Finance / Strategy Execution

Strategic Considerations Amid a Pandemic

The impacts of the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic seem to reach further and dive deeper each and every day. Impacts to people, their families and their jobs are unparalleled in our lifetime. The global severity is in part because of the connected world and economy we thrive in today. So, besides the obvious communications, and being front and center and transparent with associates, customers and other third-party stakeholders, what should the CFO be doing to work through the pandemic crisis?

While the following strategic considerations may seem like the traditional list for a CFO, how they are prioritized and implemented can provide significant dividends and payback in uncertain times and provide rapid momentum once we begin to “flatten the curve.”

Think Strategically!

Long-term strategic investments need to come first.

Analyze and review strategic, capital, and investment financial planning across the enterprise portfolio. It is important to balance the portfolio across growth, innovation, digital transformation, and keep-the-lights-on. Proactively manage project changes and risks to streamline delivery. It will be important to optimize resources during this time and determine which inflight programs may need to be re-prioritized. Resources should be directed to support and continue strategic long-term capital investments and adjusting methodologies to focus activities in an agile manner.

Understand your SG&A.

Selling, General and Administrative Expenses (SG&A) offer many opportunities to reduce costs. In the context of a contingency plan, the objective is to adjust the cost structure to support stabilization and preservation of the enterprise. In addition, working capital improvements or other SG&A reduction may be able to support funding for strategic resources or programs. When analyzing SG&A expenditures, it is important to stay true to the enterprise strategy and vision.

Consider and be ready for strategic M&A activity.

The downturn can offer significant upside for organizations that have built up cash reserves. Many examples could be cited in financial services during the 2008 crisis.  The key to being successful during this time is to analyze and refine the corporations Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) processes, including the identification of specific targets. Being ready is important, but thinking strategically about non-core businesses or complementary businesses that could reshape the corporate portfolio is also important.

Leverage Technology!

Improve and enable collaboration tools and business unit applications.

    • Invest in licenses for chat, meetings, calls, and collaboration. It will take some adjustment depending on the company and workforce, but productive meetings can be held in “Teams,” “Skype” or other digital collaboration tools. All attendees can access recordings of meetings they’ve missed and then listen in to the most relevant parts.
    • Many companies have moved legacy applications to the cloud. But even with most applications accessible in the cloud, some still require VPN. Windows virtual desktop or Citrix Remote access should help enable remote access to critical business applications.

Continue to drive transactional activities towards automation opportunities.

While many organizations have started robotics processing automation (RPA) programs and centers of excellence, it is not too late to invest and stand-up a small digital workforce in strategic areas. To free up resources to focus on analytical and value-added activities that are crucial during this pandemic, it is important to take the “robot” out of the “human” during this time. While some advisors will say you need a huge center of excellence, or large amounts of IT resources to implement RPA, it is simply not the case. Quick activity reviews and assessments can be done to retool process areas that can eliminate redundant or manual process steps. As you mature the RPA processes and digital workforce, robust governance and organizational ownership can be addressed later.

Fast track data and analytics programs in Finance and your user community.

Data analysts today need an agile solution that allows them to take charge of the entire analytics process. Improving self-service data analytics delivers the ease of use, speed, flexibility, and scalability you require to support the business and understand cause and effect throughout the organization. These analytics tools can bridge the gap across skills, speed, and depth of analysis and empower you to achieve ever-greater insights without coding or depending on other departments.

Assess the Organizational Model to Drive Business Growth

Understand/Review service delivery and placement model.

Organizations need to consider a balanced operating model that is both effective and efficient and is able to deliver business insights. Depending on the maturity of a digital workforce, certain factors need to be considered as part of the overall design. Shared Services, Centers of Excellence and Finance in the business. The application of a service center provides one-stop shopping for customers or employees. Design a communications and change management plan to foster agreement around the scope and organizational impact of the service delivery model updates.

Certain positions may continue in a virtual-remote environment.

The number of organizations that offer flexible or completely remote work options increased by 40 percent over the past five years. Rather than occupying expensive downtown real estate and maintaining a huge stack of servers, our data is stored in the cloud and teams can be spread around their customer base. Identifying the business units or cost centers that can operate remotely can pay dividends through a positive workplace culture. Social interaction, even outside of strictly work-related tasks, occurs naturally in non-remote workplaces. That social interaction goes a long way in shaping a workplace’s culture. Companies over time can leverage the physical savings by investing in employees, culture and other strategic investments.

Recruiting. Selective recruiting for key positions as talent is available.

Thoughtful enterprises are recognizing that their long-term competitiveness depends upon their ability to attract strong talent today. The challenge for companies is balancing investment in identifying and recruiting talent with the company’s desire to keep headcount and compensation rates low. Companies looking to augment their workforce or fill critical positions should be aggressive during this period. Working with executive leadership to identify functions in need of new talent or areas of specific business focus lead to strategic hires who deliver significant value over the long term.

The number one priority of a company during a pandemic is the health and welfare of its employees. In the event of pandemic event, businesses will play a key role in protecting employees’ health and safety as well as limiting the negative impact to the economy and society. Communicate to and educate your employees. Disseminate information to employees about your pandemic preparedness and response plan, but think strategically, leverage technology and assess your organizational capabilities.