In the previous blogwe looked at the first set of speakers from the Public Services session within the Adaptive Strategies Forumexamining how public services have responded to crises such as the 2019/20 bushfire season and COVID-19. 

In this blog, I’ll summarise my discussion with Professor Michael Rosemann, Director of the Centre for Future Enterprise at Queensland University of Technology from our second half of the virtual forum 

Professor Rosemann was involved in the mass co-ordinated response to COVID-19 by the German government. Facing extreme circumstancesthe German Foreign Ministry needed to repatriate 230,000 of its citizens globally. This required a significant amount of international co-ordination across public and private sectors around the world. The project meant orchestrating visas, exemptions from health officers, co-ordinating accommodation and safe transport for all Germans trying to return home. 

The rapid response and mass orchestration of many different systems has demonstrated that governments often work best in crisis. Within Australia, we’re seeing the quick launch of a COVID-19 tracing app, which again required co-ordination between different public and private organisations to reach citizens so quickly while ensuring the security of data and platform.  

COVID-19 has shown governments and businesses the need for new enterprise planning, a digital safeguard against shock events that mitigates risks through data insights. Intelligence from data should feedback to governments to help dictate policy, improve the speed of regulation and legislative launches by better understanding its impact on citizens. People discuss the value of enterprise planning in business products and services, so why not adapt this to public policy? 

Response and Reaction to Crisis 

Professor Rosemann highlighted the three types of response to crisis, as highlighted through COVID-19. The first is rapid scale acceleration, which has been seen in services such as internet and healthcare providers that have upscaled significantly to handle the spike in demand.  

The second response is rapid adaptation and repurpose. This has been demonstrated in the education sector and other organisations that have implemented work-from-home practices. With the disappearance of the physical channel, repurposing is often supported by digital transformation – the ability to work and connect remotely while operating seamlessly. 

The third type of response is hibernation, which is when organisations have no choice but to halt operations for the sake and safety of its people. This has been seen particularly in the hospitality and entertainment industries and is often due to an inability to digitalise services. 

Regardless of response, all organisations need to prepare for the future of workincentivising and supporting staff by understanding. Professor Rosemann noted the importance of all leaders to be more comfortable with having lessrigid deadlines or shorter-view forecasting due to uncertainty.  

While there have been generally rapid reaction capabilities across public and private sectors, COVID-19 has also demonstrated the fragility of systems, highlighting our exposure to political and macroeconomic system. We’ve seen the widespread impact of restrictions on movement in terms of goods and people, plus the added strains on communications and service networks.  

However, Professor Rosemann offered a primary example of public services emerging stronger through crisis. He noted how the Brazilian banking system was forced to develop more sophisticated processes and technologies due to heightened national inflation. This not only helped build a more resilient financial system, but also accelerated its public and private leadership, making them more comfortable with lack of timeframesdeadlines, and certainty. Other services and nations face these same opportunities and can evolve from these hardships into a better position for responding to change. 

Staying Safe and Supported 

During this time of isolation, connection is more critical than ever. Without the social elements of work and public spaces, digital technologies are facilitating a range of ways to connect, have deeper conversations, and engage with other people’s lives remotely.  

Professor Rosemann expressed how people will and businesses with emerge from this pandemic with a new urge for life – a greater sense of optimism and joy built through connection. Responses to this crisis have shown society’s ability to co-ordinate en masse, collaborate across borders and industries, to keep people informed, safe, and productive.  

Within education, retail, and banking industries, we’ve seen the adoption of omnichannel services – and while these may not be a complete and permanent change, it certainly offers more options for service providers and greater convenience for customers, students, and citizens. 

Businesses and governments have already shown greatness in response to crisis, and now that we are no longer reacting to the current pandemic, its an opportunity to broaden the horizons, ensure a continuity of service, and emerge from this challenge period better equipped to handle change. Crisis can create positive impacts in hindsight if responses are well informed and improve the lives of others. 

As industries and governments move towards more digitalisation, we should see more dynamic scenario planning with multiple options and alternatives backed by data. The fragility of supply chains and legacy systems has shown our need to be more collaborative and co-ordinated in our response to crisis.  

Our discussion ended by highlighting the need for greater agility across and between agencies. Digital transformation can support the creation of temporary agencies to react quickly to public needs and opportunities, thereby breaking organisational silos and focusing on the service of customers and citizens.  

To learn more, my conversation with Professor Rosemann as well as the other recordings from the SAP 2020 Adaptive Strategies in a Changed World Virtual Industry Forum are available on demand here