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APRIL 2020

Expert Insight: Navigating your business through COVID-19

An interview with Thomson Reuters MENA and COO Network (ME)

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a seismic shock to businesses across all industries. As the situation changes rapidly, it is imperative for businesses to plan their mitigation strategies, and ensure they have a working model in place to ensure business continuity. This has also forced businesses to look into reshaping their working models, including supply chains to mitigate risks and ensure business continuity.

Our Thomson Reuters team interviewed Patrick Earl and Mandip Dulay, Founding Partners of the COO Network (ME), as they provided us with insights on how businesses should manage and operate in the current volatile environment.

           Q1. What impact will the crisis have on future business continuity plans?

Firstly, businesses are going to be much more aware of the need to have a really strong BCP in place, with much more detailed scenario planning and regular stress testing. The BCP will have much greater prominence at board level. One of the many tough lessons that business professionals will learn from COVID-19 is that, when it comes to business continuity planning, it’s a question of ‘when’ you will need to rely on your plan and not ‘if’.

Secondly, any company that did not invest beforehand in the technology required to support its business during a business continuity incident will be forced to revise its strategy (assuming said company survives the current crisis). 

          Q2.  How prepared are businesses from a continuity perspective to manage disasters such as COVID-19?

Even businesses with the strongest business continuity planning could not have been prepared for a crisis on the scale of COVID-19.

Having said that, many companies have been able to switch to some form of online or remote working within an incredibly short space of time. This isn’t really a question of businesses being well-prepared for a COVID-19 type scenario but more a reflection of recent technological advancements (e.g. availability of mobile devices, high speed internet, etc.) and lifestyle trends (popularity of e-commerce, flexible working policies, etc.). One could argue that, at least in this one respect, we have been somewhat fortunate. 

At this point, I think we should pay tribute to our technology teams. Behind every company still operating today stands a talented and hard-working IT professional!

         Q3. What training initiatives should be in place to ensure business continuity?

Every business continuity incident is different, but the first priority should be to ensure that employees have access to the training that will support their health, safety & wellbeing. 

From there, a company’s readiness for remote working is probably the second priority. This could be addressed by asking teams to carry out periodic work from home ‘drills’, with appropriate follow-up in respect of any issues identified.

Finally, in the future, I’m sure that many employees will take a keen interest in their employer’s business continuity planning. Companies may want to build BCP awareness training into their annual training cycle, not only to ensure that employees are ready when the time comes, but also to demonstrate that they are a responsible employer.

          Q4. How long will it take for the supply chain to get back to normal and stabilize?

Organisations are grappling with an unpredictable crisis, with no real concept of timing on when the reactivation phase may be introduced.  Even when countries do remove the preventive measures in place, which are currently impacting production and supply, it will take organisations months to reintroduce workers back onto the production line, along with managing a backlog of orders. 

That said, the world is gradually readjusting to the new norm, with leaders activating new models, business relationships and supplier sourcing in order to maintain a form of business continuity. These newfound models will remain over the longer-term, which will impact traditional suppliers and the wider supply chain model. 

We are seeing varying models across the world from competition laws being relaxed, where traditional competing firms are working in collaboration to provide services to the wider market, through to firms displaying their wider purpose by utilizing facilities to produce products which are not part of their traditional portfolio.  

Resilience and tech-innovation to overcome challenges is the key to stabilizing supply chains, which we are experiencing around the world. 

          Q5. What will be the new supply chain model in the future? Do you think technology will play a role?

Similar to the point above, the new formed way of working will have a longer-term effect and will disrupt the supply chain model, particularly as businesses will have been exposed to their vulnerabilities of relying on focused countries and suppliers, which inevitably has impacted them during this current period.

From observations, the need for speed in respect of supply chains, particularly during a crisis is fundamentally important, therefore the traditional transportation models may be impacted, particularly shipping and cargo, both of which have been impacted during the pandemic.

Coupled with this, supply chains will need to be streamlined and therefore to address such challenges, we may experience the rise of the manufacturing industries re-emerging across economies, which will enable countries to become independent, tackle the growing unemployment levels and therefore become resilient in managing such future crisis.

Technology will play a greater role in managing future supply chain models, from machine production of goods, robotic process automation, data analysis, predictive modelling to ensuring a digital supply network is available for organisations to co-source products by industry and country as opposed to separate entities.  

Featured Interviewees

  • Patrick Earl, Founding Partner of the COO Network (ME) and COO of Al Tamimi & Company, 
  • Mandip Dulay, Founding Partner of the COO Network (ME) and Chief Strategy Officer at IMPACT-ME

About COO Network (ME)

Chief Operating Officers (COO’s) are experiencing the greatest disruption within their roles, particularly as they are positioned as a leader of several imperative operational functions. The COO Network provides a platform which stimulates innovative thinking and collaborative connections amongst COOs and Senior C-Suite leaders.  For further detail visit: www.coonetwork.me

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