Maintaining business resilience during times of upheaval will require leaders to gain an organisation-wide view that includes financial, operational, commercial and communities.

We see four stages that outline the path through recovery:

Reaction. All organisations are simultaneously impacted as professional and personal lives are disrupted. Volatility and uncertainty permeate society as the primary focus is on limiting damage to lives and livelihoods as we weather the unprecedented storm.

Resilience. Controls loosen as virus spread is contained and/or a vaccination or cure is available. Consumer demand begins to return but is constrained by lost wages, investment losses and recession fears. 

Recovery. Anxiety passes and hiring, investment and consumer sentiment cautiously improve. Recovery paths for organisations will vary based on ability to limit damage from the Reaction stage, length and severity of recession, post COVID-19 industry demand and willingness to adapt. 

New Reality. A number of enduring shifts will remain post recovery as many learnt behaviours born out of the crisis will become central to the new normal.

Managing through the current challenges, and imbedding resilience for recovery and the new reality will be challenging, but together we can work on the answers.

The subjects below will further help you understand your business’ exposure to disruption caused by COVID-19, and could help you position your business to be more resilient.

Areas of concern

Chief Marketing Officers and brand leaders have always had to consistently deliver and innovate for their organisations in today’s rapidly changing environment.

COVID-19 impacts made organisations acutely aware of their brand value and importance, but the challenge comes in understanding where best to direct investment to focus on building a resilient brand.

Many organisations will be looking to reposition in market, communicating this change, working through regulatory analysis and the complaints process and having the correct brand infrastructure are key issues executives need to tackle.

The resilience of the brand depends on a clearly defined strategy, purpose and values that align to customer demand. COVID-19 has caused supply and demand curves to alter and only when these changes are fully understood can technology, product and marketing plans be put in place to ensure a truly resilient brand.

COVID-19 triggered a series of restrictions that caused both immediate sectoral shutdowns and broad-reaching impacts on consumer and business confidence.

Infection concerns and social distancing drove a sharp reduction in public and private transport demand while changed working arrangements drastically increased our reliance on digital infrastructure.

Collaboration across governments to drive decision making in an environment of constrained funding resources is an ever-present challenge however, in the COVID-19 impacted environment, it was increasingly important to deliver good outcomes for communities. The role of government in delivering an effective framework of economic development initiatives has never been more important as the economy recalibrates and moves toward a new reality.

Businesses have always had a social responsibility to our communities, and after the immediate COVID-19 challenges, they will have their part to play in the recovery process.

There are a number of flow-on effects that will continue to grow and affect individuals and communities. Large scale lay-offs and job losses have led to issues paying for basic human essentials such as food, water, shelter and electricity. Those facing hardships are more vulnerable with the access to resources, funding and volunteers drying up. Isolation created a stark increase in mental health concerns and domestic violence cases. Remote and regional communities, or indigenous communities are struggling with increased risk and limited access to health resources.

Corporate businesses need to consider welfare and payment programs to assist those facing hardship and vulnerability access basic human rights, and supporting their workforces to deal with personal challenges.

During the peak of the COVID-19 restrictions, consumer behaviour adapted with a mass adoption of digital channels and buying preferences moving towards a back to basics approach.

Now customers are collectively facing financial hardship as they emerge from the peak of the restrictions, at what level will these newly learned behaviours stay with them?

Businesses will now be looking to ascertain what customers want, what behaviours will they keep as part of the new reality and how to measure that? Customer experiences will be intrinsically linked to technology and planning digital transformation based on customer centric data and analytics will be front of mind.

As the business environment has been moving towards a more digitally-centred operation, organisations have to consider the challenges and concerns in maintaining their security and business continuity.

COVID-19 disrupted businesses quickly, driving teams to remote working and serving customers through online interactions, making the digital world more at risk. Organisations need to consider how to secure new remote working practices while ensuring critical business functions are operating without interruption, and how to keep their businesses protected from attackers exploiting the situation.

As unemployment stays high and businesses struggle, governments will spend to boost and revive the economy, necessitating choices between investment areas and ongoing assistance to the vulnerable as we navigate the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This, combined with high unemployment and continuing business uncertainty, places pressure on governments to invest to create jobs, take a role in reskilling and use policy and operational levers to support businesses to retain jobs and boost productivity.

Regional areas will play a significant role in economic recovery and investment in these areas will create job opportunities and enhance the vibrancy of rural and regional Australia. A focus on skills and training will promote employment and ensure sustainability in sectors.

A further boost could be gained through identifying potential growth sectors and investing in these areas which would make the regions more attractive to a skilled workforce as well as promoting local employment and learning opportunities.

Organisations impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, either directly or indirectly, and the evolving economic uncertainty and risk may have significant financial reporting implications. Management of organisations are maintaining their focus on these financial reporting impacts and their regulatory obligations.

Businesses in immediate cash crisis caused by the impacts of COVID-19 are taking steps to preserve cash balances by restricting payments to only the most business-critical vendors as contingency plans are mobilised.

Managing treasury and financial market risk has never been as important as it is now, with growing uncertainty in relation to cash flow and liquidity positions. Pro-active and sound treasury and finance risk management over foreign exchange, interest rate and commodity exposures is paramount to protect cash flows, manage liquidity positions and provide boards and senior executives with confidence in decision-making.

Organisations should consider:

  • modelling comprehensive contingency scenarios
  • implementing hibernation strategies with key stakeholder support as a primary contingency option
  • managing liquidity by stabilising cash flows through Hedging FX and Commodity Price Risk
  • if insolvency looks unavoidable, contingency planning to decide the strategy (i.e. administration or liquidation) most likely to protect value for creditors
  • directors should consider their duties in a financially distressed situation.

The speed and the size of the economic impacts that COVID-19 had on business’ bottom line has bought into stark reality the importance of robust financial stress testing and forecasting – way beyond what many businesses were undertaking in the past.

During times of economic uncertainty, this is even more important. Specific areas that may be impacted include; carrying value of goodwill, onerous contract provisions, net realisable value of inventory, deferred tax assets, cash flow hedge accounting and the measurement of expected credit losses.

If your business has been impacted by COVID-19 it’s important to monitor the situation and maintain close communications with key stakeholders. Changes in circumstances may also require additional or enhanced disclosures in financial reports.

Sustainable governance, risk, compliance and assurance structures have always been important for organisations to build resilience into their operations.

COVID-19 has further demonstrated the importance of identifying emerging risks and prioritising investment in governance, risk and controls. These structures should be based on understanding how potential events and risks interconnect; how quickly impact may be experienced; how technology can be used to monitor and manage key controls and compliance obligations; and the value of cohesive culture across an organisation.

Directors and senior executives should consider how governance, risk management and internal controls have adapted, and which positive changes should be embedded into the new ways of working.

Swift action ensured health systems were prepared in the face of the unprecedented pressure COVID-19 presented.

Health services rapidly mobilised staff and resources, hospitals expanded emergency and ICU capacity and health agencies transformed their approach to procurement and logistics.

Customer behaviour changes also saw rapid adoption of digital solutions such as telehealth. Health providers need consider the lessons learnt and new consumer habits to plan for a resilient and sustainable health system for future generations.

Infrastructure resilience requires investment in the right projects, a structured approach to identify assets for renewal and maintenance optimisation, supply chain resilience, collaboration between government and delivery partners and right regulatory environment and frameworks for investment across government.

In an environment where there is a focus on shovel-ready projects and stimulus, it is important to ensure that there are sound criteria and prioritisation for investment. Fast paced reactive decision making needs to be aligned to longer term requirements.

Procurement and backlog maintenance can be fast tracked, but investments need to be supported by robust processes and supply chain continuity to ensure they are delivered in an efficient and cost effective manner that is fit for purpose.

Focusing on the needs of today, at the expense of tomorrow is a bad approach for a business’s long term survival.

As the impacts of COVID-19 economic upheaval continue to be felt, businesses are anticipating the potential impacts on revenues, funding and liquidity – and are putting crisis scenarios and plans in place. Many organisations continue to actively consider how these scenarios will flow on to projections, budgets and financial information prepared for their various stakeholders, and how to communicate these plans to their stakeholder groups – particularly lenders.

Current funders may be expressing concern about providing additional liquidity, resisting to renew commitments or seeking to re-negotiate key terms and conditions, including pricing. Understanding the alternative funding options that are available during times of volatility and how to access these is a prudent part of capital management.

So what are the liquidity and funding factors that need to be considered in a time of uncertainty – and what is the next phase in the revised business model?

During the peak of the COVID-19 crisis demand for products and services changed materially.

Many product lines saw dramatic falls while others, along with key services, experienced rapid growth. At the same time demand for substitute products and services, and new products and services aimed at helping customers, has grown. These changes in demand could last well into the future, and we could see businesses being forced to pivot their focus.

Product and service directors need to develop a mix of strategies that are resilient to market changes, and take advantage of new growth opportunities. They will need to consider the optimal distribution footprints going forward, as customer preferences and behaviours shift from physical (eg bricks and mortar store, bank branch, medical centre) to digital (eg ecommerce, call centre, tele-consultation). This may involve simplifying product portfolios (front- and back-book) to reflect current customer needs and introduce end-to-end digital operating models – or developing new service offerings that address unmet customer needs and open up new fee revenue streams.

There has always been a need for organisations to build resilience into every business model, and the magnitude of the impacts of COVID-19 further highlighted this need.

There are a number of critical factors that need to be considered for a prompt response to any crisis, including the ability to:

  • review and test your incident response plan to manage the potential financial, legal, reputational, data and PR impacts and identify the advisors to support your response to a significant incident;
  • review key risks, model the impact on working capital and liquidity, and prioritise contingency planning;
  • create a governance structure to allow senior executives and the Board to maintain a strategic and cross-functional approach to crisis management for an extended period;
  • identify your minimum viable business model, critical controls, core processes, key customers, products and suppliers;
  • determine your key staff, their deputies, how they are supported and their minimum viable requirements;
  • consider how you would handle a second concurrent incident and the interdependence and impact of multiple risk incidents;
  • conduct a periodic simulation of crisis incident management and response.

Preparation for crisis management is vital to the survival of an organisation’s operations.

Organisations are operating in a constantly and rapidly changing world that presents new challenges to businesses and creates the need for organisations to be more flexible and responsive to operate in these risky, costly and more complex environments.

The opportunity now is to design new and better strategies, develop new products, expand into new markets, rethink business models and transform the performance of organisations. To do this successfully, it is necessary to change the way people are led, managed and developed as they work their way through large scale, complex, transformational change programs. Unlock this potential and navigate transformational change across all functions to drive unprecedented levels of performance.

Technology transformation in the education and training sector meant providers were moving toward new ways of offering their services, and refining what those services were.

The COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent economic downturn, sped up this transformation and embedded long-term changes in the way students and organisations participate in training, deliver education or training courses or interact with these industries.

The technological disruption and transformation across these sectors provides many opportunities. As well as developing the skilled workforce we need, in areas such as healthcare, education, aged care and disability support, it is crucial that education is made available to all Australians but particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds who are at a higher risk of unemployment through a lack of skills or unskilled jobs being available.

It is important to understand how the effects of COVID-19 on your supply chain, and position it to be resilient for future challenges.

If your business has an extensive presence in, or direct ties to, areas affected by COVID-19 you should assess your organisations exposure so your business can appropriately support key stakeholders, employees and customers.

Key areas in managing the uncertainty while meeting cost and service pressures include end-to-end supplier life cycle management, cognitive decision centres and agile and adaptive value chains.

Businesses needed to adopt digitisation, make better use of data to drive informed and real time decisions, implement the use of AI and adapt to their customers massive shift to interacting through digital channels.

The COVID-19 pandemic created unique challenges which a robust focus on technology can helped to address. By taking action in a number of priority areas, technology leaders had to assist their organisations to respond to immediate operational, customer, employee, and financial disruptions, maintain business continuity as new challenges emerge, and realise a quick and competitive recovery after the crisis.

While all organisations experienced similar short- and long-term macro-economic conditions created by COVID-19, each moved through its own reaction, resilience, recovery and new reality phases in different ways. However, there will be different priorities and pathways for every organisation depending on sector, company, region and maturity of IT operating model.

COVID-19 insights

Read our insights post COVID-19. 

Small to medium enterprise

Explore our practical advice aimed at helping emerging, private and mid-market businesses facing COVID-19 difficulties.


If you have questions or concerns about impacts of COVID-19 on your business, please contact us.