Shifting from survive to thrive post-pandemic

From the protests and occupation of our downtown core last month, to the tragic events in Ukraine that continue to cloud the global outlook, the tentative first steps in a post-pandemic future have been anything but a celebration. The stress and challenges of the last two years continue to be felt in our community and around the world.

Still, in spite of continued headwinds, as community leaders, organizational managers and business owners, we need to look forward, take action, and make decisions that best position our organizations and businesses for success.

When the pandemic struck in mid-March 2020, most organizations had to scramble simply to be able to re-open doors six weeks later under tight COVID restrictions. Massive operational pivots were done on the fly – from restaurants shifting to take-out and home prepared meals, manufacturers working around supply chain shortages, to government departments moving tens of thousands of National Capital Region employees to secure online platforms.

Two years on, the adjustments made in the workplace to simply get us through what we thought would be a brief quarantine, are now common-place practice.

As we move forward in 2022, it’s time to take stock and better understand how the adoption of these changes and new business models can be embraced and harnessed to ensure your organization thrives.

As we advise our clients in Eastern Ontario, the following are a few things you should be considering as you map out business planning and strategy for the year ahead:

  • TECHNOLOGY ADOPTION: To survive the pandemic, it’s quite likely your organization had to make a significant shift to online operations and service delivery – from relying on employee communications platforms such as Microsoft Teams, to changing how you sell to and communicate with clients. This technology shift serves as a critical enabler going forward. With this foundation, your organization now has the ability to be agile in making quick business adjustments, something you may not have had two years ago. It is now time to determine what has worked well, and what next steps should be implemented (ie migrating data to the cloud, harnessing business analytics) to move your organization to the next level.
  • EMBRACE INNOVATION AND THINK “LEAPFROG”: While we associate innovation with technology firms, innovation is the ability to implement change in a way that drives efficiencies and value for you and your clients. Organizations that never saw themselves as innovative – again, take the restaurant industry as an example – have embraced new ways of service delivery to be successful. The lesson learned in operating through the pandemic is that innovation and change are not as hard as you or your employees might think it is. Embrace these changes, but perhaps more importantly, don’t be afraid to move your organization to a model of continuous innovation that may help to grow and reshape your organization beyond simple next steps.
  • FIND BALANCE IN THE MODERN WORKPLACE: One thing we’ve all learned through the pandemic is working remotely comes with both perks and distractions. While some organizations have moved to a fully online, remote work model, I would argue there is tremendous value in reconnecting your organization with in-person meetings, office hours and collaborative engagements. Every organization is different, but from client relationships, to the motivation and energy that comes from working with colleagues, the next few months should include a focus on establishing back-to-work models that harness the best of both worlds.

For our BDO team in Ottawa and Eastern Ontario, these considerations reflect some of what we’re focused on as we map out the year ahead.

Like you, the business plan we mapped out in early 2020 isn’t exactly the playbook we’ve relied on.

Two weeks prior to the pandemic lockdown, we acquired Ottawa technology firm Lixar. It was a significant step forward in transforming our business at BDO in order to support the technology requirements of our customers across Canada.

We’ve spent the past 24 months at BDO and BDO Lixar working virtually, and are looking forward to finally having our combined teams collaborating in person. While we don’t yet have all the answers to what our future workplace will look like, we’re moving quickly to establish the right balance. The more certainty our employees have in their workplace expectations and schedule, the better we can focus on supporting our clients.

One final note. This is the first in a series for BDO in the Ottawa Business Journal. We’re proud to be working with OBJ this year to talk a bit about the innovative ideas and new approaches we’re working on with our clients across Eastern Ontario, and will be using this column to highlight the trends, changes and ideas you should be thinking about as you grow your business and redefine your organization.

While the last two years have taught us you can never truly know what lies around the corner, we look forward to having a conversation about how you can be preparing your organization for what might be next.

Mike Abbott is the Ottawa and Eastern Ontario managing partner for BDO Canada.

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