Before the pandemic upended the way many organizations conduct business, scenario planning largely took a backseat to disaster recovery and continuity strategies. Even many who rank among the savviest thought leaders could not have envisioned a scenario in which workers would be required to stay home and remain six feet apart in public places.
The COVID-19 disruption has taught industry leaders a valuable lesson that another level of strategic thinking needs to take place. While disaster recovery and continuity strategies remain essential, it’s imperative that decision-makers begin high-level scenario planning.
What is Scenario Planning?
It’s important to understand that scenario planning is not necessarily a new concept spawned by the coronavirus’s economic implications. Along with a handful of corporations that engaged in ongoing efforts, Forbes magazine published a lengthy, step-by-step article advocating for scenario planning five years ago called, “Scenario Planning and Strategic Forecasting.”
But for brevity sake, scenario planning is a process in which organizations conduct high-level “what-if” discussions and then rehearse how to adapt and overcome crisis-like disruptions. These hypothetical futures do not necessarily exist in a vacuum. Business leaders typically gather together department heads, key stakeholders, and third-party managed IT services experts to consider trends and vulnerabilities. In hindsight, these are scenario lessons the pandemic taught us.
- Need to Anticipate Supply Chain Shifts
- Need for Increased IT Infrastructure Investment
- Heightened Cybersecurity Risks & Vulnerability Mitigation
- Changes to Worker Health & Safety
- Need for Remote Workforce Readiness
But contemplating the “what-ifs” is only half the battle. Tapping experienced professionals to implement and ensure preparedness is essential to heading off the next unforeseen crisis.
“Scenarios by themselves do not determine strategy any more than a forecast does. A strategy needs to be developed in light of a set of scenarios. Think of scenarios as different hands of cards you might be dealt; think of strategies as the way you would play those cards,” the Forbes article states.
How Can IT Consultants Drive Scenario Planning Solutions?
Douglas Laney, author of Infonomics: How to Monetize, Manage, and Measure Information for Competitive Advantage, recently penned a piece on scenario planning for Forbes. The Gartner Thought Leadership award winner’s article, “Unprecedented? With Data, Analytics And Scenario Planning, There’s No Such Thing,” argues that industry leaders grew complacent in their long-term strategic efforts.
“For too long, many organizations in the industries suffering today have been navel-gazing at their own data with little interest in or ability to ingest the vast array of external data available,” Laney states. “With an estimated 10 million public ‘open data’ sources, billions of websites with content ready to be harvested, thousands of commercial data products, emerging data marketplaces, and data to be bartered for from your business partners and suppliers, there is no excuse for ignoring the wide range of global economic factors and their impact on your business.”
Given the pivotal role third-party firms played in helping organizations swiftly move to work-from-home productivity, there’s little doubt that IT remains at the forefront of scenario planning. The business fallout from the pandemic certainly reinforced lessons about the critical nature of technology in our live-work culture.
Without IT infrastructures such as the Cloud, business platforms such as Microsoft Teams, and even commonplace applications like Face Time, COVID-19 could have shuttered far more businesses and entire industries. That’s why high-level scenario planning with IT experts who work on the cutting edge of innovation can deliver the following solutions.
- Help articulate the shortcomings of pre-coronavirus forecasting models
- Engage in collaboration with in-house team members to analyze data to identify external indicators
- Understand multi-tier supply chain implications by leveraging IoT and other technology
- Highlight IT investment into digital solutions to brick-and-mortar impacts
- Consider multi-Cloud strategies to offset potential service interruption
- Identify the best methods and practices to protect and encrypt digital assets
The COVID-19 disruption has been a rude awakening that reliance on disaster recovery and continuity planning did not go far enough. But some visionaries see a silver lining to the upheaval caused by the health crisis.
“We now have an incredible opportunity to reimagine the future and envision those wonderful new realities that we can’t usually see when stuck in the limitations of success, routine, and predictability,” Vanderbilt University’s Chabad Rabbi Shlomo Rothstein reportedly said.