South Africa has moved to alert level 3 of the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and economic activity has resumed in the majority of sectors.

By Vukani Mngxati, CEO of Accenture in Africa

Now it is more important than ever for businesses to leverage the advantages optimally, but immediately be prepared for the worst, as we can no doubt expect a W-curve in movement to and from different alert levels for months to come.

In reality however, very few businesses are equipped to cope with the impact of this pandemic. Gartner’s recent Business Continuity Survey shows just 12% of organisations are highly prepared for the impact of coronavirus.

Now is the time for smart leaders to focus on how they can best protect their people, serve their customers and stabilise business continuity.

During times of crisis, business operations – the intelligence engine of an organisation – are more important than ever. Business continuity and disaster recovery plans are being tested by rapidly evolving challenges, such as travel restrictions, and as large-scale remote working becomes a reality.


Why take action now?

Business process functions, including finance, supply chain, procurement, human resources, marketing, sales and customer operations, and industry-specific services, such as health, insurance and banking, are being severely disrupted. For many multinationals, complex and business-critical services that are handled by global operations must be reassessed and restructured.

It is estimated that 75% to 80% of Fortune 500 companies are using some form of shared services model.

However, they need to safeguard and de-risk their operations if they are to continue to serve and grow their enterprises post-Covid-19.

They must devise a response that is rapid and robust to maintain continuity in the face of uncertain times. For leaders seeking direction on how to act now and next, we offer recommendations to help their global business services be more resilient and weather the pandemic storm.


What are the challenges?

For operations teams, efficiency has long been a byword. Having a passion for and taking advantage of new technologies to tackle the challenges that go beyond “keeping the lights on” – especially during a pandemic – is a huge part of running operations responsibly and with resilience in extreme circumstances.

Operations must enable data, intelligence and insights to be available in an instant, wherever and whenever they are needed. With agility, flexibility and responsiveness, businesses can act swiftly to steer a new course with confidence and adapt to evolving global challenges.

Organisations are increasingly using platforms that support analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, alongside greater automation, to drive digital experiences that help their operations to gain insights and become more intelligent. For example, Accenture is helping a medical technology company maximise the availability of medical equipment, for use during the COVID-19 pandemic, by operating and optimising its spare parts supply chain.

The world is now operating in a post-digital era, with digital technologies a basic expectation of consumers and businesses alike. Sustained business continuity and success will come to rely increasingly on more human-focused experiences, continually adapting the latest technologies to the world they have created.

To help achieve this, leading companies are introducing human+machine models, where most routine tasks are automated and everyone is a knowledge worker with access to insights that mean they are more prepared to manage in difficult times.


Act now

The spread of the COVID-19 virus has proven to be rapid and difficult to control, so the means to deal with it and actions taken must be equally agile—but focused. Any actions need to be in line with your organisation’s business continuity planning. Empathetic leadership and communications are two key areas that aid human resilience in difficult times:

  • Adopt a pragmatic, collaborative approach to help adapt to new ways of running the business and make things happen in a timely, empathetic manner. Recognition where due, can help to improve well-being and engagement across teams—both locally and globally—which contributes to maintaining business continuity.
  • Emphasise a strong and active communications strategy when dealing with a major crisis. Communications to employees, clients, suppliers and partners should be rolled out as part of a phased approach. Following the initial priority communications, we recommend ongoing, daily updates.

In a period of unprecedented global crisis, leaders recognise the need to remain focused, be collaborative and act with compassion. Now, more than ever, organisations must focus attention on those areas that can thrive in a post-Covid-19 world.