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Critical IT actions for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Most businesses have now accepted that we have at least 6 months of COVID-19 induced disruption ahead. As the pandemic runs its course and the implementation of social distancing continues to evolve, many IT plans and strategies have been thrown into disarray. If you are struggling to pivot and redefine your priorities, here are BDO’s eight suggested actions to consider over the immediate term.

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Rapidly implement flexible working capabilities

The introduction of further Social Distancing measures is the next step in what will no doubt be an extensive program of increasing restrictions. As the Stages are implemented, every business operational model will need to change. On a positive note, this provides an opportunity to seriously enhance your flexible working capabilities for not only the current situation, but to meet future requirements.

IT leaders need to provide the tools and frameworks for businesses to utilise collaboration platforms such as Skype, GoToMeeting, Zoom and Microsoft Teams. If you don’t currently provide these tools to your business, you need to assess the best tool for your requirements and develop an implementation plan ASAP.

Build that dashboard

Monitoring financial performance and cash flows will be critical over the next six plus months. Management will need to pay attention to obtaining timely and accurate financial information in order to recognise any reduction in financial performance and implement corrective action in a timely manner.

As we look to manage our businesses in different ways, through challenges and new ways of operating, we must focus on establishing data-driven decision making.

Leveraging existing data and creating an environment to collate, sort and report, will enable you to understand the overall position of your business. If your business is faced with sharing large, complex spreadsheets to determine performance, now is the time to make that investment in a single Microsoft Power BI or Tableau dashboard.

Update your digital services strategy

 The next few months are going to highlight just how important it is for all businesses to have the ability to deliver goods and services through digital means.

If you had a digital service strategy, spend some time refining it. If you didn’t have a strategy, it’s time to prioritise putting one together. As a starting point, understand what digital services you currently offer, what your customers want and therefore identify the gap you need to fill.

Use IT as a market differentiator

We are already seeing businesses whose systems are unable to cope in a socially distanced world, but we are also seeing innovative business owners implementing ways to keep operating in an increasingly restricted society.

During the next 12 months, IT systems and capabilities will be a differentiator, contributing to determining which businesses survive or thrive in the circumstances and those that don’t. IT investment will be essential, not discretionary.

Revisit your supplier and service agreements

Most businesses will have supplier and support agreements that have been in place for a number of years and are rarely looked at. Now is the time to review these agreements.

These reviews shouldn’t be all about saving money. They should be about driving greater value out of what has been agreed and making them viable for longer, for your business and theirs. If you can drive greater value out of your service agreements, this will serve your business extremely well during difficult times.

Accept that the world will be different once this has passed

Pandemics have significant economic effects. Not all are negative. An article in The Economist recently highlighted that the Black Death in the 14th century raised the bargaining powers of Europe’s labourers and contributed to the breakdown of the feudal economy.

Although we can’t predict what the world will look like once the pandemic has run its course, it is likely that organisations with agile and scalable IT systems will be in a very strong, or stronger, position than others. If the world’s economy significantly shifts, and your business can’t move fast enough, it might be in danger.

Keep your eyes on cyber risks

With turmoil comes opportunities and no one identifies these faster or better than cyber-attack groups. If you have quickly implemented a new work model to meet social distancing requirements, complete a risk assessment. Understand what risks might now be embedded in your business due to a disbursed workforce and keep your compliance requirements front of mind.

Now is also the time to ensure that your IT change management process is consistently applied and that all changes to your infrastructure are assessed for potential cyber risks. Don’t open the door to attacks by implementing changes in haste.

Ask for help

Above all, don’t be afraid to take advice.  Now is the time to consult your IT advisor to help your business withstand these tough economic times.

BDO has a range of resources available to business on our website and our experienced team is available to discuss your needs.

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