Remember 9-11? I had just joined as VP Digital Transformation at Hilton Hotels to plan and deploy an online reservation system for all 600 hotels in 10 languages including Japanese. I was in a meeting when the first plane crashed into the World Trade Centre and one of our hotels was at the epicentre of the carnage.
The world seemed to end at that moment and international travel certainly did into and out of the USA. Yet compared today that seems like a tremor compared to the Covid-19 earthquake. The Hilton C-Suite did not lose focus, stayed brave and we continued the project. Christopher Surdak was a key member of the project and then as now he had practical advice drawing on his vast experience and ability to look forward. His article (link to content at bottom of this piece) is a clarion call to plan and act now for post pandemic success.
Surdak starts :
"While the Chinese origin for the curse “May you live in interesting times” is highly dubious, we no doubt find ourselves in interesting times. In my current role I work with leaders of dozens of organizations who are feverishly struggling to deal with this pandemic and its range of impacts. Some of these executives are dealing with the total loss of all revenue due to the closure of their global supply chain. Others are struggling to increase the production of their life-saving products by an order of magnitude in a matter of days. In every case, these leaders are finding their prior plans for disaster recovery or business continuity woefully inadequate, if only because so much of what is happening around us was not viewed as possible, let alone probable."
He summarises key factors we must take into account and act on. Whilst this is a global matter I could not help but use Churchill as the image to emphasise the need for leadership. In WW11 all sectors of society changed and business retooled to produce the the goods and services vital to win the war. Auto manufacturers started manufacturing planes, fashion clothing uniforms. In the UK the Admiralty called up a flotilla of little boats to help evacuate allied troops of the beaches of Dunkirk. The government had the destroyers and hospital ships but not the means to shuttle troops from beach to ship.
Similar changes are happening today as war is declared on the coronavirus plague. Vacuum cleaner manufacturers making ventilators, 3D printers churning out parts and components, distilleries manufacturing hand sanitisers. Big government calling on small, medium and large businesses and individuals to join the fight.
It is a time of threat and opportunity; a time to throw away staid thinking and bureaucratic rules. Time to rip down the hurdles of inertia and resistance to change. A time to be brave.
In my own company we have introduced three products to meet current hurdles that insurers face. One is for travel insurers who, faced with cancellations and curtailments, find themselves reliant on asking customers to fill in forms and attach documents to emails. An analogue process in a digital age. See it here.
You can see how we used a no code insurance platform to deploy the solution in days and it has already been deployed by two household names. Another leading insurer has been talking with us (and other claims management software companies) fopr over 18 months. Covid-19 focussed the mind and by the end of next week ot will ahve deployed all its home and motor insurance on our claims management platform.
Fast and urgent innovation is happening all over the world spurred by the Fifth Horseman. As well as short-term solutions every innovation should be a seamless step to the transformation that businesses, institutions, local and municipal government, health services, financial services and transportation- the whole spectrum of human activity must plan and achieve.
I commend you to read Surdak's article below.
This process of extinction of the old and birth of the new will be painful, and very scary. All of us are already feeling this fear to varying degrees. As horrifying as this experience is, it is also a necessary part of transformation, whether that transformation is elective, or is forced upon us by monsters big or infinitesimally small. But the experience we all will share over the course of the coming weeks and months reminds me of Winston Churchill’s take on a similarly-transformative time in our society: “When going through Hell, keep going.”