Remain calm and thoughtful in a time of complete chaos – a CEO’s perspective
Our world has changed – commercial and social characteristics will shift and adjust, eventually settling permanently as new norms, as we digest the full impact of COVID-19.
Fear and uncertainty represent two of the most dramatic, immediate impacts on humanity. As corporate executives, we need to focus on how this new climate impacts business and going forward we need to embrace new services and products to help cope with the current threat, enabling growth in consumer confidence, country GDPs and, ultimately, global financial health.
COVID-19 caught the world off-guard – a single virus, wiping trillions of dollars from global markets, pausing non-essential business and personal travel, killing entertainment and social industries, and changing how humans interact. I have no doubt that although metrics show a declining detection and death rate at the original epicentre in China, we still have a number of months ahead where commercial operations will be impacted and disrupted.
Responding to advisories from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and others requires a thoughtful prioritization and balance between the protection of company’s employees and their health, while also continuing to serve and support customers, provide goods and services, and maintaining the concept-to-delivery flow of new and evolving products.
Current WHO and CDC recommendations are telling organizations to keep staff working from home for the foreseeable future. Our near-term challenge is to maintain organizational effectiveness with a significantly distributed workforce. Several commercial teams operate with a work-from-home model for most of their careers (sales personnel, logistics operators, etc.), but a significant percentage of employees lack experience with this new work style.
With the change to “remote work” as the new norm, the communications infrastructure that serves employees will come under new and significant pressure. In-the-office communications that worked a few weeks ago now traverse an external infrastructure, and the scale, performance and security of this environment needs to adapt to securely serve this new world.
Gigamon’s CTO recently published a blog regarding considerations for IT professionals looking to scale and maintain this rapidly evolving environment. Moving employees to a home office established a new “edge” to the corporate IT infrastructure, and attackers and attack vectors will recognize and respond to this new opportunity.
It’s the responsibility of an executive officer at a public company to characterize and communicate the new risk envelope to its board of directors. Although the risks have changed, with the right leadership in the IT organization, these are not necessarily worse — just different. In parallel with this is the need to maintain a relevant business continuity plan that includes the actions and processes put into effect in the event of a global pandemic. If it doesn’t exist, the learnings of the last few weeks and the next few months will provide a strong opportunity to document the steps that need to be taken.
The majority of corporate BCPs include disaster scenarios where buildings are taken out of commission for protracted periods, but not all of them include a plan that tells you what to do if these building closures happen on a widespread, global scale.
Things like employee health and well-being, communications with customers, the maintenance of logistics and supply chains, and the information technology infrastructure all come into play, while also following the recommendations and directives from the WHO and CDC. From there, organizations need to provide a structure to interpret those directives and disseminate company-appropriate actions to all employees, not forgetting to be the voice of logic and reason in response to employee enquiries and questions.
Gigamon never expected to have to open a Pandemic Response Plan. Aside from a handful in the world of epidemiology, few would have believed we’d be facing an outbreak of this nature.
But here we are, and we will face this scenario again. In a world that is clearly in panic, it is the role of the executive to be that calm, thoughtful and balanced leader.