The crisis isn’t COVID anymore, by Elaine Smart – Management Consultant, Senior Executive, FSI Banking at DB Results

21 December 2021

The need to be fast, agile and ahead of the curve on all levels of customer service is no longer a ‘nice idea,’ it’s a business imperative. This tipping point has created an abundance of work for IT teams in Australia and around the globe, and a backlog of work that needs to be delivered now, not next year. If you, like so many companies, didn’t jump early into this digital race, how do you catch up? While I’m here to advise Australian organisations (small, medium or large) on how to do this, you must first understand that the crisis isn’t over.  

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The worst kind of crisis to be in is one where you don’t realise there is a crisis – the unmanaged crisis, the one that is impacting your business holistically, but you don’t realise it. It is the crisis that you manage in cottage industries across the organisation, the crisis that is impacting customer service, agility to deliver, and worst of all, impacting the bottom line for shareholders and owners.   

COVID-19 catapulted digital to a new level, with Forrester now predicting that around 80 per cent of consumers will see the world as all digital; and the baseline expectation around accessibility and immediacy has sharply risen. Organisations trying to deliver outcomes to keep customers happy means that the ‘digital race’ is now a mad scramble. While the pandemic continues, the newly merging crisis - the “capacity crisis” is impacting every organisation across Australia. We’re in the largest resource drought, of disproportionate size and scale, and one that will not be resolved in the short or mid-term. The lack of resources across a range of industries (hospitality, financial services, technology, health) is impacting customer service everywhere - having a material impact at the worst of times, when customer expectations are at their highest to be able to interact digitally. Organisations looking to transform their business are finding they can’t because they don’t have access to the human resources to do it. 

As leaders we have already faced real uncertainty of what to do and how to do it. COVID-19 initiated a slow burn crisis for organisations across the globe. Loud shouts of alarm and impact were dulled to quiet murmurs here in Australia in the months prior to COVID-19 hitting our shores. Much of corporate Australia had conversations about the growing COVID-19 situation, however crisis management centres or business continuity plans were not triggered. The plans remained in PowerPoint presentations and word documents stored on shared drives, literally or metaphorically, collecting dust until February 2019. Truly, it wasn’t until we were told to stay home that corporate Australia kicked into action… and this was far too late!  

The forward prediction is that CXO and their business will face more, and simultaneous crisis driven by climate and disaster, and that crisis management needs to be part of normal business. Increasingly there is no notice of impending crisis, and organisations need to be crisis ready and have response plans and systems in place, trialled, tested and ready for the next event(s). 

Acquiring capability in the middle of a crisis is a recipe for a disaster, within a disaster. Crisis requires the smartest managers and teams to divert from normal operations and strategic priorities to find quick solutions to complex problems in short timeframes, which is very unsustainable. Smart organisations build crisis management capability with a crisis management plan, management centre and have executed risk and scenario planning as well as a system and process ready to go to manage any crisis – including the now “capacity crisis.” 

If organisations don’t manage this as a holistic crisis, an exorbitant amount of time will be wasted in sourcing and recruiting individuals in ones and twos trying to recruit for 200 people through LinkedIn. It needs a crisis management plan and it requires a holistic innovative approach to resolve because it is not going to go away in the short-term.  

About the author

Elaine Smart is Management Consultant, Senior Executive, FSI Banking at DB Results. Elaine has more than 30 years' experience in Retail and Investment Banking, and in-depth understanding of the risks and challenges specifically that Banks face. Elaine worked for the Royal Bank of Canada, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Macquarie Bank, Westpac and was a Partner at KPMG in Financial Services. (Whilst at Westpac, among other things Elaine was responsible for managing the Consumer, ES & GBU Covid crisis management centre).

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