Business in the era of COVID-19: Setting a precedent for the unprecedented

As “unprecedented” as these times are, it’s becoming increasingly clear that this is not the first, nor the last time, that organizations have had to quickly and effectively make changes in order to compensate for the threats that world events, pandemics, wars and natural disasters have on businesses continuity.

To varying degrees, this has happened before

An article published on Entrepreneur quickly walks us through a few hundred years of catastrophic events and their effect on the trajectory of governments, economies and businesses:

“The Black Death in the 1300s broke the long-ingrained feudal system in Europe and replaced it with the more modern employment contract. A mere three centuries later, a deep economic recession—thanks to the 100-year war between England and France—kick-started a major innovation drive that radically improved agricultural productivity. Fast forward to more recent times, the SARS pandemic of 2002-2004 catalyzed the meteoric growth of a then-small ecommerce company called Ali Baba and helped establish it at the forefront of retail in Asia. This growth was fueled by underlying anxiety around traveling and human contact, similar to what we see today with COVID-19.”

In a recent webcast hosted by Softtek, “A Look into the Shifting Demands on the Technology Organization,” former VP and CIO of GE, John Seral, summarizes another unexpected tragedy that effected the way things are done on an organizational level:

“This [COVID-19] is an event that I haven’t seen as a CIO since 9/11, which was shorter in duration, but we still had people rushing to work at home and going to some of our BCP operating plants. Back then we didn’t have the tech. Today we do, and we can do a much better job and much quicker. But some common elements I’m seeing is, everybody’s scared, including the CIOs. [Nobody is] sure that they’ve tested enough, if they have enough equipment out there [or] if the people will respond [well] to the technologies. There is no playbook—most people have plans, but not for what we’re seeing right now.”

To varying degrees, this will happen again

Seral’s reference to being much more equipped for the future, teaches us a hauntingly prophetic lesson: it’s time to have a playbook.

In other words, perhaps calling events like these “unprecedented times” may not be the best attitude. Referring to them as such does nothing but justify our inability to create an operational core capable of enduring the unpredictable.

Instead, if we come to terms with unpredictable and tragic incidents being part of the business life cycle, we can better prepare our businesses to handle them. We must own up to our operational inefficiencies, enable our employees, prepare our IT infrastructure, and finally, be cognizant of that fact that any number of circumstances could throw a business, industry or economy off its tracks.

Unfortunately, we live in a world that is not immune to tragedy; natural disasters, terrorism and pandemics have not seen their last day. And as long as they exist, so too will the need to have a playbook. At Softtek we’re helping companies to not only reset and restore current operations, but also enable the right infrastructure and plans for thriving in the future.  

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