5 ways to drive business growth in the post-covid economy
As the global pandemic begins to wind down, finance leaders should congratulate themselves on guiding their teams through the most bizarre year on record. There is, however, little time to reflect on these achievements as the economy has changed irreversibly. 2021 – and beyond – hold a host of planning challenges for today’s decision-makers. At the dawn of the post-pandemic era, understanding the 5 ways to drive business growth in the post-COVID economy is crucial.
Thankfully, modern finance departments stand uniquely equipped to lead in the post-crisis future. In 2020, the CFO’s responsibilities shifted from compliance and streamlining towards strategy and change management. Over 80% of chief executives expect the CFO’s importance to rise after the pandemic.
Today’s CFO will need to reframe normal, assess staff readiness, understand market changes and adopt cross-silo leadership while investing in the right technology.
Here are our top 5 tips for driving growth
Decision-makers will need to resist a powerful temptation to use the words typically associated with a post-vaccine world. We return, we go back to, we resume. Of course, few would seriously confuse the economy before COVID-19 with the one that ensues, but finance departments exiting the pandemic still carry years of sunk costs including long-term strategies, tech investments and digital transformation programmes. Unless CFOs interrogate pre-crisis plans and adjust as necessary, they risk prolonging recovery and wrongfooting their organisations in a still-uncertain era.
Finance teams face the same challenges as the rest of the UK workforce in that nearly one-fourth of employees have experienced job disruption during COVID. Despite this, many executives seem to have lost touch with their staff during months of remote work. Although leaders believe that their organisations do enough to train, communicate, and support mental health, only half of their employees agree.
CFOs should identify the gaps in the communication that emerged under work from home policies. Before driving ahead with digital transformation projects, finance leaders should assess staff readiness and strive to earn buy-in from critical users. A unified workforce is essential to drive efficiency and growth.
Understand the (new) market
The full impact of COVID-19 may not come into focus for another decade, but a barrage of surveys has already marked key differences. The past year of business catapulted digital adoption forward by anywhere from two to seven years. Consumer markets shifted toward digital and home-based purchases, mirroring a widespread decision to save rather than spend. Buyers of products across sectors want more digital options and experiences in 2021 than ever before, and more than 3 in 4 executives expect this changed customer behaviour to continue after COVID-19.
While the crisis deepened existing digital trends in the B2B market, corporate spending priorities have changed drastically, reflecting new stresses on cybersecurity and rates of digital transformation. Facing this brave new world, CFOs should collect and organise data to clearly understand the behavioural shifts across their customers, competitors, and partners. The Harvard Business Review suggests grouping them into three categories: sustained behaviours (those with no change), transformed behaviours (those changed), and collapsed behaviours (those gone for good). A deep understanding of the new market is essential to support the refinement of your post-COVID business strategy.
CFOs exit the pandemic with unprecedented influence. 82% of CEOs believe that the CFO will grow in importance over the next three to five years, a sentiment shared by only 66% of CFOs themselves. Finance teams have pioneered business adaptation during the crisis – the time has come for them to accept a more important seat at the table.
CFOs will increasingly need to break down silos to solve pain points across departments. Creating a free flow of information is central to formulating a unified vision. Reaching common goals will require every member of the C-Suite to collaborate more closely, act more quickly and make more confident decisions than ever before.
Invest in the right tech
In the days ahead, CFOs will likely find the answers from the same source that helped enterprises adapt throughout the crisis: cloud-based software.
COVID has catalysed a surge in cloud adoption—one of the core stages in digital transformation. Those working remotely without cloud were faced with two options, adapt or decline. Staying ahead of the digital curve will naturally facilitate growth in 2021.
Finance leaders should search for three key terms in post-crisis cloud initiatives: cybersecurity, collaboration, and cost savings.
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