Automating Operational Tasks During COVID

How to maintain operational normalcy during Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused political, economic, and social disruptions, fundamentally changing the way society assesses risk and decision making. Companies across the globe are struggling to maintain normalcy in response to the coronavirus pandemic. We have seen entire workforces transition to home offices, employees have been furloughed, or laid off. Industry leaders like Hilton or Macy’s had to reduce hours, extend pay cuts, and furlough staff for their corporate offices. As countries are beginning to open back up, how do companies maintain operational normalcy with significantly less staff and/or business in general?

They don’t. When faced with an abnormal situation, you need an abnormal response. Companies are entering a unique moment in time where they can, and we might argue have to, assess what wasn’t working to inform future decisions. Now, that we have overwhelmed you let us break this down to create a few actionable items.

Identify Your Capacity

While the world pieces itself back together, consumers and businesses alike are being cautious with their spending. As of May 12, 2020, combined spending in all major consumer categories has dropped by almost 30% YoY. The aftereffects of COVID-19 are not going away anytime soon making it paramount to find a way to ride this wave out. Companies like PwC and AON have created COVID-19 navigators and resources to help you analyze your scope and trajectory. As you understand the impact COVID-19 has on your business, evaluating the following areas will highlight weaknesses: crisis management and response; workforce; operations; supply chain; finance and liquidity; tax and trade; and strategy and brand.

In addition, it is imperative to understand business process workflows across all departments. After all we shouldn’t have to be the ones to tell you an inefficient process will make things worse by draining resources from an already strained environment. Real-life business processes rarely follow the status quo, now is the time to identify them and adjust accordingly. 

Find the Opportunity

Once the business analysis is complete, it’s time to plan. Utilize the free assessments and resources mentioned above, using their insights to host deep internal discussions to find your opportunity. Set up a meeting with fellow department heads and corporate leaders and debate: where your business is spending the most, do you have expenses that are unavoidable, what adjustments can be made without affecting the quality of your business, what is your bandwidth within the departments. Go a step further and identify possible saving opportunities, how to prioritize them based on speed and scope of implementation.

An often overlooked tool at your disposal is the sales team. They have their ears on the ground and know what customers like, what draws them in to make a sale, and what keeps them at bay. If customers prefer discounted items over faster shipping times, offer more sales throughout the year and buy yourself more time in the warehouse. Now is the time to be nimble and use the resources around you. 

Utilize Technology

Take advantage of the flexibility technology provides. Unlike other operations costs, technology typically comes with a fixed cost. Technology like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) provides breathing room in operations and workforce budgets. Robotic Process Automation is the technology that emulates the actions of a human interacting with a digital system. Bill Identity uses RPA technology to streamline the utility bill payment process, saving money by validating utility usage, identifying and eliminating bill errors, and by making the payments. Accounts Payable departments already stretched thin, identifying technology that can take the burden off of your staff will boost morale and savings. 

This is not a one-size-fits-all strategy and the business landscape of 2020 is a challenging one. A regional retailer may realize they need to push hard on online sales and streamline its supply chain, while an energy company needs to update its internal billing processes. Every model will have its weakness and now is the time to identify what those are and attack.

 

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