Businesses and post COVID-19

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Even before the advent of COVID-19, disruption proved a constant threat to most businesses.

With the COVID-19 crisis, we know that this is no ordinary economic downturn: fundamental changes in consumer behaviour, supply chains, and routes to market are knocking companies off balance. While some shifts are temporary, other things will never be the same: The new normal will be “never normal”. Leaders need to accelerate the adoption of agile ways of working and value chain transformation to help outmaneuver uncertainty and outperform those less prepared. The right actions NOW can position those companies to succeed NEXT and adapt in the NEVER NORMAL.

Organisations need shifting from top-down decision-making. Empowering teams guided by purpose. Driven by data and powered by technology. Enabled by cloud for faster speed to market. It calls for adapting rigid structures that emphasise territory and control. And creating a porous organisation with modules that plug and play. Businesses need to be capable of dynamic self-management and continual adaptation. It is built for agility, resiliency and growth.

Responding to the pandemic has underscored what work is critical. And what work may be cut. It has tested conventional wisdom about the need for physical proximity to customers, products and management. All this while a massive amount of labour has moved to virtual modes.

There’s no doubt: Companies equipped with more agile operating models are flexing agile muscles they built-up over the past years.

Some of the capabilities critical to withstand the crisis include:

  • Robust business continuity plans for end-to-end value chains, including crisis command centres
  • Expansive scenario planning and swift response
  • Well-structured ecosystems and networks with partners, competitors and academic institutions
  • Advanced technologies, cloud-based systems and collaboration tools to enable an elastic digital workplace
  • Empowered business leaders and simplified governance structures that enable speed and agility

Now is the time to develop and execute an agile supply chain strategy that can steer the business through today and tomorrow. An agile supply chain accelerates demand-sensing intelligence, localisation and product flow optimisation as “shape of chain” begins to reflect current fluid offerings and fulfillment experiences. It incorporates business continuity planning by diversifying across supply chain and distribution channels, modes of transportation, and ecosystem and alliance partners.

For other parts of the value chain, including marketing, sales, and support functions, organizations should be agile in responding to the evolving realities of running the business. There is also an opportunity to better integrate sales and operations, demand and supply planning powered by predictive and prescriptive analytics and a team empowered to bring critical business insights forward. Leveraging enterprise analytics platforms to make insights more readily available within the organisation. This is a capability urgently required. One that will remain just as critical to what’s needed next.

As we operate in the Next and prepare for the Never Normal, most organisations are rapidly designing processes to improve efficiencies. They’re relying on resources located physically further away from products, customers and business leaders. Increasingly, they’re depending on ecosystem partners that are better prepared to operate in a remote or virtual environment.

Great leaders will be defined by how they lead strategically and operationally in the moments of crisis. As CEOs and their teams wrestle with the financial implications of market and operational uncertainties, they should proactively focus on economic viability, cost efficiency and competitive moves. This balanced approach to bolstering total liquidity, improving profitability, and setting the course for ever greater levels of enterprise value will allow enterprises to not only survive—but ultimately thrive and emerge stronger.

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Deborah Schembri BA(Hons) Accty., Dip. Tax., FIA, CPA, APMI, MiOD MIM, MBA (Henley) Deborah has over twenty years experience in the insurance & pensions, gaming, caring, construction & property development, oil & fuel and hospitality industries. In her various C-Level and Board Member roles she had formulated new strategic directions and implemented the necessary changes, covering both local and international companies. Over the past seven years as the CEO & Managing Director of STM Malta she has been instrumental in setting up and not only growing the Company, but also placing STM Malta as the major pensions provider. She is a Certified Public Accountant, holds a Masters in Business Administration from Henley Management College and she holds an Advanced Diploma in Retirement Provision pursued with the UK Pensions Management Institute. She is a Fellow Member of the Malta Institute of Accountants, Fellow Member of the Malta Institute of Taxation, and Member of Malta Institute of Management, Institute of Financial Services Practitioners, Institute of Directors UK and Associate Member of the Pension Management Institute UK. Deborah is the Chairperson of the Malta Association of Retirement Scheme Administrators. She sits on various committees within the Malta Chamber of Commerce and the Institute of Financial Services Practitioners. Deborah won the Malta’s Best Knowledge Entrepreneur of the Year Award, 2015 and also the Runner Up of the Malta Businesswoman of the Year Awards 2018. Deborah has also been nominated and then voted as one of the finalists for the Commonwealth Women Entrepreneur of the Year 2015. She won the Most Innovative Entrepreneur of the Year 2015, Malta – Wealth & Finance INTL’s 2015 Finance Awards. Also she is the winner of the Corporate Vision’s Corporate Excellence Awards as the Most Influential Businesswoman in Finance 2019 in Malta. e-mail address: deborah.schembri@stmmalta.com