It isn’t often in history that the above title would be true for most companies and happen at the same time. Think about it: the logistics of almost all businesses already look different and probably in monumental ways.

Covid-19 will go down in history. The human toll is unimaginable and the unfolding business impacts continue to morph and cause disruption. The middle and ending as to how businesses adapt is yet to unfold. For some, paralysis and economic uncertainty reign supreme. We covered this in our recent top 10 ERP / HCM / supply chain predictions for the 2020s (post-coronavirus)

The current environment has all but brought IPOs and mergers to a halt. Think of Airbnb who was considering an initial public offering – and the variables and barriers that have emerged. Ready to book an Airbnb stay anytime soon? I didn’t think so.

The health of our people and our business

While we watch out for our personal health, there is also the need to address the health of our businesses and do it at a speed of change that’s uncomfortable. Technology is your friend and I predict good tech will get even better at helping address issues and seize opportunities going forward. ERP and CRM projects in times of change like this will look much different than the past.

I was recently speaking with a manufacturing executive who was talking about the ongoing development of thermal detection/camera systems for the production floor to take body temperatures. My reaction was excited – and I even thought we should put it in airports, gyms, classrooms, etc. too. This type of cutting-edge technology is already in development but watch for considerable acceleration based on the current environment.

While you’ll see tech explosions in several areas, artificial intelligence is probably the one to watch. International Data Corp. is predicting up to a 16% acceleration in AI jobs globally this year. The coronavirus will propel manufacturing ERP, AI, and other technologies in new ways to help companies cope and change. The healthcare industry is a good bet to be an early adopter.

This blog will discuss a few (of the many) things your company may need to change to succeed in a future state.

Supply Chain Management Systems

Supply chain management is an art science unto itself. When done well it benefits the business via cashflow and profits. This goes together with happy customers able to access good and services quickly.

Global sourcing once pointed to the promise of greater profits, but as we are now seeing – greater risks. At the very least, the realization that global resourcing needs to be more carefully managed and diversified (think multiple suppliers and where they are located) is at the heart of the conversation. (See our related article about Supply Chain, Chain, Chain – Chain of Fools).

There’s no one easy answer except to point out the obvious that your supply chain probably needs to be reexamined and/or reengineered as it’s the backbone of your business. You’re probably already experiencing fluctuations in sales, shortages, delays, tariffs or a combination thereof. . . and there’s no one silver bullet solution to the problem.

In the past, you thought you knew where to go to get raw materials and product. But that has changed. Businesses with a J.C. Penney type of compromised business model may not have the chance to reinvent themselves; perhaps your company does. This is an important consideration as you think about your supply chain management transformation for the future.

Streamlining has equated to unpreparedness for the cataclysmal. Your company’s vision for future state must change and unfortunately incorporate/accept a certain degree of uncertainty around forecasting. Add to this the accelerated disruption and shift from traditional sales channels to online retailing and the need for additional delivery and logistics options.

Interesting Sidebar: There is a strategy element to supply chain management that we really didn’t get into in this blog. Watch for the unfolding story of manufacturer 3M Corp’s defense of large-scale sales of protective masks and respirators to other countries while the pandemic hits the US. Based in Minnesota, the company is pushing back claiming they fear retaliation from other countries if exporting is stopped or redirected. 3M sources materials and manufacturing from around the world. Let’s just call this one “supply chain roulette.”

Customer Relationship Management Systems

The need for robust CRM technology is no longer an option in business. Without knowing anything about your company I know that it requires a CRM that can technically integrate with many parts of your business. But CRM vs. ERP systems are two very different things.

Customer relationship management systems automate, synchronize and should integrate with supply chain, procurement, warehousing, marketing, etc. – going far beyond call center technology. We’re talking about centralizing data via your CRM, and yes, this data-driven approach will be used to target your customer base in ways that generate business.

If your CRM’s primary function is managing your interactions with customers your technology is out of date or not fully deployed. It’s almost guaranteed that you’re not getting the visibility that integration brings, giving managers and C-level execs information they need to do their jobs.

CRMs can now integrate with social media and social media sites. Social media marketing via your CRM is a real thing and the adoption rate is high. Chances are your marketing department is using social media to engage and propel brand image, perception and customer interaction. Think of it as “social listening.”

Crowdsourcing – pulling in the opinions of groups to collect data about your business or common topics – can add real value. As a consultancy, we will often lob out questions about digital transformation topics and ask for responses (attempting to harness the wisdom of a group that shares interests and experiences).

If you believe that the customer experience is as important as your products (and it is), then this becomes the case for advanced/integrated CRM technology. If you’re not investing in it, trust that some of your competition is. It is important to consider potential CRM projects in times of change.

Some good news about CRM software:

  • It is the fastest growing segment of the software market. It emerged in the 1980s and continues to develop and grow. Cloud technology has advanced the possible. This means lots of choices and price ranges for buyers.
  • Many CRM offerings have proven themselves over the years and millions of interactions. Another way of saying it is that this segment of software has matured. As independent ERP consultants we seek out proven solutions. While we’ll consider the most “popular” CRM options for our clients, we’re not influenced by their marketing dollars. It’s not unusual for Third Stage Consulting to present viable options the client may have never heard of.
  • You don’t always need a whole new ERP system to update or add a CRM (but software resellers will tell you the contrary). Today’s CRM options have to be able to integrate with multiple types of systems to be sellable.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the intuitiveness of today’s CRM solutions which relates to change management adoption. This is an important point since these feature-laden software solutions can do anything from report generation to advanced analytics.

Human Capital Management Systems

This is one topic I can’t get out of my mind. Will our work lives ever look the same? Probably not, and employer adoption towards advanced HCM software will need to increase. HCM adoption will likely accelerate as a result of the health pandemic of 2020.

An event of monumental consequence has moved workers online and working from home in untraditional proportions. Nope, herding all those cats back to the desks where they once sat probably won’t happen in the same way or in the same numbers. I’m a believer that something good will come from this including the relaxing of corporate bureaucracy.

Our company’s owner can relate almost anything to a song lyric. It’s pretty fun and he’s usually right on target. And when it comes to big pharma, big corporate, big minions of consultants, big whatever – he can relate it to a Pink Floyd lyric from the song Welcome To The Machine:

Welcome my son, welcome to the machine
Where have you been?
It’s alright, we know where you’ve been
You’ve been in the pipeline filling in time

This refers to the willingness to implement change – transformation of how a workplace could function. Perhaps overdue change on how we manage and communicate and getting serious about using technology in a collaborative fashion.

Sorting it all out – the new reality of how employee communication and access to data can work will require technology, and that tech exists. You’ll see massive transformation in the healthcare and education sector. Perhaps the business sector will follow and no longer consider it an experiment.

In Conclusion

No matter how you dice it, future state visioning should be happening within your organization. This is not the first-time business have dealt with crises. It may, however, be unique in how many quadrants of your company will need to change. The business leaders of tomorrow are already tackling this head on.

As independent business consultants, Third Stage Consulting helps companies formulate, recast and re-examine their strategies. If you’d like to hear our perspective, we’d love to have a conversation. Please feel free to contact us to arrange a time for an informal conversation with members of our team.

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