Chris Weston
Chris Weston (Principal, European Client Advisory)
Marc Dowd
Marc Dowd (Principal, European Client Advisory)

As your business picks itself up from the shock of the pandemic there are many methods you can use to start to plan your way through the short- medium- and long-term challenges ahead.  My colleagues Tony Olvet and Megha Kumar from IDC Canada published an interesting approach recently which is based on the well-known psychological theory by Abraham Maslow – the hierarchy of needs.

In Maslow’s terms, this is a motivational theory where the needs at the bottom of the pyramid must be met before the one above becomes a motivator.  This is a nice metaphor for business planning, in that we often find ourselves unable to “step back” and take a considered view of our surroundings while we are dealing with emergencies that require immediate attention.

I can hear lots of former colleagues in my head (especially CFOs!) shouting that the Operational and Financial viability should be at the bottom, since nobody can be made safe if the organisation isn’t functioning, and that’s a reasonable point of view.  However I think we should approach this as we did the pandemic – we made things safe by switching to remote working and then we considered our sustainability, not the other way around.

Approaching safety from a technology mindset, the obvious thing is that we provide the remote working tools so that employees, customers and partners can stay in touch and keep those information flows in place.  We also need to think about the way security is impacted by our changed circumstances so that we can safely manage our employees and clients personal data, for example.

Once we move on to managing the viability of our organisation, the most critical thing in my experience is good data. Measuring the things that matter in your business, from the use of your funding facilities, your sales pipeline, your conversion rates, your live orders, the time from order to invoice through to your ability to collect revenues are all absolutely vital to managing your way through uncertain economic times.  Sometimes hard decisions are necessary but there is nothing worse than cutting the wrong place or cutting too deep – except perhaps not cutting enough resulting in the loss of everyone’s job.  So those data and management information investments are worth their weight in gold as you go through this period, as are flexible and understanding technology partners.

If we can reassure ourselves that we have viability then we can face the future and understand the likely needs of our customers so that we can be sure that we have the right business model to operate successfully. Enhancing or rethinking our existing processes and technology solutions will be the key at this stage, as we focus on the value that we bring to the wider business ecosystem.

Only when we are comfortable that we have a safe business in all ways can we lift our heads to consider the future. This might happen quickly, it may take time, but being aware of where we are in this process is helpful. What happens to our business in a world where all our suppliers and customers have had to review all their processes, not to mention our employees? It would be optimistic in the extreme to think we carry on as before!

There are a thousand articles you can read about strategic planning and transformation, and IDC’s Digital Transformation Frameworks are available with case studies for just about every industry you can think of – so I won’t regurgitate them here, but of course I can help if you would like to know more.  But to get there we need to be sure of our footing in the new economy and your choices around your technology investments will be more critical than ever, as we all attempt to prosper through efficiency rather than cutting to survive.

So in conclusion, if you’re not getting the reaction or engagement that you expect from colleagues as you look to the future and how you might transform your business or service, maybe their motivation is still in the lower sections of the pyramid and you need to help them through those as quickly as possible before they will join you in planning ahead.

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