knowledge | 19 May 2020 |

COVID-19: Preparing for the ‘New Normal’

Despite the immense human suffering and economic turmoil that it is causing, the current pandemic will pass.  Then, time will once again be a scarce resource and efficiency will again be critical.  In the meantime, organisations should consider what opportunities exist to enhance their digital platforms and internal and customer-facing processes to maximise efficiency and, ultimately, profitability.  In this regard, as so often, technology affords enormous potential.

The current global pandemic has brought into focus the need for robust digital platforms, regardless of industry and sector, so that businesses can continue to operate without the need for in-person interaction.

Some of these platforms (e-signatures, cloud communications, etc), have seen a huge rise in business adoption as a knock-on effect of necessary social distancing measures. It is likely that the success of these platforms will lead to their continued use in post-COVID-19 times: efficiencies tend to be adopted irrespective of the catalyst.

You May Already be Doing a Lot: Document it!

Whether reactionary and relatively unplanned, or the result of business continuity planning and risk-management, many non-manufacturing organisations have moved to remote working, partly or fully. However, in the rush to adopt and deploy new practices and technology and to adapt to the new circumstances, processes, policies and governance requirements may have taken a back seat.

Now that those technologies and processes are up and running and the initial urgency has passed, organisations should consider their documentation to formalise the use and governance of these new technologies and working practices. The hard work – adopting and deploying the new technologies and practices securely and effectively – may well be done already.  Now, organisations should document matters to ensure that the new processes and technologies are integrated in and overseen by the organisation’s policies and governance structures.

Opportunities

Planning for the recovery provides an opportunity to investigate and fill gaps in business processes and to implement new digital platforms. Automation, whether of process workflow or the production of documentation, or both, is an example of how to get your business lean and ready for the post-COVID-19 world.

Shaving time off manual processes can add significantly to profit margins. This will also free up the capacity of people in the organisation to take on work that may be more challenging and of higher value to the business.

Intranets: A Case in Point

If done right, intranet projects can be time-consuming but not necessarily expensive and are an excellent example of time as an investment rather than a cost.

There are many technology platforms on which to build an effective intranet. Indeed, most now are “no-code”, reducing the requirement for software development. Instead, the time invested in developing and implementing an effective intranet can be spent on strategy and in determining some key matters. These include:

  • the function that the intranet should serve within the business (ie a communication platform, digital workspace, etc),
  • mapping the layout of the proposed site,
  • integrating the intranet with other IT systems, and
  • developing the content for the intranet.

Indeed, an organisation may find that a lot of the content of an intranet already exists in some form and only the delivery channel – via a new intranet – needs to change. Similarly, some of the content (such as internal policies) may need to be updated.

Selecting the correct intranet platform will also be guided by the need to integrate it with the day-to-day IT tools that your business already uses. Developing a considered and coherent intranet platform for your organisation, integrated with your day-to-day tools, can lead to a significant gain in efficiency.

For the Ambitious: Extranets

Similarly, a well-structured extranet solution will be valuable in the post-COVID-19 world, when your customers may work less from their offices and traditional business hours may fragment. An effective extranet will allow you to:

  • communicate,
  • share knowledge, and
  • where appropriate, work collaboratively with your customers.

A well-planned and executed extranet can also provide a business with the flexibility to provide self-service facilities to its customers in a secure environment. This flexibility will allow customers to access the organisation’s services as and when they require them, without the need for human interaction, regardless of geography and irrespective of time of the day. It should also provide the business with valuable insight into what services to prioritise and perhaps expand upon.

Such solutions can provide a competitive advantage. However, to succeed, an extranet initiative requires careful planning and a robust change-management plan. Any solution will also need to be rigorously interrogated through user acceptance testing prior to launching it with customers. Predictably (but no less frustrating for that), issues will arise, either with the solution itself or with business processes, and these will have to be augmented to fit the new way of interacting with customers. However, this time will be well spent as the result will be a solution that meets the needs of both the business and its customers.

How Can We Help?

Our Digital Services team has extensive experience in providing legal technology solutions and advice to our clients and in advising on related practices and governance. Should you have any queries please contact Peter Osborne or Andy McDonnell. 

Also contributed by Andy McDonnell.

This briefing is for general guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for professional advice. Such advice should always be taken before acting on any of the matters discussed.

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