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Hop on to the collaboration boat to sail through the COVID-19 storm

Every crisis throws up new challenges. But, every crisis also has the potential to be a valuable lesson. The unknown challenges in our response to the COVID-19 crisis severely outweighed the known ones. Collaboration, as opposed to command and control, is the biggest learning to be drawn from our dealing with those unknown challenges.

The basic aim of the collaboration is to pursue goals collaboratively that otherwise would be difficult to pursue. This aim is taking deep roots in the business world. We are witnessing a collaborative effort across organizations and industries to find effective solutions to the unprecedented limitations posed on economies and businesses by the pandemic. The outbreak has potentially transformed the way businesses operate, and trebled the adoption of new practices in a matter of days.

The industry-wide collaboration has percolated to the in-house operations of businesses also. Organizations have quickly woken up to the benefits of collaboration between different stakeholders and are now creating cross-functional teams that pool in suggestions from all quarters, and not just from the leadership.

Different businesses adapted different ways to ensure minimal impact on operations and to continue supporting the end-users amidst all external challenges. The need of the hour indeed is to maintain this operating model for the long-term, by creating mission-focused multidisciplinary teams, empowering teams to drive actions, and encouraging employees across levels to demonstrate leadership attributes.

Collaboration for internal harmony

The COVID-19 crisis potentially dismantled hierarchy and brought all on the same level playing field. With unknowns piling up, there were no right answers, as to how one can deal with the crisis quickly and effectively. It created a need for new ideas, and ideas could come from anywhere or anyone.

The situation clearly demanded collaboration with multiple stakeholders, more than ever, to ensure minimal financial impact, and at the same time better security and safety of employees and client data. Companies worldwide scourged for solutions encompassing effective workaround, quick implementation timelines, digital enablement, data security, risk management, and innovations to enable business as usual.

All relevant stakeholders from operations, technical support, HR, facilities, risk, transport, and security were brought to a common drawing table to understand the specific requirements of each client business delivery.

The situation had to be approached differently and it required 4 eyes (I’s) to implement an effective solution. The 4 eyes approach emphasizes the importance of collaborating with multiple stakeholders and requires every participant’s expertise to overcome a given challenge. The approach enabled us to look at the issue holistically by involving ideas from all quarters.

Collaborating with the ecosystem

Collaborating with the ecosystem

The pandemic situation has created challenges that are multifold with high revenue impact, higher cost of operations, facility maintenance, dependencies on external parties, availability of resources, and investments, to enable new models in the New Normal.

The response to the crisis required teams to look beyond the first lockdown announcement and prepare for the long term impact on economies and businesses alike.

The plan had to account for all anticipated challenges and look for alternatives proactively. Implementing a solution required working with industry bodies and local bodies to present a compelling case to the government authorities. We also collaborated with the service providers to enable employees to work from home, who are spread across various districts and states. Deeper collaboration with the clients also emerged as the business landscape showed a visible change. An aerospace client, for instance, witnessed a dip in volumes from airline customers, while their volumes for the defense and space category shot up.

At a functional level, leaders had to re-organize the workforce to meet client dynamics. A holistic view of the situation and the collaborated efforts of all stakeholders helped in identifying opportunity areas for our clients. The situation required teams to think beyond traditional methods and had to quickly come up with solutions that can help reduce business impact. Collaborated efforts with multiple stakeholders, combined with an open mind to invite ideas from all possible quarters, enabling them with a platform to contribute to the situation and executing various suggestions, were critical.

With multiple ideas pouring in, we challenged the status quo and questioned the traditional methods. Collaborative efforts enabled us to envisage the opportunity to design and develop operating models that would work in the future as well, benefitting both the clients and employees.

The teams worked together across several nights to have the think tank rolling. The labour of this change, however, was fruitious. Infosys BPM’s Chennai DC, for instance, was one of the first in India to regain 100% revenue, while 100% of billable resources are working from home. We identified the need for collaboration early on, and even before the first lockdown was announced, 96% of the clients' business/operations were secured with the WFH model. We may not have all the answers still, but the case for collaboration is in the proof of results.