As we come to the end of a tumultuous year, some writers have mused what we would do if we could reboot 2020. Reboot is a term that has become familiar through using computers. In the same way that rebooting a computer changes the way it is operating, when you reboot you change how you currently operate. It means to start something or do something again, in a way that is new and different.
As a CEO, how about applying that to your business, how and what would you change? As the World Economic Forum has pointed out:
Most of the major consulting companies have a proprietary methodology for business recovery post-COVID. They all follow a similar pattern which might be summarized in four steps.
- Review – consider what did and did not work before, what has been learned, what was missed. Re-assess options based on the understanding that a reboot requires a mind-set change.
- Innovate – identify new strategies and options, including bringing in people with different perspectives to get you out of your comfort zone.
- Commit – define your destination, create a playbook, and then implement it. Importantly, re-engage with your staff to get their full buy-in and contributions to the playbook.
- Reboot – take the actions needed to prioritize and realign processes, technology, and the workforce to reach the destination.
Going through these steps requires that a CEO institutes an attitude and culture that is open-minded, bold, and willing to make the necessary investments. In particular, the CEO will need to accept that this will be a project that recognizes the rise and role of digital technology.
For the last few years, businesses have created bureaucracy, complexity, and overheads. For each new director or executive, when changing products or launching new ones, or moving into new territory, a new layer of “stuff” is added. It is rare to take anything away.
This is the step where you evaluate technical debt. As the organization grows, it’s quite natural to add systems that cannot be simply removed. Not all technical debt is bad, as not all financial debt is bad, but like financial debt, you have to be careful what technical debt you incur. Over time, accumulated debt can slow your business down.
This is where the CEO:
- says “goodbye” to every process, technology, structure, and policy that impedes agility, flexibility, and adaptability;
- identifies gaps in the business;
- evaluates suppliers and sourcing procedures;
- re-considers what channels you can offer customers.
In this step, the CEO should be looking at building a new set of rules, practices, technologies, and cultural norms that let people work remotely, and that lets the business interact and deliver products and services using a digital approach.
Virtual communications, be it with staff, suppliers, or customers, will become a standard and accepted way of conducting business.
When customers ‘ buying patterns change quickly (as they have done in 2020), how can you recognize them in time and respond to safeguard the business?
If supply chain problems occur (as they also did in 2020), how can the business find alternatives using digital technology rather than the older, slow, manual practices, to meet customer service levels?
On the factory floor, how can you get greater visibility into the production process to improve planning and scheduling, and track work-in-progress?
For the procurement and order processes, what could be done to improve collaboration with suppliers and customers, control costs, and improve demand accuracy?
You don’t just jump from innovation to reboot without making the commitments necessary. This will include:
- considering the technology options to enable the future of work, and to understand the types of skills necessary for the new work environment;
- the collaborative technologies needed for both staff internally and partners externally, and how to give employees the skills to use them;
- engaging staff to get a commitment at every level so they can participate and contribute to changes; remembering that there is no change without loss and no loss without pain.
The final step is where the CEO gets to execute the work that has been planned. For example:
- a secure portal where customers can get access to the status of orders in real-time, or suppliers can respond to Requests for Quotes and submit documents electronically;
- modernize processes using investments in data and artificial intelligence to assist in decision making;
- improve the effectiveness of customer support by using chatbots;
- upgrade sales and marketing by implementing a CRM system integrated with the production and inventory systems;
- make the factory floor safer by managing employee shifts and re-arranging production operations with shop floor data collection and manufacturing operations management.
A real reason to reboot
The call to radically modernize business by using software was made in 2011 when Marc Andreessen (a tech inventor at the start of the Internet and an early Facebook investor) published “Why software is eating the world” in the Wall Street Journal His argument was that companies in every industry should assume that a software revolution is coming. Rebooting business in 2020 needs to recognize that this is no longer a vague prediction but is becoming reality.
The pandemic has accelerated technology adoption by years. Doing things virtually, remotely and online is now the default way. Those businesses that can offer platforms and solutions that facilitate online, and offline, interactions will build new structures, relationships, and new means of production. A reboot can position a company for growth even in difficult times.