Our experience: Ensuring business continuity during global disruption

  • Posted on March 6, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
Ensuring business continuity during global disruption FINAL

This article was originally written by Avanade alum Melanie Bell.

The phrase disruption gets bandied about a lot in the technology world. Whether that’s to describe a group of agile market entrants, changing customer behavior, trailblazing tech or simply new ways of doing things – disruption is everywhere. 
But the disruption we’re experiencing right now (and have recently experienced) puts that in context. As COVID-19 spreads globally, our regular working and living routines are being challenged. 
Depending on where you are, you’ll be feeling the effects differently. I’m based in Hong Kong. Here and in mainland China (as well as many other countries across the world), the effects of COVID-19 have been felt quickly and profoundly. The virus has shone a light on the fact that many businesses need to review and reconsider their preparations for unexpected local or global disruptions. Carla recently shared with BBC some of the impact and opportunities we have to prepare for global disruptions like this.

Expecting the unexpected 
Coronavirus dominates news headlines around the world now. But it wasn’t long ago that the bush fires were turning life upside down for many Australians. Avanade’s Canberra office was shut due to poor air quality for four weeks.  

Our colleagues in Japan face disruption as the Tokyo Olympics approaches. And it’s not just rapidly emerging events that pose challenges – think about our collective longer-term corporate social responsibility as sustainability becomes a more pressing concern. 
Change is inevitable. So, businesses need to be prepared to respond and adapt, whether that’s to minimize risk or grab opportunities.

Business continuity during a crisis 
Avanade’s vision is to be the world’s leading digital innovator. So, we’ve embraced remote and flexible working practices early on to adapt and evolve our workplace experience. This meant our move to near-total remote working in countries most affected by COVID-19 was a relatively seamless process over the last few weeks.  
We understand that embracing more flexible working practices may pose different challenges for each organization. But the capabilities and accessibility offered by modern workplace platforms mean that nearly every business should be able to adopt some elements of remote working.  
The key is finding a way to introduce this flexibility which not only minimizes disruption and risk, but also maximizes the ability for your employees to be productive and responsive, enabling your customers experience, as well as their own. We've leant on our modern workplace capabilities more heavily than ever before recently. So, below I’ve gathered a range of insights and practical steps you can take to maintain business continuity, based on our own experience. 

#1 – Tech is only one piece of the puzzle 
No matter what workplace platform you use, products and tools alone can only get you so far. Sure, they’ll give you the technical capability to introduce remote working, but they won’t guarantee your employees will flourish while doing so.  
We’ve successfully embraced remote working because we adopted the tech as part of a broader workplace transformation process. We started with the basic building blocks and introduced further functionality at the right time and pace. This more considered and holistic approach has ensured our staff are set up to thrive – comfortable that they can perform and benefit from an effective employee experience even when they’re part of teams that are dispersed over huge distances. 

#2 – Reimagining ways of working 
The nature of our work means our teams are often working on site with clients, meeting at their offices, or attending events with them. The rapid spread of the virus has quickly changed this. We’ve not only had to consider the way our teams work, but the way they deliver work for clients. 
Thanks to the robust cloud infrastructure that underpins our workplace platforms – the likes of Office 365, Microsoft Teams, SharePoint and more – we’ve been able to continue delivering work seamlessly. Just because the virus has meant we've been working from home, this hasn't stopped us delivering for our clients. We’ve held meetings that would normally be face-to-face virtually. We didn’t cancel events – we moved them online. And we didn’t work in isolation, we collaborated and brainstormed over virtual sessions.

#3 – Employee wellbeing in the virtual workplace 
Working at Avanade means you get to collaborate with great people. But one of the more challenging aspects when working from home is social isolation and seclusion. This is amplified with the COVID-19 situation where social distancing is encouraged to reduce risk of spreading the virus. 
We’ve sought to address this with a number of recommendations and initiatives for our teams in affected regions. For example, we’re embracing virtual lunchbreaks over Microsoft Teams to ensure employees continue to benefit from social interactions with colleagues. We’ve also encouraged our teams to take regular screen breaks, exercise throughout the day, and explore holistic techniques such as mindfulness. 
Our workplace technology is helping us to retain as many of the social benefits that a physical workspace offers by recreating them in a virtual setting.

#4 – Cultural considerations 
Finally, we’ve found that integrating flexible ways of working has challenged cultural norms and habits in certain countries. This is magnified in Asia Pacific, as one of the most culturally diverse regions in the world. 
Traditionally, Chinese workplaces are more comfortable with an office- or desk-based culture. Meanwhile, other countries have had to rethink how they’re measuring employee productivity and move from a “time-spent mindset” to more of a outcome-led approach. It’s important to acknowledge that each culture and country will approach flexible working practices from a different perspective and varying level of adoption or familiarity level of adoption or familiarity.

The new normal 
Whether it’s due to a global disruption or part of a wider employee experience initiative, businesses across the world are having to rethink their approach to the workplace and embrace greater flexibility.

For more advice and resources, explore our Workplace Experience content.


Stella Goulet

Thanks for sharing your advice and insights. Very helpful to learn from you what's working.

March 20, 2020

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