Look for the opportunities amid COVID-19: AICPA

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Even as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic upends business planning and puts organizations into crisis mode, companies should not overlook the potential for opportunities, according to a recent AICPA webcast.

The webcast — "COVID-19: Business Planning and Impacts," hosted by Ash Noah, vice president of CGMA external relations at the AICPA, and Christina Kite, vice president of global business strategy and analytics at Oracle — aimed to give attendees ways to both "mitigate ... risks and also look for opportunities" amid the ongoing global outbreak.

"The opportunity … is still there for us to plan forward and to look at what you can do today, in many ways, to not only stem the losses, but ... in this situation, are there opportunities that organizations could be taking advantage of?" Kite asked.

She added that firm management's first priority is to manage through the crisis, but also to take stock of "most important activities that the organization can take" with its most critical customers, suppliers and employees.

"Being able to understand those resources that [you] need to help sustain [your] 24/7 operations is another way that we have to understand the critical from the less critical," Kite added. "This is a great opportunity not only for finance to have a seat at the table, but to exhibit leadership at that table."

Kite also discussed a five-step business continuity plan, involving:

  • A business impact analysis;
  • Risk analysis and mapping;
  • Scenario modeling;
  • Organizational alignment and communication; and,
  • Action planning/continuous monitoring.

"The most important aspect is whether you have a plan or not," Kite said. "I would say probably two-thirds of that plan might not be applicable because you couldn’t have really simulated everything you’re seeing today. And even if you could, the rapid amount of change around the world will absolutely cause some of those assumptions to be revisited."

Kite stressed that seeking out opportunity and upside in one's organization represents a major silver lining in uncertain times.

"Opportunity is not raising your prices," she said. "This is really looking at, could [you], in many ways, shut down certain facilities, or operate sales online, and over time, can that become a more sustainable model for the organization? Your organizational history in being able to manage change … will really be a major, major assumption in how well you’ll be able to not only respond to this crisis but … to make your recovery period even shorter than it might be today.”

Kite also urged managers to focus on their people — namely, employees and customers.

“First and foremost, you want to protect your employees, but also use this as an opportunity to build upon employee loyalty," she said. "The way you manage through this crisis … will [employees] stay with your organization because [you] put the most important asset first?”

With customers, Kite urged organizations to focus on the customers who are "performing critical infrastructure activities and capabilities. ... How do [you] make sure that [you] haven’t done anything to disrupt their ability to continue to offer their services? It is a different kind of supply chain, a value chain ... whether those are government agencies ... medical or banks."

Above all, the hosts told viewers that this situation, as with any crisis, is about maintaining and furthering relationships to ensure future success.

"The decisions you make today and how you respond to customers, employees and suppliers … are going to be long remembered way beyond the next six months," said Noah. "This has permanent implications on reputation [and] future relationships. It’s really critical that these things are thought through with the lens of the long-term, even though these are short-term decisions."

For the full webcast, head to the AICPA's site here.

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