Operational agility & resilience during COVID-19

Giles Mullins - Partner
Giles Mullins - Partner

Giles Mullins, Practice Leader at Grant Thornton’s Milton Keynes office

There’s no escaping the fact that coronavirus has required many companies to significantly alter their operations. But the pandemic has also provoked unselfishness, innovation and collaboration from all corners of the UK’s business community.

Some supermarkets are supporting their suppliers by moving to same-day payment of invoices to ease cash flow pressures, and many restaurants have embarked on home delivery – with some feeding NHS staff for free.

The move to 100% home working has been a subtle shift for the more agile organisations. But for companies yet to invest in mobile IT equipment, or unable to do so due to the nature of their operation, it has been more disruptive.

The pandemic is creating significant operational challenges for outsourcing providers and off-shored shared services. This kind of work is not easily transferable to home due to the scale of staff affected, shortages in mobile IT equipment and data privacy legislation, which requires sensitive customer data to be handled in a specific location.

To help safeguard operational agility and resilience, there are three things to consider.

Potential issues

Mitigating risks to business continuity is a primary concern. The ability to react in real-time requires an accurate understanding of the current situation to make decisions quickly. A rapid increase or decrease in demand makes financial forecasting, inventory, capital and cash flow management critical.

To manage this properly, ensure organisational information and cash flow data is accessible and up-to-date.

Assess and protect

It’s imperative that you understand the potential impact of the pandemic and assess how your operations could be affected. You’re more likely to succeed, as long as you plan for and mitigate the unexpected.

For businesses unable to make shifts in operations, this time can be well-spent understanding what future business model changes may look like when the country emerges from the pandemic.

Don’t be afraid to make imperfect decisions, but ensure that you define the key decisions made and have the best management information possible to support them.

Not all choices will turn out to have been the right ones. The requirement to react swiftly to comply with changes in government guidance or meet shifting customer demand has become almost real-time in many industries.

Restore and reimagine

Many businesses which have recovered from the initial shock are now looking at how they can not only be resilient in the current climate, but also more efficient and profitable in a post-pandemic world.

The current market conditions are temporary, although likely to have long-term ramifications for the economy. It is the companies that have refined their business plans that are most likely to recover more quickly once the crisis has passed, so ensure you use this time as efficiently and economically as possible.


If you require strategic advice and support during this challenging and unprecedented time, visit Grant Thornton’s coronavirus hub: www.grantthornton.co.uk/en/insights/responding-to-coronavirus-covid-19