Using Scenario Planning to Thrive in a Post COVID-19 World: Advice from Experts

Using Scenario Planning to Thrive in a Post COVID-19 World: Advice from Experts

Leading a company to healthy profits is a challenge even in the best of times. With the pandemic, social unrest, and the economic downturn, it’s a gross understatement to say these are not the best of times for business.

There are, however, ways to help ensure that the coming months are not the worst of times for your company. In fact, with the right planning, your company may not just survive but also thrive during COVID-19 recovery.

Read on for insights from thought leaders who believe that scenario planning can empower Finance leaders to mitigate risk and uncover new growth opportunities.

Peter Scoblic on Overcoming the “Tyranny of the Present”

Scenario planning shouldn’t be a one-off exercise at the end of a corporate retreat or a fire-drill response to an extreme situation, according to Peter Scoblic, Co-Founder and Principal at Event Horizon Strategies, who discusses the need to future-proof your strategy with scenario planning on a recent episode of the HBR IdeaCast.

Instead, Peter says that scenario planning should be “a constant cycle between imagining the future and acting in the present.”

It’s challenging to contemplate multiple futures — or even one future — when faced with what Peter calls “the tyranny of the present,” which requires us to respond to every new COVID-19 development, geopolitical stress, a factor in our economic breakdown. Does it really make sense to divert valuable resources to fix tomorrow when everything today is such a mess?

Peter thinks scenario planning can help businesses simultaneously address current issues and plan for the future. “The nice thing about strategic foresight is that it’s not simply about thinking about the far future and creating some kind of science fiction world … It’s about linking the present and the future more tightly,  so that the thinking that you do about the long term actually improves your performance in the short term.”

For more insights from Peter:

Listen to: Future-Proofing Your Strategy with Scenario Planning

Follow on: LinkedIn and Twitter

Jill Puleri Standish on Why Scenario Planning is in Fashion

If anyone knows what’s in style, it has to be Jill Standish, Senior Managing Director – Retail at Accenture. Unfortunately for retail stores, it’s not shopping.

While people can shop amidst the pandemic, people aren’t yet flocking back to the malls. Masks, social distancing, and other restrictions have all dampened consumers’ enthusiasm for retail therapy.

But Jill has confidence that there are ways for retailers to not only survive the pandemic but also to thrive. In an article about the need for enhanced forecasting and scenario planning, she writes, “To weather the months ahead, and even come out of the crisis stronger than they went in, retailers need to be able to model the trajectory of the pandemic’s impact on a store-by-store basis.”

Jill says that the first step toward better planning is increased analytics activities and insights from external data. “There is no one-size-fits-all when managing a network of stores on a national level,” she notes.

Using store-by-store scenario planning empowers an organization’s leaders with the information needed to pivot inventory and operations to meet demand. Based on the data, what kind of delivery options should stores offer? Which locations should have abbreviated hours? Should certain locations close entirely? The key is to be flexible.

“Even in the midst of an unprecedented global crisis, there is opportunity for growth. Brands that uncover new insight and develop smarter plans for the future are in a particularly strong position.“

For more insights from Jill:

Read: Why Enhancing Forecasting, Scenario Planning Is Imperative Now

Follow on: LinkedIn and Twitter

Janet Schijns Offers CFOs Guidance On Finding an Employee Work Model that Adds Up

Does it make financial sense for employees to return to the office? What are the long-term implications of remote work? For most companies, there are no easy answers.

Janet Schijns, CEO of JS Group, addresses the cost and benefits of back-to-work scenarios in a post on Oracle Netsuite.

“The permutations are seemingly endless, and figuring out what’s most cost effective is up to CFOs,” she notes.

Factors to consider in back-to-work scenario planning include the cost of additional space, janitorial services and personal equipment — plus the impact of various working situations on corporate culture and productivity. And, of course, there’s also employee preference. While most employees want more WFH flexibility than pre-pandemic, only a minority would prefer to be entirely remote.

“By evaluating the work to be done, the reality of your real estate situation and remote work realities, you can strike a balance,” Janet says.

For more insights from Janet:

Read: Running the Numbers: Work From Home, Back to the Office or Hybrid?

Follow on: LinkedIn and Twitter

Dhivya Suryadevara on Simplifying Scenarios

Businesses need to be able to anticipate possible scenarios and plan for the best outcomes. But the status quo isn’t going to get you there, according to Dhivya Suryadevara, who earned her CFO stripes as a transformational leader at General Motors and will now be joining the online payments group, Stripe.

“Out of the box thinking is key; not just focusing on one revenue stream or one way of doing business but being aware of everything else that’s happening,” she said recently in a fireside chat with Business Today’s Online Journal.

Dhivya’s approach to scenario planning and forecasting is to simplify as much as possible.”I’ve spent a lot of time at GM slaying complexity,” she explained to Business Insider. “There’s good complexity and there’s not-good complexity.”

For more insights from Dhivya:

Read: GM’s first female CFO explains how she’s made it her mission to ‘slay complexity’ at the largest US automaker

Follow on: LinkedIn

Gene Marks Offers Sizable Advice for the Small Business

Is your small business ready to get back to business? For most small business owners, the future is hazy. It may seem near impossible to plan hiring, investments and cash management during this period of COVID-19 recovery. And yet, you need a plan; employees and customers are depending on you.

While the post-pandemic world is full of unknowns, Gene Marks believes there are ways to get a sneak peek into the future, starting with monitoring key numbers and metrics which are publicly available. By watching trends in travel, restaurant reservations, manufacturing, chemical activity, and housing, small business owners can gauge the health of the US economy.

“If you’re a small business owner, you should also have your metrics. People are relying on you to know what’s going to happen,”  Gene says in a recent piece for The Guardian.

Another source for insights to inform small business reopening plans? The essential businesses who have already navigated the implications of doing business during COVID-19 recovery. By gathering data and insights, small businesses can build best-case and worst-case scenarios for their business.

For more insights from Gene:

Read: Small Businesses Aren’t Ready to Reopen. But Let’s Build a Plan for When We Are.

Follow on: LinkedIn and Twitter

Make Business Growth Your Likely Scenario

Scenario planning can equip Finance leaders with insights to navigate the challenges of the current economic and political environment — and be better prepared to thrive and grow.

For more scenario planning advice, follow our #FutureofFinance series on social media, and follow these experts: Janet Schijns, Gene Marks, Dhivya Suryadevara, Jill Standish and Peter Scoblic.

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