What’s your favourite transformation story of the year so far? The passenger airlines that switched to cargo flights? The Formula 1 teams that manufactured ventilators for intensive care patients? The breweries that served up hand sanitizer?

Companies have found novel ways to pivot in the face of crisis. The variety of innovation is astonishing. But what they all have in common is that, in a challenging period of social distancing and remote-working, they found new ways to collaborate. They narrowed the gaps between decision-making and doing.

Lessons from a crisis

There are many things we can learn from those exemplars of rapid transformation as we face up to the challenges of the ‘new normal’.

“If a silver lining can be found, it might be in the falling barriers to improvisation and experimentation that have emerged among customers, markets, regulators and organizations,” concluded a report from  McKinsey.

At Checkit, we believe the key is to close gaps.

What makes this difficult for large, complex or multi-site organisations is that gaps tend to proliferate when you’re operating at scale. Reporting lines get stretched, decision-making processes lengthen and disconnection begins to show.

Visibility is vital

Let’s take a large retail brand that lacked visibility of team activity across all outlets. Were quality standards upheld at all points? Were safety procedures being followed? Was stock available in the right place, at the right time, to serve customer needs? If something went wrong, how quickly would it come to light?

These things matter a great deal because they curb the company’s ability to map and benchmark performance, respond to issues in real time, pinpoint inefficiencies, highlight best practice and roll out better ways of doing things – all things that directly influence profitability, customer service standards, productivity, brand identity, compliance and cost control.

Connecting with the frontline

Small changes – such as better task scheduling, automating repetitive routines, aligning supply and demand and automatically logging completed jobs – make a big difference when expanded across multiple sites. And it’s not just about corporate goals. It’s also about ensuring frontline workers are both supported in their everyday efforts and recognised in terms of measurable KPIs.

This is the essence of Checkit’s Connected Workflow Management. It’s especially powerful in sectors where the workforce is characterised by a high degree of churn, where daily work patterns are not always predictable and where employees do not have a permanent desk. According to one estimate, deskless workers comprise around 80% of the global workforce, yet their actions are too often obscured from the view of centralised managers and supervisors. This can occur in healthcare, facilities management, retail, logistics, manufacturing and education among many other sectors.

Adapting to the new world

Intrinsic disconnection creates weaknesses that inhibit large organisations’ ability to adapt to threats such as economic uncertainty, talent shortages, growing workforce mobility, increasing sustainability targets, escalating costs, rising expectations and a range of risks.

At Checkit, we’ve encountered a plethora of organisations that struggle to understand what’s happening on a daily basis at the outward edge of highly-distributed operations, let alone being able to gain sufficient control to enable change.

It’s a long way from the boardroom to the customer service counter, and vice-versa. Yet strategic business objectives depend so heavily on the aggregated actions of frontline personnel, the stringency of processes and the combined efficiency of buildings and other physical assets.

Spreadsheets don’t always add up

Stock control, shift planning, cleaning procedures, safety standards, maintenance jobs, routine admin and equipment checks all contribute to overall KPIs.

So why do so many organisations rely on a combination of conventional spreadsheets, ad-hoc apps and assorted paperwork to manage critical operations? Very little overall visibility can be gleaned from these fragmented apps and documents. They create blind spots, resist integration and make analysis difficult.

In some cases, crisis conditions have even exacerbated the tendency towards short-term workarounds and temporary tactics, with frontline teams inventing their own isolated solutions to the challenges they have faced at the sharp end of everyday operations.

Change management

Let’s face it, change is likely to be the most prominent theme of 2020. Despite many impressive examples of pivoting, there’s a lot more transformation still to come. But it will depend on narrowing the knowledge gaps that exist within organisations.

In the new normal, organisations will need the ability to connect disjointed processes, analyse coherent data sets and use all of that to optimize performance, everywhere.