Operational resiliency in a post-Covid world

Fragility and specific points of weakness in global supply chains and service networks were swiftly revealed in 2020, but most companies overall adapted quickly and effectively. What's next?

By Max Burkhalter
January 13, 2021
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Fragility and specific points of weakness in global supply chains and service networks were swiftly revealed in 2020. Companies overall adapted quickly and effectively, abandoning plans for slow rollout of e-services and plunging headfirst into meeting the challenge of a suddenly transformed world. New levels of agility, productivity, end-customer connectivity and visibility were achieved, and operations teams came through, delivering on goals that would have been laughed off as unrealistic only weeks into the year.

A year later, organizations continue to innovate and rise to meet new challenges as flux continues and resiliency demands peak even higher. Companies aren't planning on going backward; instead, they are taking lessons learned form the pandemic to future-proof their businesses and drive their digital transformation yet further.

Risk management
Online and omnichannel grew exponentially and are expected to continue to flourish. Physical locations from bank branches to retail stores will have to adapt to continued demand for remote service. Delivery is going to remain a priority as a customer service touchpoint, and logistics operations will need to continue to meet new expectations for rapid turnaround in higher volume. Manufacturers and warehouse operations will need to adjust to meet small batch demands.

Product value chains will become even more regionalized as globally integrated asset networks and supply chains are now known to increase risk to a company's agility. Current networks are being expanded on and risk management has come to the forefront for many organizations. Localized outsourcing is on the rise, allowing volume to be ramped up or down with more precision based on demand. Make vs. buy ramifications are being reassessed with an eye to supply security. Dedicated supply-chain risk-management functions work in tandem with manufacturing, procurement and supply-chain functions. Many businesses are accelerating decentralization to deploy inventory closer to customers as part of their crisis-response plan.

Digital transformation
Staff shortages have been largely addressed by industries across the board by automating processes and developing self-service systems. Customers are rapidly becoming used to helping themselves through automated systems that can reduce human error and deliver better results. Automation frees up human workers to provide one-on-one customer support in the shrinking number of cases that need a more nuanced approach. According to McKinsey, one telecom company discovered it was able to swiftly automate 50% of its back-office and invoicing tasks, as well as up to half of all tasks in its technical call centers, leaving agents free to handle the most complex queries for the highest value to the customer.

Digital approaches that focus on gently but inexorably transforming customer experience can significantly boost value when applied end-to-end. Rebuilding operating models with a focus on meeting new customer needs, then investing in hiring and development to add data processing capabilities and leverage the power of predictive analytics is the path to an educated consumer base that will be discerning in their choices.

The McKinsey report also highlighted an insurance company that automated many steps in their policy-servicing workflows, cutting time from initiation to completion by 90%. The same company also saw their products brought to market at triple the speed. This added a projected $1 billion in additional enterprise value.

Operational shifts
All of the above can be achieved with lower CapEx than is usually anticipated. Cloud solutions deliver subscription based models that let you start small and scale fast. Utilizing technology-enabled methodologies can allow substantial progress in days instead of months, accelerating cost-transparency work, improving warehouse and logistics spend by optimizing planning and significantly reducing procurement costs while cutting overall operating expenses.

The human factor and future of work cannot be emphasized enough. Distributed workforces have accelerated trends that were already underway, and many repetitive, manual and low cognitive requirement roles are being phased out more swiftly than anticipated. Machine learning isn't replacing humans, however, companies are reskilling and redeploying employees armed with new capabilities to meet the growing demand for a workforce that can handle augmentation. Reskilling is affecting operations roles the most, leading companies to invest in internal employee education, training, support and nurturing to build an agile, loyal workforce. 

Indian woman smiling while she handles a customer call.The human factor cannot be downplayed when it comes to customer service.

New ecosystems
Trying times make for interesting bedfellows, and the concept of industry "frenemies" is taking hold as companies realize that competitiveness doesn't have to stand in the way of collaboration. Shared data, resources and knowledge can transform previously cutthroat industries into smaller, localized ecosystems that are more symbiotic in their relationships. A separate McKinsey report notes that technological advancement is being funded collaboratively in many sectors to reduce the costs of innovation, and then all parties can benefit from deployment.  

Perle offers industrial-grade connectivity tools that can help enterprises make the best use of cutting-edge technologies, including robust console servers that enable data storage and sharing at previously unheard of scale for collaboration. Read some of our customers' stories to learn more. 


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