COVID-19 effect: Business may never be the same

As the economic shutdown brought on by COVID-19-related restrictions bites, two surveys of businesses leaders are revealing more about the fallout

Two surveys out this week show the extent to which the coronavirus pandemic has impacted business, with local business leaders revealing a slightly more positive outlook than globally.

Global leadership community, YPO, has released the results of its second COVID-19 CEO survey, undertaken with 3500 global chiefs, including over 100 from Australia. It found 40 per cent rate the pandemic as the largest threat to their business, while 11 per cent fear their business may not survive the unprecedented crisis.

In terms of how the Australian situation compares to the rest of the word, the YPO survey said the overall business outlook of local CEOs has not deteriorated as much as the outlook of CEOs worldwide since the start of March.  

In particular, the percentage of Australian CEOs who report that their overall business outlook has become significantly more negative (48 per cent) since 1 March is less than that of CEOs worldwide (56 per cent). Furthermore, 15 per cent of Australian CEOs report their outlook is more positive compared to only 9 per cent of CEOs worldwide.

The percentage of Australian CEOs who believe COVID-19 is not a threat to their business is 6 per cent, which is higher than the corresponding percentage worldwide of 3 per cent. However, the percentage of Australian CEOs indicating their business is in danger of not surviving is also higher - 15 per cent compared with 11 per cent worldwide. 

Looking at the phases of this crisis, 22 per cent of Australian CEOs said they are still in the immediate response phase, which is grappling with adjustments to the COVID-19 situation, whereas 69 per cent are in the continuity phase of having adjust somewhat. Just 9 per cent feel on the path towards recovery. In terms of the shape of the anticipated recovery, the majority at 61 per cent think it will be a long one, or U-shape. 

In relation to Australian business continuity, the plans in place worked, according to an Adapt COVID-19 survey of 217 C-level executives representing 197 organisations, including 47 from the ASX-200. 

Some 61 per cent of c-suite respondents said their organisation’s continuity plans were highly effective, with just 8 per cent saying they were ineffective. The findings from the survey, which was conducted in the first two weeks of April by the business research and advisory outfit, provide a further insight into the Australian business response to COVID-19.

While working from home is now the norm, it’s been a rapid change, but it seems the transition has gone well, with around three-quarters of leaders identifying the various parts, from tools and applications to data management and information access, as successful. In addition, stakeholder engagement and collaboration has improved. 

Not surprisingly, going forward, reducing costs is a priority above expanding into new markets, developing new products and becoming a data-driven organisation. And it seems the crisis is putting cutting edge tech on the back burner, with robotics, augmented reality and virtual reality, internet of things (IoT) and contactless technologies deemed non-critical by the majority of c-suite respondents.

Finally, the survey shows how the move to managing business from home has had far reaching implications. For instance, the value of the cloud as a business platform has come to the fore, while collaboration tools, customer engagement and network optimisation are some of the technologies now deemed most critical to the business.

Yet the transition to a virtual workforce has its challenges, with managing supply chains and pivoting from physical to digital delivery areas deemed problematic by more respondents. 

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia.

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