In a webinar held on 21 May, we discussed how businesses are becoming more adaptable and resilient in order to navigate economic uncertainty.
Our panellists were:
- Paul Humphris, System & Projects Manager – Payroll and Expenses at Rolls-Royce
- Dr Hannah Fry, mathematician and broadcaster, associate professor at University College London
- Rob Harrison, Managing Director of SAP Concur UKI
In a 40 minute session, they covered a wide range of topics. You can read some of the highlights here. To hear everything they had to say (including their lockdown guilty pleasures and Dr Fry’s experiences on Have I Got News for You), you can watch on-demand now.
The Value of Data in Decision-Making
PwC’s recent COVID-19 CFO Pulse survey found that a majority of CFOs are considering cost containment but many are not well-equipped to do so. And Gartner’s Top 3 Priorities for Legal and Compliance Leaders found that only a minority of compliance and ethics leaders feel confident in their ability to add meaningful insights of organisational risk.
Yet as the panellists agreed, data is essential in decision-making, otherwise you are essentially flying blind. Paul Humphris shared how by moving away from legacy systems over the past 18 months, Rolls-Royce now has visibility of metrics such as expense spend, run rates, travel spend and seasonal averages, which means they are able to forecast much more accurately.
Dr Fry also highlighted the importance of choosing the right metric and looking at the bigger picture. For example, while IT costs in the short term as businesses equip employees to work from home might look worrying at first glance, they could be offset by longer term changes that see less office space required in future.
Adapting to Business Right Now
Research conducted by YouGov for SAP Concur found that 32% of businesses found it difficult to transition to remote working. It also found that while 70% of businesses had no plans to change their expense policies before lockdown, nearly a third had done so since.
Paul Humphris said that Rolls-Royce had robust contingency plans in place that were rolled out successfully and discussed how his team were overcoming and adapting to the challenges they were facing.
When it came to mitigating the loss of face-to-face interaction on both a personal and business level, all the panellists shared insights and experiences around what had worked and what hadn’t.
Overall, as Rob Harrison highlighted, despite the difficulties, it’s important to recognise that businesses have made the biggest transformational shift ever seen in a matter of weeks and have largely succeeded.
What Will the Future of Work Look Like?
All the panellists agreed that when ‘business as usual’ returns it will not be business as usual as we know it.
Paul Humphris shared the measures Rolls-Royce are looking at, including what office staff can learn from factory floor teams in order to maintain social distancing.
Even though there is some return to the workplace, the panellists agreed working from home was likely to continue to a greater or lesser extent for all businesses. Dr Fry also shared modelling showing that at least 20% of the population will have to continue to work from home if Covid-19 is to be kept under control.
The YouGov research found that only two in five respondents think the finance function would return to normal if lockdown ended today, which suggests some of the shifts we have seen in recent weeks will be permanent. So, as the panellists discussed, while the changes may have been forced on us by necessity, it may be that we have future-proofed ourselves by default.