those procedures.
You Must Empower Everyday Innovators
The only way to outmaneuver these challenges is to cultivate and empower everyday innovators.
These are the people in your organization that work in the trenches, see the breakdowns when they first occur and feel the results most acutely. They are often treasure troves of information on better ways of doing things longer-term at their level, but are typically overlooked.
Whether they’re acknowledged or not, everyday innovators invariably exist in every organization. They find ways to solve problems outside of traditional channels because they can’t get budget for software development or enough clout to change standard procedures.
Usually, this takes the form of spreadsheets that store data for a variety of purposes. They track processes, inventory, or customer information as best they can. In small organizations, these spreadsheets function as a quasi-source of truth. In larger organizations, they function as a go-between among rigid business systems that don’t provide the functionality necessary for everyday innovators to do their jobs.
Unfortunately, like many “shadow IT” measures, spreadsheets bring a host of problems. Sensitive data being emailed around, no true source of truth, terrible version control and countless others. And crucially, important information from front-line employees isn’t effectively relayed to decision makers. It seems that for every problem that employees solve with a spreadsheet, they can introduce several more.
So why do employees use spreadsheets to solve problems? Because they know what needs to be done, but off-the-shelf business applications or their company’s purpose built software isn’t readily adaptable. And most organizations don’t have the resources to develop expensive, custom software to fit every use case of their frontline employees. Spreadsheets are the only tool they have– but this is where new opportunities arise.
Instead of settling for spreadsheets and the inevitable problems they bring, companies can acknowledge their everyday innovators, and provide a better tool for them to innovate. No-code and low-code tools are designed specifically for every innovator to build their own custom processes and applications tailored to their exact workflows, while connecting to the larger corporate ecosystem. This enhanced connectivity and better decision-making capabilities through real-time forecasts can help policymakers make more sustainable decisions, and provide more accurate insight into the data-driven operations of an organization.
Knack is purpose-built to enable organizations to foster grass-roots, real-world problem solving among employees of all levels. Everyday innovators have been using our no-code platform to adapt to real-world problems since we were founded, and continue to do amazing things during the age of COVID-19. By leveraging Knack’s intuitive platform and expert builder network, organizations can quickly build no-code or low-code applications that can help you rise to the challenges of Coronavirus, and whatever comes next.
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