As businesses consider reopening during the pandemic, leaders are working on three phases—protect, stabilize, and recover. The first crucial step is to protect employees and operations from immediate health threats. Next, companies assess and stabilize available resources to meet shifting demands. And, executives must plan for the longer term, reestablishing their business where and when possible, with an eye toward recovery.
The recovery phase is perhaps the trickiest. How can businesses establish a normal cadence in a time that is decidedly abnormal? It begins with critical location data and effective communication.
In each phase, businesses are using information hubs that feature location intelligence to guide management, customers, and employees. All stakeholders can use information hubs—such as dashboards, websites, and maps—to adjust plans and processes to fit current conditions.
For instance, companies must communicate with employees to determine health and readiness to come to work. In many cases, employees are submitting this information through mobile devices. Geographic information systems (GIS) technology automatically contextualizes that data on smart maps for real-time sharing across the organization. GIS serves as the platform for business information hubs.
GIS also provides a big-picture assessment of a business. During the pandemic, the technology helps executives visualize the geographic landscape of the workforce. Some even augment those smart maps with operational data, such as where customers are using products and services, and how those habits are changing in response to the crisis. This information helps executives configure their companies to meet shifting consumer demands.
A recent McKinsey report described how a leading North American retailer is shifting inventory across its network to meet the demand of certain products in specific areas. Some retailers are even reassigning their merchandising staff to provide coverage where it is needed the most, a process that requires rapid-response onboarding and cross-training. All of these activities are impossible without location data that informs decision-making—both across the network and at a hyperlocal level.
A Glimpse At Recovery
As reopening efforts move forward, companies also are planning for the eventual recovery phase of the pandemic. Executives are leveraging critical location intelligence to adjust their operations.
As a hypothetical example, consider a multistate company that manufactures sanitizing products and provides on-site cleaning services for facilities. Its initial response to the pandemic might involve gaining a basic awareness of employees’ location and health status, via a daily survey that workers complete on their mobile phones. Executives could monitor an information hub to gather this information. The same hub could also deliver helpful information to workers, including near real-time maps of local resources like healthcare facilities and businesses that remain open in their area.
The company’s operations managers, meanwhile, determine which organizations in their customer base are still operating. As essential businesses, hospitals and medical offices will not only still need sanitizing product and cleaning services—they’ll likely require more than usual. Restaurants and educational institutions, however, will not require the company’s services, at least in the short term. The company’s executives will therefore want to reallocate resources toward serving the healthcare sector—and flatten the business disruption.
GIS provides a way for the company to visualize—and therefor execute—these plans. The company creates a smart map with overlapping layers of information to help managers make resourcing decisions. One layer shows the location of high-demand customer sites. Another displays product availability at each regional distribution center. A third shows where available personnel can deliver on-site cleaning services. All this data is collected and organized by the information hub, creating a central source of insight for fast decision-making that addresses these operational challenges.
As time passes, this same hub reflects changing conditions. The healthcare customers will continue to need support, the education sector will likewise not require hand sanitizer or cleaning services as long as schools remain closed. Office buildings, however, occupy a gray area. Although they may remain closed for now, some will reopen in a few months. They will not only require hand sanitizer and cleaning services—they’ll require these services more than ever. The map will help the company shift personnel as much as possible to the geographic areas where these services and supplies are most needed.
As this reallocation continues, executives begin shaping plans for the company’s recovery. This will require flexibility and foresight. Services, products, personnel, facilities, distribution channels—all will need reexamination amid a market changed by the COVID-19 crisis. Geographic insights will inform everything from the company’s high-level survival strategy to ground-level decisions, such as identifying regions where truck drivers will require masks when making product deliveries.
This company may be hypothetical, but the lessons are universal. Worldwide, in every business sector, executives are scrambling to understand demand and shift employees and resources accordingly. Organizations with proactive GIS leadership will have the ability to see all relevant information in a single information that tracks how the business is running, and where it needs to adjust.
Every day, we all struggle to understand the full impact of the pandemic. We know that important progress on the public health front will help facilitate economic recovery. Business leaders must remain nimble and responsive to market indicators—including government guidelines, public sentiment, and customer needs. With location intelligence, executives can gauge the tenor of each market—and even each neighborhood—and link business recovery to an area’s readiness to reengage.
For more information, visit Esri’s business continuity resource center at esri.com/en-us/covid-19/business-continuity.
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