Planning the New Normal


“What’s needed today is the agility of a jet ski as opposed to the steady plod of a tanker.” Capita’s analogy illustrates the approach businesses need to take to planning as we adjust to the ‘new normal’. Here’s a closer look at some of the planning considerations that are likely to have special relevance as organisations adapt. 

The new normal: essential characteristics

In virtually all areas - from buyer demand through to supply chain continuity - this new normal looks set to be marked by volatility, uncertainty and complexity. Against this backdrop, you might be forgiven for assuming that planning is redundant. After all, how can you plan for next quarter when you are at a loss to know what will happen next week?

Planning is just as necessary as ever; but it demands a specific approach. If you work on the false certainty of a single forecast, coupled with an inability to change course rapidly, then your plans will indeed be quickly overtaken by events. But if you can respond to new information and react with speed and purpose, this new ‘agile planning’ capability could be your most valuable tool for driving recovery and building resilience.

Here’s how to rethink your approach for the remainder of 2020 and beyond…

Plan to compete and thrive - not just to survive

Planning and planning analytics is often characterised as a financial tool; one that enables you to make better budget decisions and drive efficiency. While this is all true, it also offers much more. Rather than just being about informing you where and how to make cuts, your planning strategy can also help you uncover and grasp new opportunities.

Here are a couple of examples of what this might mean in the new normal:

1. Customer behaviour: responding to new realities

What trends are emerging in consumer employment, mobility, re-socialisation, and spending in your target markets? Where are these trends leading and how can you stay ahead? To factor all of this into your planning, you will need to look beyond your customer data. For instance, recent data analysis tells you that a 30% uptick in movement in a city (as evidenced by Google Mobility Reports), resulted in a 25% increase in revenue for your physical outlets in that location.

By tracking the right external metrics and building these into your planning models, you can potentially preempt new behaviours, deploy your resources accordingly and stay one step ahead of the competition.

2. Back to the office? A planned approach works best

The mass migration from office to home is not going to be reversed overnight. In fact, it may turn out to be the most enduring legacy of the new normal, with one study suggesting that three quarters of businesses intend to permanently designate at least some of their workforce as remote-based.

So who will be returning to the office? It’s possible for these decisions to be taken on an ad-hoc basis by HR and department heads. The much smarter approach involves planning and exploring new paradigms. Matters to consider may include the following:

- The possibility of reducing your property footprint. In particular, if you are currently based across multiple office premises, weigh up the financial implications of divesting or downscaling each one before making any decisions.

- On-premise technology and overheads spend. There can be a significant difference in the cost of keeping the lights on if you have a permanent on-premise staff of 100, 500 or 1,000.

- Staffing costs. Remote working may enable you to cast the net wider for recruitment purposes. You should be able to assess the implications of this on your staffing budget.

A planned approach ensures that you have visibility into the financial impact of various remote working models. If reducing your spend is a top priority, you can use this to inform you decisions on who should - and shouldn’t - return to the office.

MHR Analytics

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