It was only a few weeks ago that a colleague and I spoke about the strange virus spreading around in China. Back then, my colleague, like many others around me, said something along the lines of “It’s just a flu”. I didn’t argue and certainly didn’t feel like any of this was going to influence my life or our business, at least no more than SARS or Ebola ever did.
Little did we know, all of us, that in just a couple of weeks our lives are going to be put on hold. It is now clear to everyone, especially companies of all sizes, that the Coronavirus crisis is not something that can be tucked away and ignored, but something to be proactively dealt with. We can now safely (and ironically, because nothing feels safe now) say that the crisis is here to stay, at least for a while.
We feel like nothing is certain, and many things indeed aren’t, but in this unpredictable era of uncertainty, dilemmas and many question marks, a few things are very clear to me, and I would like to offer you my perspective on the business metamorphoses we are all going to deal with and go through, during the crisis and after it. It will take place in four phases, each of them requires a different type of proactivity.
An empowered product management team, supported by the executive management, is essential in driving this process of analyzing the company’s specific impact of the crisis and proactively managing the company’s transition through the different phases.
Phase 1: Crisis Entry – the Phase of Confusion
Most western countries are already deep within this phase, characterized by drastic restrictions increasing daily and influencing our ability to work, specifically halting most of the face-to-face interaction and altering the way we communicate and work.
If I had to describe this phase with a single word, it would be confusion.
Working remotely, not everyone has the same capacity. Some deal with challenging physical conditions – they don’t have a proper office at home, do not have the fastest internet or need to take care of their children while working, while others are simply not so great at working alone.
In most cases, however, communication has dramatically changed overnight, and most of us are now using voice and video conferencing, remote presentations and collaboration platforms.
One of the key challenges of companies within this stage is coping with the new situation, not just because of the restrictions themselves, but also since they are changing all the time. Many companies are not able to deal with this dynamic nature of the situation and the constant changes.
The goal of this phase should be modest: to move out of this phase, as quickly as possible, into phase 2. This transition is NOT an external condition imposed on a company, but to a large extent, something that the company needs to determine. The transition depends on a proactive decision.
Phase 2: The Crisis Plateau – Value and Revenue
This is the crisis in its steady state. Work and travel are very limited, but at least we know what we are dealing with, as restrictions are likely not to change dramatically. Assuming that face-to-face interaction is still very limited (until further notice), we can relate to what we see now as the new status quo.
This phase, which is already here, for most companies, may be very long (months) or very short (days or weeks), but since we do not know how long it will last, we must structure the business so it is highly functional at this time. This may require rethinking processes in creative ways, so that we restore a maximum level of normality, generate value to our customers and monetize this value (generate revenue).
Dealing with this phase should be focused on our customers, our vendors and partners, and ourselves.
- Customers: What is happening to our customers (current and potential)? How does the crisis affect them? Does our product or service still generate the same value to them as it did before? Is it still required? Does it need to change to generate value? Is there an opportunity to generate even more value or a different type of value we have not generated before? How is our sales process affected?
- Vendors and Partners: Has our ecosystem changed? Can we look at the situation from our partners’ perspective? What restrictions are they dealing with that we are not? Are they going to continue operating (with us) the same as before? Do they need to make their own adjustments to enable our business to carry on effectively and generate value to customers and generate revenue as usual? Can we help them do so?
- Our Business: How does the crisis change our own processes? How can we work with social distancing? How can we work remotely? Do we need to come up with new processes? Do our engineers, Product Managers, Developers, Salespeople need to change?
The goal here is to restore normal operations, production, and service level and value generation to our customers, as much as possible. We should also seek new opportunities, as every crisis presents them. Of course, in many industries this is impossible, however, in many others, this is mostly just an adjustment that is going to become easier with time.
Phase 3: Emerging Out of the Crisis
At a certain point, the world, our country, and our company will start emerging out of the crisis. This is probably going to present us with a slow and gradual process, as the pace of getting back to normality may be fairly slow. My assessment is that it is going to be slower than the entry into the crisis, i.e. phase 3 is going to be significantly longer than phase 1.
Like the first phase, this is a transitional phase, and our goal here is move, as fast as our environment allows, into the next phase.
The two major challenges here are:
Analyze New Normality: What does your market look like at the end of the crisis? Define it in terms of the detailed operation, challenges and opportunities. You want to look at your competitors at this stage and see how they are moving into the New Normality phase.
For some industries, such as Banking and Insurance, that were already undergoing a structural change moving from physical to digital, the crisis may create a great boost enabling accelerated pace in digital transformation, generating opportunities, and enabling increased revenues and reduced costs.
Capitalize New Transition Opportunities: Observe the restrictions being lifted and see how this presents opportunities and challenges, during the transition. Think of this in terms of expanding your market at the expense of your competitors.
Phase 4: The New Normality
Finally, we emerge from this crisis. There is a vaccine, a large part of the population is already recovered, thus cannot be infected again and cannot transmit the virus. We may even think that everything is going back to the way it was before the crisis. But thinking that things will just be the same as before is unrealistic. Some of the habits of social distancing will actually stay with us, creating what may be referred to as The New Normality.
Realizing that costs can be reduced by using remote communication, it is likely that more people are going to continue working from home (at least partly), many of them now proficient in using various types of communication platforms.
The four phases are likely to find different businesses in different modes of operation. Each business needs to assess how the phases are related to its specific environment. One of the key aspects of understanding the way to cope with the phases is to analyze how long each phase is. This is a key assumption that everyone needs to make.
During all phases, the role of the product manager as a product leader is critical. We believe that an empowered product management team, supported by the executive management, is the driver behind managing this crisis successfully and moving into a stronger position as we step out of the crisis in phase four.
StarVision has the tools to make a quick assessment for each business and indicate how long the phases are and what kind of impact is the business going to encounter in each phase.