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BW Businessworld

Actionable Strategies To Thrive In The Post Pandemic World

Business leaders are now relying on applied intelligence, digital technologies, and talent to develop an intelligent operating model that will enable them to thrive in the new normal.

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With physical contact being kept to the bare minimum, it is digital that proves to be a lifesaver for many organizations. Business leaders and organisational stakeholders agree that despite the cascading human impact, the pandemic has given us new learning and fresh perspectives. They are now relying on applied intelligence, digital technologies, and talent to develop an intelligent operating model that will enable them to thrive in the new normal.

In a recently concluded roundtable organised by SAP in association with BW Businessworld, diverse thoughts and new learnings were discussed by top leaders across functions to achieve success in the post-pandemic world.

The underlined theme we were working on was trust:

Ruchi Vijay, CFO at Tata Medical and Diagnostics Limited, mentioned that her company was incorporated while the pandemic raged on.

Vijay commented, "We hired several people during the lockdown without any physical connection. The underlined theme that we were working on was trust. When one is hiring somebody you have never met in person, it is on trust that one is building the organisation."

Vijay highlighted that earlier they were building teamwork and inclusiveness at an organisational level; now the same is being built at a family level.

She explained, "Earlier, you had peer A competing with peer B. Now there is a situation where you are comparing peer A with his family – how much time are they going to devote to work, and how are they going to work while working from home. Inclusiveness has gone beyond the employee level; this is a major change we have witnessed."

Sumedha Varma, Director at SAP Concur India, highlighted that the world is moving from an era of a shareholder-centric mind-set to a stakeholder centric one.

Sumedha commented, "This shift requires companies to address each stakeholder, including employees, customers, investors, partners, and society in an equal measure. This impacts leaders across all functional domains including CFOs, CHROs, COOs, and CIOs, as they are witnessing a paradigm shift in their roles and priorities."

Sumedha underlined that the role of CFO has expanded in the last 2 years and they have donned the strategic cap too. She said, "Besides focussing on traditional tasks such as cost, productivity, margins, and growth, CFOs are now deeply involved in addressing business trends which have long-term implications, including transformation, digital, ESG, and talent strategy."

Sumedha pointed out that the roles of CHROs and CIOs have also witnessed a major shift. She commented, "The role of CHROs has evolved from driving simple administrative and employee engagement initiatives to influencing decision making and building alignment between business strategy and the workforce. Also, CIOs now have a stronger voice in key decision making to educate leadership and envision how new technologies can enable new products, and business strategies to deliver end-to-end customer value."

Legacy mind-set got challenged every single day:

Pratik Chatterjee, CFO at Tata Steel Processing and Distribution Ltd., emphasised the fact that the legacy mind-set got challenged every single day during the pandemic, and people were forced to ultimately change it.

Chatterjee pointed out that the pandemic has taught us several aspects of a business. He said, "The pandemic forced us to review the scope, length, and breadth that a company needs to evaluate its risk."

"It also tested the supply chain resilience and exposed many companies that had to work on their supply chain. The supply chain has transformed from a buyer-seller transactional relationship to a more symbiotic relationship. Nowadays, enterprises and businesses are nothing but an ecosystem of partnerships. The pandemic has taught us to value partnering with stakeholders, and to see how the risk aspect of each stakeholder is getting addressed."

Chatterjee also highlighted that businesses need to continuously evaluate alternate revenue streams, and also remain flexible and agile at the same time to cope with the challenges of uncertain times.

Sumedha Varma emphasised that a major change that happened post-pandemic was the shift of power from the organisation to the employees.

Sumedha said, "In today’s time, employees demand flexibility. Also, a hybrid workforce is here to stay. Companies are developing advanced strategies that allow employees to operate in the environment of their choice without affecting performance, productivity, or social interactions. The extra focus has been given to identifying and implementing best-suited technology and procedures required to optimise hybrid work in the short term while ensuring organisational long-term success."

Sumedha also underlined that organisations today are becoming flatter and less hierarchical. She commented, "2022 is a year of intentional change, and I believe that organisations that will form a robust and holistic response to these changes have an opportunity to bring about transformative growth and create a lasting impact."

Challenges faced by a team leader:

Rasik Sontakke, CFO at Tata UniStore Limited, suggested that CFOs as team leaders need to start with the question – of how to structure meeting interactions?

As Sontakke said, "As a leader, we need to design the work format, the meeting formats—update vs. review, brainstorming vs. sharing and learning, etc."

"It begins with how we structure our work, followed by how we design our structures and processes, and how effectively technology is used in work, be it video conferencing platforms, collaborative platforms, shared file structures, etc."

Sontakke highlighted that, as a CFO, they need to have proper planning in order before investing in something. He explained, "In a hybrid working environment, one does not need a fixed seating structure. Even the seat utilisation has rapidly gone down."

Sontakke believes that overall net cost has decreased because of cost savings in travel. He said, "Several meetings which we thought could not take place without being physically present are now virtually possible."

The pandemic has accelerated tech adoption:

Ritu Gupta, Financial Controller at Tata Power DDL, mentioned that the Indian power sector is very sensitive to the local situation, and is impacted by the dynamic political as well as economic conditions.

Gupta said, "A recent study suggests that the power demand is going to increase manifold, thus massive investments both in terms of infrastructure as well as technology are required. Customers today expect low-cost, dependable, and environmentally friendly power.

Gupta underlined that every sector is becoming tech-savvy and the power sector needs to do the same. She commented, "New devices are needed to be introduced, including monitoring control devices and energy management tools. One needs to minimise human interfaces in commercial processes, and there is plenty of room for IT application."

Important to embrace empathy:

Mahadeo Raikar, CFO at Tata Capital Housing, underlined that the most important requirement from an employee perspective is for the team members to be flexible. He said, "Employees should be ready to come back to the office whenever asked for. Going forward, it is going to be a need-based travel culture, and a hybrid workplace is going to be the new normal."

Raikar mentioned that it is of utmost importance for both organisations and employees to embrace empathy towards themselves, the organisation, their family members, and their colleagues.

Raikar pointed out that organisations should help employees in terms of providing them with digital technology. He said, "Digitisation is going to be the new normal in the current world. Massive digital disruption is taking place. A lot of effort is being made in terms of implementing bots, robotics, AI/ML, which is to be applied across all functions, be it customer-facing, finance, credit functions, human resources, etc."

Sumedha Varma highlighted that as employees are coming back to work, new challenges are emerging.

Sumedha said, "A massive war for talent, inflation rates touching an all-time high, and a swift transition to in-person mode has not helped with the operating margins. Also, travel and business spending have increased, and in a lot of cases we have seen that spending has surpassed the pre-pandemic levels."

"All of this, coupled with increased competition, customer behaviour changes, political changes, and uncertainty, is putting huge pressure on organisations to grow profitably. These changes are compelling enterprises to turn to technology solutions that create transparency, enhance control over company expenses, and enable better employee experience and visibility," she added.

Need to channelize data properly:

Abhishek Musahib, Head Finance & CS at Tata Soulfull, highlighted the fact that a lot of data is available in every department they operate in. As Musahib commented, "By 2030, we will have a million internet users in India, something which a lot of companies are trying to get good insights from and put into business use.

Musahib underlined that they implemented SAP S/4 HANA across TATA consumer platforms across continents. He said, "The reason why we did so was to harmonize data and create a data lake which will empower the analytics or information processing which we want to do."

Musahib explained that they are harnessing the power of technology to get the right insights in terms of secondary data and grow using those insights.

The panellists concluded the discussion by agreeing to the fact that technology should be harnessed successfully in order to meet the demands of tomorrow.

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