From marketplace chaos to the constant change in consumer behavior, modern planning and strategic executives and their teams have weathered many storms. But nothing could have prepared them for the tsunami that hit in early 2020. The new year brought not only COVID-19 but unclear economic conditions and time horizons. Long-term plans were out the window, and companies had to react fast.
In an effort to capture the unprecedented challenges that businesses faced throughout this pandemic, Prevedere fielded a survey in December 2020 to gather business leaders’ thoughts and opinions on planning heading into 2021. This survey set out to identify both challenges and solutions and provide a snapshot of how companies have been responding to the pandemic and continuing uncertainty. Despite these unprecedented times, businesses showed incredible grit and resilience, as seen through these survey results.
It comes as no surprise that an overwhelming majority (80.5%) of our survey respondents said COVID-19 disrupted their business on some level. Interestingly, nearly half (46.3%) of the respondents indicated that COVID-19 had negatively impacted their business performance, while 24.4% experienced the opposite – a positive effect. These differences across businesses can likewise be seen in respondents’ anticipated recovery timelines. Over a quarter of respondents expected recovery to come in Q3 2021, but 14.6% were less optimistic and do not anticipate recovery until 2022 or even beyond. On the other end of the recovery spectrum, 21.6% of the respondents indicated their business had already achieved or exceeded pre-COVID business performance.
While COVID-19 impact and recovery timelines may vary across businesses, one clear consensus is that the majority (72.5%) of respondents were planning on reducing costs overall within their business. According to respondents, the biggest category of cutbacks was within internal staffing and external consultant costs. Despite plans to cut back on spending, respondents indicated a shift in resource allocation by investing more heavily in data (53.7%), technology (63.4%), and analytics (61%). On a more general level, 52.5% of respondents said they were planning on making changes to their planning processes, and 62.5% intended to plan with greater frequency in 2021.
Overall, some of the major challenges reported by respondents included uncertain economic conditions, changing business practices in response to consumer reactions, and shifting to a remote environment. Others noted challenges related to supply chain disruptions or unprecedented demand. The solutions to these problems differed across businesses, but often included reorganizing, reallocating, revising, and being resilient.
Heading into 2021, the only constant is uncertainty. Now more than ever, businesses need to leverage the power of data, technology, and analytics. Successful businesses will be the ones that use these tools to uncover their unique opportunity amid the uncertainty.