Written by Andy Campbell, global solution evangelist at FinancialForce
At this time of year we traditionally look at predictions for the year ahead, anticipating which of the latest hyped technologies and trends will actually come to fruition; be it AI, ML, robotics or quantum computing. This year is slightly different. The impacts of the pandemic have been profound and are still being felt. It seems more appropriate that this year we focus on what the major learnings have been from the past 18 months and how they are likely to continue to impact businesses, at least in the short to medium term.
- The Great Resignation, or maybe not. An oft quoted fallout from the pandemic has been termed ‘The Great Resignation’. Some evidence points to swathes of people resigning from their jobs en masse, largely as a result of the perceived freedom from having spent a lot of time working remotely. This has occurred largely as a consequence of people taking the opportunity to challenge their whole relationship with the world of work and rethink where, how, and why they want to spend their time. Current research however suggests that this phenomenon is not actually based on much tangible evidence beyond certain professional grades of staff in America and other advanced economies. Many people do not have that luxury, are currently experiencing challenging economic circumstances, and a number of industry sectors are continuing to struggle. However, it is fair to say that as a result of prolonged time away from the office many are questioning how they were treated by their current employers during the height of the pandemic and considering whether or not they wish to remain. Some people have benefited hugely from the greater flexibility offered by home working and relished the less autocratic and more collaborative management style that has been enabled through the increased use of zoom. If management teams do not take the opportunity to reflect on their own leadership styles and reappraise their employee proposition, then they only have themselves to blame.
- Greater focus on outcomes, not processes. Another consequence of the pandemic, perhaps due to the remoteness and sense of detachment that comes with remote working, has been an increased willingness for employees to speak up, questioning business decisions and challenging the status quo more broadly. Many organisations have had to make significant changes in order to survive and successfully deliver the ‘new normal’. Employees have been instrumental in looking to review processes to ensure that outcomes can still be achieved and customers served. People are less interested in the internal processes of what businesses do, instead making sure there are benefits and positive outcomes, and the organisation is realigned in order to allow us to achieve more. Internal barriers within companies are being questioned and torn down as organisations consider how to make their businesses better, either by overcoming adversity or taking opportunities to grow. There has been more business transformation in the past 18 months than in the previous 10 years and this pace of change is likely to continue.
- Diversity and inclusion will grow in importance. There are no hierarchies on a zoom screen and the fact that everyone has been sharing the same virtual real estate for over a year and a half has been both egalitarian and liberating. Some people have found a voice they may not have previously had, presenting them with greater opportunities to contribute. For example, neurodiverse people may have found it more comforting and productive to work remotely, as opposed to in an office surrounded by distractions. The school run has become easier to manage if parents have been able to work from home. As we return to work individuals may be unwilling to give up the freedoms and flexibilities that they have previously enjoyed. These issues of accessibility and expectations will receive increased focus moving forward
- There will be more cross-departmental working. In the coming years, there will be an increase in the collaboration between different departments and teams, customers and partners. The fact that people have become accustomed to using video conferencing on a regular basis, not to mention chat tools, to talk and engage with others working remotely has helped to break down barriers. Combined with a greater democratisation of data, greater transparency has been bought about as a consequence of people working from different locations. You have to be more open and transparent if you want people in different places to be able to work together. This has led to organisational barriers and hierarchies being knocked down, with people expecting to collaborate together. It will also require different mindsets, skills and management styles, such as increased transparency, openness and honesty.
- Data, data, data. Recently we have become used to the proliferation of fake news, not to mention the countless conspiracy theories concerning Covid-19. In response to this, people are much more open to using data and factual information than they have been in the past to retort this misinformation. People’s responses to big issues are now being driven through scenario modelling and other approaches to managing risk – the driving force behind which is analytics. As a topic, the importance of data and analytics continues to grow, while the solutions that play into financial reporting, operational forecasting and workforce planning will become more and more important. For example, in difficult times cashflow forecasting is vital in order to understand what the implications are for organisations. When there are issues concerning the continual supply of goods, effective supply chain management ensures that businesses receive the items they require to survive. Through analytics, organisations can understand what is available and where, as well as how much control they have over their supply chain routes.