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Operations in the next normal: Five themes to focus on

Operations executives are seeking to take what they have learned during the COVID-19 crisis and achieve new levels of performance. This McKinsey Live webinar covers five focal themes for these efforts.

In the wake of disruptions from COVID-19, organizations have a window of opportunity to reimagine and transform their operations. The coronavirus pandemic has challenged supply and demand norms across sectors, and the speed of disruption has exposed points of weakness and fragility in global supply chains and service networks. Nevertheless, many operations teams have achieved goals that would have been considered impossible before the crisis. They have boosted agility, productivity, and customer connectivity while also preserving cash.

Now, as operations leaders plan the transition to the next normal, many are looking for ways to reinforce what they have discovered during the COVID-19 crisis. They’re also aspiring to create a new kind of operational performance, whereby innovation enables agility and agility creates resilience—all at lower cost.

In this McKinsey Live webinar, senior partners Katy George and Daniel Swan discussed how response efforts are converging with the ambition to transform. Based on discussions with leaders in multiple industries, they highlighted five themes for shaping resilient and reimagined operations on the other side of COVID-19:

Building operations resilience. Companies can review their global asset footprint to match new demand patterns, delivery models, and value chains. They can reassess their make-versus-buy options, rebalancing in-house and outsourced activities. And many will choose to set up new risk-management functions for their supply chains.

Accelerating end-to-end digitization. Prior to the pandemic, most companies were accelerating their digital transformations. In the next normal, digital technologies will enable organizations to better meet the needs of their customers and make their operations more agile and responsive without additional cost.

Rapidly increasing capital- and operating-expense transparency. Since the economic fallout from the COVID-19 crisis will outlive the pandemic, companies must quickly build their next-normal operations around a different cost structure. An in-depth review of operating costs, aided by technology, can swiftly reveal potential savings. Leading organizations are also adopting sophisticated capital-planning techniques and rethinking project execution.

Driving the future of work. The pandemic has fundamentally changed many people’s jobs, forcing them to complete tasks remotely, using digital tools to communicate and collaborate. We anticipate a marked reduction in manual and repetitive roles and an increase in the need for personnel with analytical and technical skills.

Reimagining a sustainable operations competitive advantage. Already, organizations have begun adapting their operations to create competitive advantages and to meet environmental and social-responsibility goals. Some will reinvent themselves, focusing on specific technologies or market niches or repositioning themselves within their industry’s value chain. Other companies will transform the way they develop products.

For more on this topic, please watch the webinar recording or read the McKinsey article, “Jump-starting resilient and reimagined operations.”

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