While Covid-19 has undeniably caused a global crisis, it has also brought out the best in many of us, highlighting strengths in many areas. Professionally, we have all observed how adequate preparation, and formalization of business practices and processes, have added certainty, dependability, and reliability during this challenging time; where those are lacking, however, the crisis has magnified business problems and thrown into stark relief the importance of such preparation.
In a recent meeting with a client, we reviewed a situation in which flaws in reporting processes have added more uncertainty to sales reporting. In this particular example, involving a luxury confectionary retailer, the client’s management team has mistrusted key sales numbers for quite some time, noting persistent errors in the way individual items are coded and rolled up into a product hierarchy for reporting sales results. While the underlying issue has long been known, fixing the problem not made a priority as the few subject matter experts who could properly address the issue had higher priorities and limited bandwidth. Now, in the midst of the current pandemic, the issue has become critical, as management must have a better picture of how the business is really performing, product by product and region by region. For example, they do not have clear visibility into such basic metrics as product sales at the channel level, overall channel performance, or individual SKU performance across time and region.
In contrast, Temberton has been working with a healthcare client to develop a more robust communications campaign management platform. Over the past 18 months, we have created a platform that supports the entire customer journey and is front-end agnostic. Given the urgent need to communicate with customers during this health crisis, the platform has become a key tool for digital communications, allowing for quick turnaround to release important content and measure engagement. While even six months ago no one could have imagined using the platform for such an event, the careful preparation of management and the efforts of the development team are now providing tremendous benefits both to our client and to our client’s customers.
Could we have predicted the precise nature of the international pandemic that we are now experiencing? No – but, based on historical precedent (the “Spanish Flu” Pandemic of 1918, the “Asian Flu” Pandemic of 1957, the 2003 SARS outbreak, and so on), we should have expected it: there are numerous catastrophic scenarios that we could conceive of if we but remember history and plan accordingly. For many reasons, preparing for such disaster scenarios may be out of the reasonable range of expectations – but what we can do is work on key fundamentals in our businesses, fundamentals that may make or break us when the going gets rough. These include having access to the critical data needed to make important decisions, to communicate effectively with customers, to track engagement and sales by product and channel, and to continue to have the visibility and clarity needed to operate the business in a time of uncertainty.
We can all make the best of the current crisis by reviewing history, by understanding how today’s events are similar (and how they are different) from historical antecedents, what the critical business functions are to surviving and even thriving in such environments, and how we can strengthen those functions before, during, and after such a crisis. There are key lessons here for all of us – what lessons are you and your organization learning, and what insights do you have that might benefit others?