Now that you have managed through the initial shock of the COVID-19 crisis, here are a few key activities that you should undertake over the next six-to-twelve months to steady financial operations and prepare for the next disruptive event. A recent study found that only 16% of finance organizations meet management expectations regarding their response to disruptive or unforeseen major events. This shows that much work needs to be done by finance leaders, beyond the initial response to the COVID-19 crisis.
AGGRESSIVELY MANAGE YOUR FINANCIALS
Companies must accelerate forecasting frequency and provide executives with visibility to daily/weekly versus monthly/quarterly insight. Decision-making under conditions of high uncertainty requires taking calculated risks predicated on imperfect and ever-changing data. This will require frequent scenario planning and simulations to test multiple planning hypotheses, making optimum use of the best information available.
Adopt a Just-in-Time Forecasting Approach: Finance executives were painfully reminded that budget assumptions can be upended when external conditions materially change. That is why leading financial planning and analysis (FP&A) teams are now beginning to supplement the traditional, periodic planning cadence with just-in-time forecasting. This more agile, event-triggered process is based on keeping a watchful eye on any changes in underlying assumptions in order to come up with tactics to meet annual objectives, or in extreme cases, supplant them. In practice, this means creating a complementary forecasting process involving a trigger mechanism, a “relevancy filter,” and rapid deployment of FP&A teams to perform analysis, inform management of the impact of the new circumstances, and offer advice on how offset or avoid them.
PERFORM PERIODIC PROCESS-EFFICIENCY TRIAGE (Significant Finance Processes Value-to-Cost)
Finance often bears the brunt of cost and headcount reductions. To prepare, leaders should triage their processes by benchmarking them against the practices of leading organizations. By identifying the areas with the greatest value and widest cost gaps, choices about which efficiency-reducing practices to apply can be made with confidence.
SAFEGUARD YOUR SUPPLY CHAIN
This environment poses a unique need to manage both demand shocks and supply disruptions. To counter demand shock, companies must proactively identify and analyze an array of scenarios and use that analysis to prioritize and plan their response. Supply disruptions also require an analysis of scenarios to identify the imbalances between supply and demand by product and geography. Companies will also need to prioritize channels and customers, and then apply that prioritization to execute solutions.
- Develop a rapid demand shock response plan: How will we implement leading options? How do we sequence key activities?
- Analyze supply and demand scenarios to project shortages. Understand the percentage of suppliers in high-risk regions. Prioritize options and define allocation rules.
- Monitor the following key crisis indicators daily: 1. Demand impacts: percentage of change in unit volume sold; percentage of change in net revenue; average unit selling price 2. Supply impacts: percentage of change in units produced; percentage of change in days of inventory on hand; percentage of change in available unit capacity
- Develop a supply disruption rapid response plan: Which resources need to be mobilized to closely manage the situation? How will we make decisions and track those centrally?
FORTIFY YOUR INFRASTRUCTURE
While the focus understandably has been on short-term business continuity, it is important to consider the demands on the Information Technology (IT) function over the coming months and reprioritize effort and investments quickly. Focus should be on fortifying the infrastructure to sustain virtual work and collaboration over a period of time – possibly indefinitely as operating models may shift to new, post-pandemic norms. Agility will be key: IT must monitor connectivity, throughput, and productivity and adjust rapidly if needed.
That said, recognize that this is also not the time to compromise strategic IT initiatives. As the largest G&A spend category, IT is a ripe target for cost cutting. However, doing so without a clear and thoughtful action plan and value assessment carries a high risk of jeopardizing long-term competitiveness and the ability for the business to recover quickly.
- Review and segment the IT demand portfolio by critical must-do’s and reprioritize projects based on capacity and level of investment. Eliminate or defer lower-priority initiatives.
- Assess and strengthen security protocols considering the number of employee devices currently used to access services. Educate employees about security guidelines for systems and collaboration tools to prevent hacking and other intrusions.
- Make sure your IT operating model can sustain support for the spike in virtual work and collaboration over time. This may require additional remote IT support and security capacity.
- Ensure you have sufficient collaboration tools for enabling productive, virtual work and touchpoints throughout the day. Work with service providers and vendors to deploy collaborative tools, such as virtual whiteboards, that fill gaps in current services.
BECOME A DIGITAL CHAMPION, TRANSFORMATION LEADER, TALENT POWERHOUSE, AND ANALYTICS HUB
Digital Champion: Uses modern digital architecture, cloud-based core applications, integrated blended data, robotic process automation (RPA), predictive analytics, smart (AI-based) automation, and self-service tools to improve processes and scale services.
Transformation Leader: Possesses dedicated transformation resources and adopts agile development and implementation methodologies with an enterprise focus by relying on smart automation technologies.
Talent Powerhouse: Understands the roles, skills, and capabilities required to support enterprise goals Assesses finance skills continuously to inform recruiting and talent development programs and minimize resource gaps and build future agile capabilities. Represents a net “talent attractor,” where the best finance talent wants to work based on opportunities for transformational personal growth alongside high-performing peers in a world-class organization.
Analytics Hub: Develops a portfolio of predictive and prescriptive analytics tool sets that can be used at will to provide a competitive edge. Concentrates data analytics expertise in CoEs to magnify reach. Deploys advanced, AI-enabled analytics and data visualization tools to provide the business with self-service solutions.
Finance executives do not have a crystal ball. However, economic bears and bulls can both agree that the on-again, off-again concern about a deep-recession is itself a worrisome trend that portends greater volatility in coming months. Black-swan events like the now-global coronavirus crisis can change the outlook quickly and drastically.
It is therefore incumbent on finance leaders to guide the company decision makers on ways to cut cost intelligently, while ensuring they can still respond quickly to a sudden rise in demand or transaction volume. That requires laying a scalable digital foundation, developing more dynamic forecasting processes, and optimizing the use of financial resources. Regardless of the need, Collective Insights has the experience and the knowledge to support you in navigating through uncertain economic times and financial volatility.