Gartner has recommended three short-term actions that chief information officers (CIOs) should take to prepare for business disruptions as a result of the coronavirus health crisis.
“With such a dynamic situation like COVID-19, it has the potential to be as disruptive, or more, to an organisation’s continuity of operations as a cyber intrusion or natural disaster,” said Sandy Shen, research director of Gartner.
“When traditional channels and operations are impacted by the outbreak, the value of digital channels, products and operations become immediately obvious. This is a wake-up call to organisations that focus on daily operational needs at the expense of investing in digital business and long-term resilience.
The actions are:
- Source collaboration tolls with security controls and network support
Various quarantine measures and travel restrictions undertaken by organisations, cities and countries have caused uncertainties and disruptions as business operations are either suspended or run in limited capacity, Gartner said.
In organisations where remote working capabilities have not yet been established, CIOs need to work out interim solutions in the short term, including identifying use case requirements such as instant messaging for general communication, file sharing/meeting solutions, and access to enterprise apps such as ERP and CRM systems. They should also review all security arrangements to ensure secure access to applications and data.
Businesses may also experience staffing shortages so CIOs will need to work with the business to conduct workforce planning to assess risks and and address staffing gaps, particularly in mission critical areas.
Technologies such as AI could also be explored to automate tasks such as candidate screening and customer service.
- Engage customer and partners through digital channels
Workplace collaboration, video conferencing and live-streaming solutions can serve various customer engagement and selling scenarios.
“The value of digital channels becomes obvious as market demand shrinks and as people rely more on online platforms for daily supplies," Shen added. "Organisations can leverage digital channels, such as online marketplaces and social platforms, to compensate for some of the demand loss.
“They can set up official pages/accounts and integrate commerce capabilities to enable online selling. They should also quickly adapt products to make them suite for selling through digital channels.”
- Establish a single source of truth for employees
Confusing data from unverified sources - or the sheer lack of data - can lead to ill-informed decisions being made, escalating employee anxiety and making organisations underprepared for returning to normal operations.
Gartner believes such anxiety can somewhat be relieved if organisations can leverage data to support better decision making and communicate progress more efficiently to employees.
“Organisations can offer curated content, drawn from internal and external sources, to provide actionable guidance to employees," Shen said. "These sources include local governments, healthcare authorities and international such as the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“HR and corporate communications leaders may be involved to vet the content and interpret the company’s policies. Organisations should set up a site, app or hotline to share this information on a regular basis.
"Employees can also use these platforms to notify the company about their health conditions and seek emergency support and care services."