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Covid-19 and its effects on business today and moving forward

(Image credit: Image Credit: Rawpixel / Pixabay)

Covid-19 has changed business as we know it and will undoubtedly have a ripple effect on common practices and policies moving forward. Corporate financing, security and privacy - as well as broader operations - will have to adapt and improve in order to bring us back toward business normalcy. While this may mean different things for different companies and sectors, there are a few safeguards and opportunities that C-Suite executives and Boards should keep in mind when structuring their business to reflect the new normal.

Corporate safeguards to protect privacy

Covid-19 has shown us that, no matter the international scale of a business, we are all more interconnected than we might have thought. Successes and downfalls of certain brands can, in turn, affect others – quite possibly on the opposite side of the world. And now that an abundance of employees are working from home, it’s become even more evident how important keeping teams productive, collaborative and secure is to overall success.

This is precisely why it’s imperative for brands moving forward to provide guidance to each individual employee, as part of their security and privacy best practices. Most importantly, every company should recognise security as a fundamental need, and having an information security policy is critical. Not every employee is an expert at security and privacy; in fact, in many cases, employees don’t realise the risk of having a confidential conversation when their roommate or spouse is nearby, and most colleagues probably don’t understand the privacy issues related to what may or may not be visible when sharing a computer screen or having a video conference call. It’s true that we all handle business-critical data on a daily basis. Above and beyond guarding solely against mistakes, the current environment also shows us that any individual employee can be targeted as an entry point by nefarious actors. Businesses need to recognise this risk and cater their processes and communications accordingly.

As more people work from home, providing guidance that protects data – in particular, personal data – is going to be essential. This includes some of the basics, such as having sensitive phone calls in a room with a closed door and ensuring you are on your own protected WiFi (and not using a neighbour’s!), but it also delves into aspects discussed less often – such as how to dispose of any documents printed, and whether or not you’re allowed to display children on camera.

For national and international companies, security becomes slightly more intricate. But as a general rule, any security in place must be repeatable and auditable, and be able to be written down. As of now, there are a number of royalty-free templates that smaller companies can use and adapt to their own purposes – with no security or IT expert needed. The only question that needs to be asked is, “Have we covered the principle risks and are we addressing them in ways that are pragmatic to the business?” Once that’s answered, a company is well on its way to security and privacy success.

The rise of the change management professional

While not a very well-known job title or specialty previously, it’s evident that change management professionals are necessary during a business disruption as expansive as Covid-19. Without them, and their expertise on how to incorporate holistic changes across entire corporate infrastructures, there is bound to be chaos. This is particularly so when all employees are working from home. It is uniquely difficult to prepare, educate and train as a collective unit while incorporating updates from every department (e.g., IT, HR, finance). There will likely be a rise in this profession in the coming years, and as a result of today’s uncertain roadmap; companies should take notice.

However, during a tumultuous time such as the present, it’s often advised to review if it’s possible to delay any and all changes that require an invasive or complex overhaul. When you have restrictive resources – for instance, less capacity and bandwidth amongst teams – changing or implementing new programs while running others in parallel is near impossible, and often causes more problems than solutions. When it’s not “business as usual,” trying to make a change will likely just add stress onto the system. It’s like trying to perform open heart surgery in a moving ambulance driving across a swaying bridge during a hurricane – something that has many obvious risks. This is why, in particular, the CCPA deadline has not yet been delayed. A delay could just complicate an already intricate system with multiple moving parts, the companies involved.

In addition, making key functions – such as finance – a fundamental part of the business process makes adaptation easier (and change management less necessary) during a turbulent time. For example, as of late, the government’s altering of tax regimes, acceleration asset depreciation, and providing of grants has changed the finance process for businesses across the globe. As things have changed so radically and so quickly, those departments have found that they have a lot of back-end work to complete in order to keep up and maintain compliance. If finance was considered a core part of business function, the agility would be built in.

With change comes new opportunities

Naturally, with any significant change, comes an opportunity for learnings, growth and innovation that may not have happened otherwise. For instance, during this time, certain wedding caterers have switched to offering meal plans and meal delivery programs and have seen a good amount of success. Considering the cadence with which people get married versus when they eat meals, the latter may be a better option – particularly as the revamped brands hone their inventory and grow their customer base.

Generally, companies need to identify where their priorities lie, and where possible, incorporate robust processes that can adapt to change. For instance, at Sage, we’ve found that a lot of our customers who were resistant to the cloud or hybrid cloud in the past (either due to questions around security or scalability, etc.) are now very open to trying it out. In the future, this will certainly help them keep remote workers secure, provide remote access to files and necessary documentation and allow for scaling across the board – during normal, “business as usual” times and otherwise.

Fundamentally, businesses need to consider the challenges brought about by the current crisis and also look at how a new normal may change foundational elements of their operations. This type of preparation – along with change management agents, increased and improved financial and IT infrastructure, and developed security measures will certainly help companies prepare for the future and any other hurdles it may bring.

Adam Prince, Vice President Of Product Management, Compliance, Brexit and Migration, Sage

Adam leads the global Sage product compliance team where he supports the building of features that accountants/businesses need to enable customers to meet compliance obligations, tracks changes in legislation, collaborates with tax authorities and advocates for business efficiency.