How do you plan for a smooth re-opening and manage increased uncertainty?
First, as the world continues to struggle and cope with the effects of COVID-19, we hope you and your team are doing well. With the increased possibility of a second wave, precautions to help protect the health and wellbeing of your staff, clients/customers, stakeholders, and your local communities remains a priority.
COVID-19 began as a health pandemic, quickly evolved to a global recession, and continues to create economic challenges disrupting businesses and cause financial hardship to households. While we all wait for an effective medical solution (vaccine and treatment), COVID-19 continues to impact your business—value chains, employees, stakeholders, and customers in different ways.
What remains hard to accept is the rapid pace of change—a reality that is not only difficult to understand, but equally tricky to admit, as we all make the best of 2020. As lockdown restrictions get relaxed and most states and nations struggle re-opening for business, you need to re-evaluate your value-chain, and find solutions to your current customer problems and challenges. It’s time to re-visit the fundamentals and plan for the future.
Eight Value-chain considerations as you plan to re-open
(1) Understand changing customer expectations and shifts in demand.
a. How is COVID-19 affecting your customers and their supply chains – Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity?
b. What trends have you seen, and how will these continue during and post-COVID-19?
c. What additional solutions can you provide to help your clients/customers during and post-COVID-19?
(2) Construct scenario plans and apply lessons learned (you can’t help your customers if your business is struggling).
a. Think of a “Best-Case” and “Worst-Case” scenario, and apply lessons learned to plan for the next 3 to 6 months. How should your business function during and post-COVID-19?
b. What decisions must you make to manage cash and credit?
c. What cash flow challenges are you and your customers facing, and the impact on receivables?
d. What expenses must you re-negotiate?
(3) Manage uncertainty – Few experts can predict an economic and fiscal solution to a health pandemic like COVID-19 unless there is an effective vaccine or treatment.
a. What must you do to survive in uncertain times?
b. Re-evaluate your customer personas. How would you prioritize your ideal customers during and post-COVID-19?
c. What customers can you afford to lose, and what new customers should you target?
d. What new skillsets will your team need to address current challenges?
e. Where can you reduce headcount to save money without exposing your organization to new risk?
f. What roles are critical towards providing essential services and address current challenges?
(4) Prepare a contingent plan for your “worst-case” scenario.
a. Increased economic and geopolitical uncertainties impact visibility and demand planning. Assuming no revenue, how long can your business survive the next 6 to 12 months?
b. Does it make sense to pivot into other areas?
c. Your “best-case” scenario can’t be totally ignored either. Some businesses have struggled to manage unprecedented growth during COVID-19 due to a lack of planning.
(5) Embrace technology. Select the right technology and tools to support your employees and clients.
a. How can you improve your digital presence to connect with and engage customers in ways they see as valuable?
b. What new technology must you embrace and make it easy for current and new customers to work with you?
(6) Manage health and safety concerns.
a. What health and safety controls must you implement and communicate to your employees and customers to address their concerns during and post-COVID-19?
b. What additional costs and resources will you need to address all health and safety concerns as your business re-opens?
(7) Stay on top of the changing regulatory and risk environments.
a. What are the fundamental regulatory changes impacting your industry?
b. What are some of the emerging and rapidly evolving risks you should be aware of during and post-COVID-19?
(8) Update your critical processes, policies, and procedures and train stakeholders.
a. What changes must you make to your critical processes during and post-COVID-19 to continue delivering exceptional customer experiences?
b. How will you maintain processes, policies, and procedures and communicate the changes to stakeholders?
While these eight steps are not the totality of items management should consider, your internal audit department or an equivalent function, can provide valuable support to management, and insights in helping the organization create value. However, adding or creating value is not enough. As you make changes based on available data and other factors, think of ways your internal audit function should evolve and provide timely assurance, expertise in a consulting capacity, and insights to help your organization succeed. By supporting management to achieve strategic goals and objectives, perform audits and reviews that matter, your internal audit team can quickly adapt and continue not only to add value, but to help management capture and sustain value over time.
“Get the fundamentals down, and the level of everything you do will rise.” Michael Jordan
The lockdown restrictions could be tightened if the number of COVID-19 infections continues to increase. Your team can take appropriate steps to get the fundamentals right to ensure your business succeeds. When our favorite athletes encounter difficulties, they often turn to the fundamentals. As your team struggles to cope and adjust to the COVID-19 challenges, some modifications to your strategy and fundamentals are essential to not only adapt, but to thrive during difficult times, and continue to meet your clients’/customers’ expectations.
By re-evaluating your current end-to-end customer support process, your team will discover a way to make timely changes to continue providing value-added solutions during and post-COVID-19. Modernized solutions and processes are needed to deliver exceptional customer experiences, increasing their willingness to pay for your products and services.
Jonathan Ngah, CISA, CIA, CFE, CGFM, is a principal at Synergy Integration Advisors, a professional services firm providing internal audit outsourcing and internal audit co-sourcing services to government institutions, private-sector, and not-for-profit organizations in the US and the Asia Pacific (APAC) regions.