Published on in InnovationDigital Transformation

In conversation with Emma Chatwin and Marcus Robbins, Fujitsu.

Emma: Everyone’s been talking about change and transformation for years. Then, 2020 happened. Talking about it was no longer good enough – you had no option but to do something about it.

When it mattered most, every organisation had to cut through red tape, make speedy decisions, and mobilise millions to work in a different way. In record time, plans were executed that would previously have stalled in the planning phase.

Everyone learnt lessons from the first phase of COVID-19, simply by doing what they had to do. And as a result of that experience, they’ve also learned that when it comes to some decisions, there’s no going back.

‘No going back’ is a message we believe sums up the sentiment of business, government and society right now. This is a time when in many ways we want to go back – we hanker for pre-pandemic normalities, but then recognise that the world has changed irrevocably and that going back is simply impossible.

‘No going back’ is not a negative phrase; it’s a recognition that things will never be the same again.

From reactive to resilient

Marcus: As we begin a challenging process of recovery, resilience will be the key to long-term survival. To achieve it, there are three key areas every organisation should be scrutinising right now, with the lessons of the pandemic under their belts; everyday operations, customer experience and employee experience. I also like to call this operational, transactional and cultural resilience, covering all aspects of the organisation.

Where previously businesses were hardwired for growth, now it’s about transforming companies to be hardwired for change. Technology is hugely valuable and many organisations are turning to technology to support the drive to become more resilient. Not only this, but it can also help create financial stability by driving down costs and maximising productivity.

So, now we have to plan for more of the same, but with resilience baked in. We need to scrutinise the gaps identified in each of the three areas, rapidly create execution plans and then run them through extreme scenarios, including a repeat performance of what we didn’t think could happen…but then did.

Enabling employees to focus on higher value tasks by augmenting people and work with automation is one option.

For example, around the start of the crisis, a major bank was looking to support people in financial need, by rapidly processing requests for mortgage holidays. Fujitsu worked with the bank to deploy hundreds of robots to automatically process those requests as quickly as possible, providing the fast turnaround consumers needed for peace of mind during a pandemic, and simplifying the challenge for the bank.

Adaptability is critical. That automation example reflected a single moment in our ever-changing situation. Four weeks later and those mortgage rules were changed again, requiring system and process changes as a result. But the system that was created could easily be adjusted to accommodate changes in criteria, because the investment in technology was made with future adaptability in mind.

When work is no longer where people go…

Emma: One of the areas where it has already become clear that there’s ‘no going back’ is in the way people work. Previous scepticism for home working has held many organisations back from adopting it at scale, preferring their people to be in their ‘line of sight’.

Sure, some roles are better performed in an office, and not everyone has the luxury of a dedicated workspace, so for some it’s a necessity. And of course for many industries, the workplace is not an office at all so we can’t assume that remote working is a ‘one size fits all’ solution.

The change to working happened rapidly. In a single month, Fujitsu’s deployment of Microsoft Teams to enable remote collaboration went up by 90%! We helped literally tens of thousands of workers move to remote working. And what makes me really proud is that we did it without fuss or drama – it’s just what we do.

At one global retailer, we helped store managers keep conversations going with their teams by creating a mobile communications platform in just three days.

Employees in every industry have accomplished incredible things, and proven once and for all that remote teams can collaborate just as effectively if they have the right tools in place.

For traditional desk-based roles, there are many benefits to offering flexibility to employees and this is well-documented.

Marcus: But it’s not just about the tools, it’s also about creating the right culture and mindset for people to thrive.

But just like their organisations, people have spent recent months coping with the crisis. Now, it’s time for businesses to focus on wellbeing and sustainable working patterns, to ensure that their people are equally resilient.

Cementing collaboration and creativity is key for employees to embrace the adaptive mindset; one that will enable teams to recognise opportunities and find the new sources of value that the organisation needs.

Looking to the future

Emma: No one can predict what the future holds. But amidst the pain of the global pandemic, some glimmers of a very different future are emerging.

Marcus: Across public and private sectors, we’ve ripped up the old rules – and there have been many positives outcomes, alongside the challenges.

Once you’ve established resilience, there’s a positive opportunity to look to the future and reimagine what your organisation can look like.

We can write a new rule book, but it needs to be written in pencil, rather than ink.

And whatever lies ahead, partnership will be vital. It’s natural to feel uncomfortable about risk, and worry that further transformation can create vulnerability and exposure. Having a long-term partner that you know you can trust and rely on is critical.

Emma: When you have the right partner, there for the good times and bad, you can move at speed – and create the resilience your business needs to return to strength.

Read more about resilience on Fujitsu’s ‘no going back’ page

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