In early March, I was shoulder to shoulder with people in Canton Massachusetts’s Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV), seeking to get a star on my license, the latest requirement for air travel within the U.S. The process demands an in-person presentation of documents, and it took over two hours, despite the fantastic staff present to help.  

Even then I was thinking, “Why isn’t the RMV set up to do these new IDs more efficiently?” 

When COVID-19 hit, I thought of the RMV’s crowded waiting area. Millions of people will need that Real ID, but there’s no way we could any longer be shoulder to shoulder to get it. That approach, along with so many others, would have to change.  

 And that need for change has already pushed countless organizations and companies to find new solutions, quickly.  

An incentive to adopt the latest technology 

The pandemic served as a great catalyst for the adoption of technologies that were market-ready, yet hadn’t been taken up. Millions, for example, have adopted remote work technologies like Microsoft Teams and Zoom, all in a matter of days.  

This crisis enabled the breakdown of barriers that were keeping technologies from the market. Some were human factors, like reluctance to try new technologies. Still others were legal barriers. For example legal barriers that limited the use of telehealth, because of issues like allowable billing for out-of-office services and the provision of services across state lines. 

For organizations that have been reluctant to move to technologies that would allow workers to work from home, the pandemic has allowed them to finally see what would happen if their workforce were remote. Perhaps they thought people wouldn’t work at home, but now they know where and when remote work works — and doesn’t.  

<<< Start >>>

[The COVID-19] crisis enabled the breakdown of barriers that were keeping technologies from the market.

<<< End >>>

We continue to learn so much more, as we are now months into this “new normal.”  But when I was asked to contribute to the thought leadership about what would come next — about how companies could plan to carry on as things were uncertain and changing constantly — there was only so much information available.  

We couldn’t simply create a one-size-fits-all approach. We needed to plot out multiple scenarios. 

What to do when one scenario won’t work? Create four.  

When asked to consider what the CEO’s agenda should be in response to this pandemic, in both the near and long-term, we had to think carefully. Before boiling the ocean for answers, we needed to map out what we didn’t know — the critical uncertainties. 

Countless questions came to mind. Is the disease going to be around for the year? Will it spread to all ages? How long will people tolerate people being off work at home? If the populace demands to get back in the office but the disease doesn’t back down, then the right strategic response is very different than, if, say, a vaccine is found soon.  

All of these were questions when we began the research in April. 

You can’t recommend a strategy for an uncertain world unless you are prepared to outmaneuver uncertainty. We started with an analysis of what might happen under many different conditions. To help guide CEOs and other leaders amid the uncertainty, we identified and modeled four scenarios that could be plausible for the months to come.  

These narratives would make it possible for leaders to formulate strategies for growth and recovery in the eventual post-crisis world, whatever that looked like. 

<<< Start >>>

You can’t recommend a strategy for an uncertain world unless you are prepared to outmaneuver uncertainty.

<<< End >>>

We developed four scenarios along the axes of the two biggest COVID-19 uncertainties — disease progression and the effectiveness of the societal response. Dozens of contributors, from inside and outside the Accenture Research team, weighed in during the process. The resultant scenarios are:   

  1. Rapid remission 
  2. Flattened curve 
  3. Cyclical outbreaks 
  4. Prolonged chaos 

Next, we systematically reviewed seven critical areas of business in which companies’ responses were likely to change based on the scenarios.  

Despite the scenario differences, however, we were also able to identify “no brainers” — those strategies that were exceptionally useful across all four of the scenarios. These were: 

  1. Workforce: Treat your people like the essential assets they are. 
  2. Customers: Remain focused on hyper-relevance — deliver experiences that reflect rapid change in needs and expectations. 
  3. Operations: The key is building in greater resilience. 
  4. IT systems: Use the opportunity to accelerate your technology capabilities. 
  5. Liquidity and finance: Balance government help with the need to shore up the balance sheet. 
  6. Purpose: Repurpose assets for societal impact and to enhance the brand value. 
  7. Public health: Build contingency options and make them permanent features of the organization. 

Agility is everything 

When we created these scenarios,  much of the world was still under lockdown and so much remained uncertain. Weeks and months later, that uncertainty still largely remains. We had to create agile strategies that could flex depending on key events.  

Even by drawing scenarios, it didn’t give us a permanent answer. We are learning how this will play out day-by-day. This crisis is a big case study for business practices and consumer behavior that will be studied for years to come.  

It would be a shame not to use these learnings to improve the way people live and companies operate.  Because who wants to build a company for yesterday, not the future?  

This document is intended for general informational purposes only and does not take into account the reader’s specific circumstances, and may not reflect the most current developments. Accenture disclaims, to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law, any and all liability for the accuracy and completeness of the information in this presentation and for any acts or omissions made based on such information. Accenture does not provide legal, regulatory, audit, or tax advice. Readers are responsible for obtaining such advice from their own legal counsel or other licensed professionals.

Paul Nunes

Global Managing Director – Thought Leadership, Accenture Research

Subscription Center
Subscribe to Accenture's Research Blog Subscribe to Accenture's Research Blog