If you couldn’t tune into the SAP 2020 Adaptive Strategies in a Changed World Virtual Industry, the recordings are available on demand here. However, I’d like to take this opportunity to explore some of the ideas and themes that were discussed during the event and provide a perspective on how these learnings might help us emerge from this crisis in better shape than we went into it.  

The Public Services virtual forum began with introductory remarks from President and Managing Director of SAP ANZ, Damien Bueno, who noted the impressive pace and ways businesses are adapting. He expressed how SAP has been working from home for nearly two months and while this is a time of uncertainty for many, businesses and governments alike should have licence to be bold and use this opportunity to evolve digitally in order to remain stronger.  

Damien also expressed the importance of optimism during a time like this – and the importance of understanding what could become new ways of working. Adapting under crisis is giving businesses new skills and perspectives and the chance to emerge more prepared and resilient to future shock events. 

A Test of Fire and Pandemic 

NextI was fortunate to facilitate a discussion with Lee Miezis, CEO of Bushfire Recovery Victoria, and Simon Bush, GM Policy and Advocacy at AIIA and Managing Director of Bush-Consulting 

Simon was encouraged by the speed of adaptation, noting how rapid digitalisation is occurring across the legal sector, healthcare, government, and more, at a pace that’s taking weeks instead of years. As part of businesses moving boldly, there has been positive feedback as businesses have been able to respond to changing circumstances at scale, adapting to added strains on resources and services.  

Lee gave the audience a run through his first 100 days on the job, from the development of Bushfire Recovery Victoria in response to Australia’s severe bushfire season 2019-2020. He noted how the past six months have been continual adaptation to drastic changes, which has required significant co-ordination between government jurisdictionsbusinesses, and communities in order to keep people informed and safe during the bushfire season and subsequent COVID-19 crisis.  

A key challenge Lee mentioned was offering targeted support those who’ve undergone tragedy and displacement. The damage cause by bushfires was widespread and the ability to serve those impacted required aggregating a lot of data from organisations – both public and private – to gather insights into people’s situations, the support they require, and their eligibility for specific schemes and services.  

His organisation was forced to work quickly, leveraging the available technology and data to provide that targeted support. Lee noted the vital importance of being able to gather disparate data and verify it, in order to co-ordinate the right response at the right time. He emphasised that data is critical to providing the right services. 

Lee commented on the importance of existing relationships, enabling them to connect rapidly with other government agencies and business’s with relevant capabilities. He noted that they were overwhelmed with offers of support in the initial stages and the existing relationships were the quickest way to leverage the support needed.  

In terms of building staff resilience, Lee observed the need to nurture staff relationships and engagement especially in a brand-new organisational structure who were suddenly working remotely. This entailed focusing on regular, frequent communications and he gave an example of mailing care packages. 

The adage ‘never waste a crisis’ was expressed with both Simon and Lee noting how this challenging period could still offer people and organisations a learning opportunity to better connect with one another, discover best practices for adaptation, and find a way to deepen trust amongst customers, partners, employees, and other stakeholders.  

The Value of Communication and Support 

Connection was a key theme of the discussion as the need to keep staff connected to the organisation’s purpose, expectations, and customers are all critical – whether during or outside a crisis.  

When facilitating work-from-home staff, there were three key take-aways. First was the need to balance collaboration with productivity – ensuring staff have the technology and support they need to stay connected with the organisation, collaborate with colleagues, and stay safe during this period of change. 

The second point regarding work-from-home is the value of company culture – not only in terms of camaraderie, but in making allowances for adjustment, understanding the disruptions that are occurring, and normalising those practices that will benefit the organisation beyond COVID-19. 

Third was the importance of mental health. It can be challenging for many to log off and disengage from work when they’re homelives and work now share a roof. The ability to reengage socially, get outside and exercise, or simply step away from the computer is paramount as the first priority throughout this crisis has been the health and wellbeing of everyone.  

significant takeaway for me in facilitating this discussion was the vital importance that connections, combined with insightful data, can play in helping organisations to rapidly adapt and then respond to changes in their environmentIt certainly suggests that effort spent building more robust engagement structures with staff, customers, other agencies and relevant businesses creates a stronger adaptive capability. Combining this with better data insights derived from a more comprehensive treatment of, and focus on, data as a valuable asset allows rapid and more targeted responses in times of change.   

Perhaps both the public and private sector should consider using this crisis to improve communications with each other, better express needs and expectations, and enable these improved connections through data – using data insights to understand our situation, our responses, and how we emerge from this crisis in better shape than we went into it.  

To learn more you can access a full recording from the session here