It’s been a dizzying week and we are only just beginning the new reality of social distancing as millions of people begin working from home. The next several weeks will test the abilities of our global connectivity solutions, collaboration software, service desk support, and our ability to lead a remote workforce. It will, of course, be challenging. We will learn important lessons about how to lead beyond the contract, and mechanisms to prioritize activities in this new reality; including the organizational issues of transitioning to an almost entirely remote workforce.
The global coronavirus pandemic requires all of us to immediately reevaluate operational contingency plans both internally and with our provider partners. Every enterprise, both clients and providers, must take decisive steps to navigate through business challenges while keeping all their people safe.
None of this will be easy. We will naturally want to grab the contract, which we likely left in the office, and wonder why our business continuity plan didn’t contemplate a global pandemic or why our service providers are having problems with remote access for their teams based on the security posture we designed during a different period.
ISG doesn’t have all the answers, but we can offer five pragmatic actions that you can initiate today and over the next few days, to both assure the safety of your global teams and ensure your supplier-managed operations are as secure as possible in the days ahead – and when there are operational risks, how to collaborate and mitigate the risks.
- Rapidly assess the potential for near-term service disruption. Look immediately at the activities being performed by your providers from a business perspective and identify your business-critical processes and applications. You may have dozens of providers who have a wide degree of impact to your business continuity, particularly in business process functions. Knowing which suppliers will impact your business and being able to quickly analyze delivery locations and contacts is essential to plan your response. Don’t just look at your current tiering of providers today – look at each application and service that they support and identify those that are most critical. Providers whom you have considered Tier 1 might not be supporting your most critical applications, in light of your strategy to deal with the pandemic. Here’s a suggested process that will help you perform this exercise.
- Work with your identified business-critical providers to proactively assess business continuity plans (BCP). Most managed services agreements envisage disruption and contain BCP/DR plans; however, many service providers are not yet set up for remote working as an alternative – and indeed, your contract may not permit that today. Ask all your business-critical providers for their business and IT continuity plans and validate that they meet your near-term requirements. These plans should include scenarios that cover staff ability to travel and how delivery will be managed if they cannot. Include expert guidance, as well as legal counsel in documenting your joint plans with each provider especially if they diverge from your contract terms. Don’t shy away from asking your providers how they are prioritizing actions across all the clients they serve, so you understand where your enterprise fits into their multi-client planning activities. Here’s a checklist that will help you perform this assessment. Communicate to your business and customer stakeholders what your plans are as they relate to your provider ecosystem – even if you don’t have an immediate report, provide them with an ongoing update that this is work-in-process.
- Help your employees prepare for this new way of working. The need for social distancing will likely increase over the next several weeks. For those companies that already have remote worker programs, it’s a matter of scaling up. However, for organizations that have not yet started, or are piloting these programs, remote work represents a significant challenge involving equipment, network access, socialization, security and working processes. Employees will need specific direction on how to work and how to think about work. Organizational change and communications programs will be critical to keep the workforce engaged, productive and cohesive. HR programs, policies and systems need to be able to accommodate any changes to benefits, leaves, flexible work arrangements, duty to provide a safe work environment and workforce planning. At the same time prioritizing effective change management initiatives will ensure organizational alignment and accelerate the creation and delivery of training and communications to ensure adoption.
- Accelerate your remote working technology plans. With the pending surge in remote working, there will be tremendous pressure on internal IT teams and the service providers that support them to enable the broader workforce – regardless of where they are located. And it’s not just about employees connecting their PCs to the network via a virtual private network – it’s about getting access to the applications and data that employees need to get their jobs done every day. If you have a Unified Communications plan focused on enabling employees wherever they are, accelerate it, along with the infrastructure, security and bandwidth required to support remote working. If you don’t have a unified communications plan, create one now. The pandemic is quickly leading to the largest work-from-home experiment in history, a situation that may go on for some time.
- Prepare to optimize costs quickly. Nearly all industries will be stressed as the global economy absorbs the impact of decreased consumer demand in response to COVID-19, but industries like manufacturing, travel, transportation and entertainment have been especially hard hit. Every organization should immediately prepare a cost optimization strategy that focuses on rapidly reducing costs in the coming weeks and keeps long-term recovery in mind. We know of many areas where cost can be reduced by 20 to 60 percent in under three months. We recommend starting by analyzing wireless spend, rationalizing software licenses, renegotiating services rates and conducting invoice forensics and rapidly deploying bots to automate routine work. Bots appear to be immune from the coronavirus and don’t mind social distancing, so rapidly scaling automation in key areas can further mitigate risks and reduce costs in many business functions. Don’t wait. Quickly identify and deploy a set of cost initiatives to strengthen your organization’s resiliency.
ISG experts can help you design and implement plans for each of these areas during the weeks ahead. While immediate action is essential, our work also supports recovery and future resiliency – both at the services and the contractual level. We will be publishing this direction here on our ISG-One.com website and will conduct a series of webinars as well where our experts will provide insights and be available to answer your questions. Please join our mailing list to be notified of these publications and events. Or speak to an ISG consultant for support on a specific area.
Our mission is to help our clients and the whole industry in this time of crisis. We are here to support smart and fast action to guide your organization in the coming weeks and be ready to re-establish growth once the crisis has passed. We will come out of this together with valuable learnings that will make your organization stronger in the long-term, although it likely will accelerate the digital trends that are already reshaping entire industries.
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