Guest Column | April 16, 2020

Pandemic Plans For Businesses: How Field Service Organizations Can Prepare

By Christopher Risher, Onepath


During flu season, it’s only natural to prioritize health. We tend to eat better, exercise more, and make an extra effort to remember our daily vitamins. But when sickness hits on a global scale, it’s not enough to focus on personal health: we also need to consider the health of our business, which is equally at risk.

Pandemic is a scary word with potentially scary consequences. And creating pandemic plans for businesses requires several considerations. As more people have gotten sick, travel has come to a halt, and consumer needs and demands have shifted. It’s hard enough to ensure your own health, let alone that of your company. But if you don’t get ahead of these potential risks, you might find yourself unprepared to handle them.

Here are three pandemic plans to help field service organizations ensure their companies continue to thrive:

Plan 1: Prepare For Productivity Hiccups

Nowadays, most companies import materials from other countries. Usually, this isn’t an issue. But when a pandemic causes a slowdown in global manufacturing centers, it might mean a delay in receiving needed goods to run your own business, such as plumbing or electrical equipment, if you happen to be in the construction industry. Additionally, even if your company uses domestic parts, you should still prepare for a pause in delivery. Because employees are taking sick leave, the workforce will simply be smaller. And a smaller workforce means a slower turnaround time, which in turn means a halt in your own productivity.

Your business must understand how long it can last without these parts. Data analytics can help you better understand business patterns, thus revealing which parts are (and are not) essential. Depending on the results, you might want to invest in a means to produce these materials in-house, save or recycle spare materials, or you might want to change the companies involved in your supply chain. Furthermore, you’ll want to consider the state of your own staff and assets and whether they’re primed to handle increased productivity needs. HR, Finance, and IT requests will become harder to fulfill, so if some of these assets need a reboot, prioritize that now, not later.

Plan 2: Prepare For Unique IT Needs

If you solely rely on an internal IT team, a pandemic might spell trouble for your business. Should the members of that team fall sick, you’ll find yourself unequipped to handle your mobile workers’ IT needs. Fortunately, an MSP is much larger than an internal team, and they’ll have the bandwidth to fill in the gaps. They also can help field service staff with unique IT issues, such as web conferencing or remote data access.

As the pandemic has developed, nearly all local governments have insisted or encouraged companies in their jurisdictions to have employees work from home. But many field service-based companies in the healthcare, government, delivery and construction industries still have employees who are visiting customers and interacting with the public. To ensure your remote workforce remains productive, having the right AV tools is a must. For example, web conferencing tools will allow employees to attend meetings from the field. Cloud technology will let them obtain the documents they need. You must start securing these technologies as soon as possible. The sooner you have them, the sooner you can train employees on how to (safely) use them.

Plan 3: Prepare For A Change In Consumer Demand

For some companies, a pandemic will mean a large decrease in consumer demand. As an example, consumers will be less likely to go to restaurants or malls. In fact, they’ll probably avoid large gathering places as much as possible. However, for other businesses, a pandemic will equal an exponential increase in consumer need, e.g. the Clorox wipes shortage we’re currently all facing. Online and health supply businesses, particularly those that rely on field service personnel to deliver products or support customers, will prosper, and they’ll need to ensure they can keep up with demand.

Data analytics can follow marketplace trends, which will help inform your business decisions. With this information, you’ll know whether it’s wise to release a new product, discount an offering, etc. Additionally, through data visualization, you’ll be able to track the successes and pitfalls of your new strategy. In this way, you can continuously adapt your decision, thus ensuring your business is adequately meeting the changes in consumer demand.

Pandemics are frightening, but pandemic plans for businesses will help your company endure them. Expect changes in productivity, IT needs, and consumer demand, and take proactive measures against them. The sooner you start preparing, the more likely your business will come through the pandemic unscathed. Worrying about your own health is important enough; don’t let your business become another concern.

About The Author

Christopher Risher is Senior Program Manager, Application Management Services at Onepath.