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COVID-19 vs Global Business Services: coping during a pandemic

Enate works with a number of enterprises with headquarters and regional offices located across the globe, spanning from New York to London to Dubai, many relying on shared services operations for back-office functionality. The question is, how does a business cope with a pandemic and global business continuity?  

When a pandemic crisis strikes, our first thoughts are closer to home, with many of us in local lockdown scenarios. Naturally, our number one priority is to make sure that we are safe, while balancing the ability to work from home and all the natural adjustments that entails. As time during the lockdown continues to be extended, globally, the focus continues to grow on the dramatic impact on businesses during this time.

There are new scenarios many hadn't considered. For example, there are very different concerns when trying to run a global shared service, over a wide geographic area and, often, quite some distance from corporate headquarters, across several time zones and languages, in addition to working against a disease that affects a high proportion of the population. To say the odds are against you in the situation we are currently facing, is no understatement, but what if there was a way to mitigate some of these difficulties?

Where global business services, or shared services, were once the stalwart of businesses operations continuity, without the right back up, they are now at risk of becoming the bottleneck in the process, and for reasons we could never have foreseen. For example, consider that many shared services are located in India, operating a very different pandemic protocol to the UK, complete with disruptive power cuts, or restrictive bandwidth for example. It is not that India is the crux of the problem, this is just an example of what is happening in a number of locations as every country will have issues that we couldn’t have pre-empted based on their own local restrictions. The difficulty here is that we have previously looked at the shared services solution as 'the back up' to ensure our businesses continue to operate in a crisis, but how do we protect our back up operations if they too are affected?

It may also be the case, also, that although staff are permitted to work from home, the practicalities aren’t there, because implementation of this is far more difficult if they do not have space, or at its most basic, for PC users, a laptop provided by the business. Real business continuity plans are now being truly tested globally. They are failing because this is a global shutdown. The future arrived before many were ready for it.

The situation would be far worse already if it wasn’t for datacentres and cloud servers allowing us all to communicate with each other, and we owe our hosting (and healthcare) providers kudos during this time. However, it doesn’t get us around the fact that our back up plans used to be along the lines of ‘if there is a disaster in one country, we’d relocate to another area’.

According to a recent survey conducted by SSON, the world’s largest shared services and outsourcing network, in which 250 global companies participated in on 10th – 13th March, in total, 97% of those interviewed were concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on global delivery operations. And in the first few weeks of the crisis, 93% of respondents had lost 25% of service capacity, which of course, continues to increase to this day with more physical centres closing and many support staff struggling to work from home.

So, is there a way to fill the gaps in back office capabilities and reduce ‘stress’ in every sense of the word? The short answer is yes. This is a time where companies are already reviewing their processes, because they have to. It is a time to throw out some processes that don’t help, or didn’t help, and engage in creative thought as to how to move forwards. With the issues already identified as a painful part of the situation the world finds itself in, everyone now has the ability to do something about it, to do something different.

Enate has worked with several clients on orchestrating human and bots (or human-only) in these types of shared service environments, to great success. Not only does our platform help ‘fill the gaps’, allowing team managers clear dashboard reporting to illustrate which team needs more help and when, they can also orchestrate the work across human and digital workers.

We also know that many regions are experiencing power cuts and poor connectivity. The Enate platform is able to help in this scenario too. For example, if there is a failure mid-task, the organisation can see that and divert that activity to someone else, possibly in a different region. Thereafter, no one with lack of internet will be able to pull an activity from a queue and the platform ensures that work will only ever go to those who are online. You can also add people to resource pools at the click of a button, so if you know several people in a team are in an area with poor connectivity, you would be able add people from a different geography to pick up the slack.

With time being a crucial factor, it’s important that, whatever the solution may be, it is quickly deployable, virtually, and that is something that we can help with. The good news is that the Enate platform is completely cloud-based, and deployment can take place remotely.

Prior to the pandemic, it could be fair to argue that there was as many people for AI, as there were concerned about replacing the jobs of humans. The press has been pretty unrelenting on this for around a decade (and we have always had something far more positive to contribute, particularly as we keep a human in the loop). The time has come to rethink this approach, because what if we were all using AI to secure these jobs, by ensuring a business survives during the unthinkable, compensates for those while they are unable to work, and keep the wheels turning until we return to our new ‘business-as-usual’. And, the truth is, this doesn’t just apply for the likes of the Big Four’s shared services, this includes the NHS, pharma companies, and other financial services and law firms, and more.

Can we help? Get in touch at enate.net. 


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