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Adapting to a Remote Workforce

February 25, 2022

Is this the Future of Work?

Remote work has steadily been establishing itself as the trend of the future. Since COVID-19 just hit the fast-forward button, many organizations are being forced to adopt remote work; and they must learn to adapt to it in order to continue operating at similar levels. For businesses in service or manufacturing industries where a remote workforce isn't an option, customers and suppliers will force a change. In order to determine how to proceed, organization leaders should reassess their business models for the new environment. Here, we'll provide a framework to get started adapting to this new normal.

Many of us already work remotely in some capacity - coordinating with distributed teams across continents, co-working spaces, cafes, and backyard barns. We may conduct administrative tasks from our phones when we're out to lunch or log on from home when our kids have a holiday and we don't (what's that about anyway?). For others, remote work has been a way of life for their entire careers. But for better or worse, most businesses have built their capabilities around traditional office-centric models.

Now, many organizations have experienced an abrupt introduction to a new way of working due to COVID-19 and are dealing with monumental challenges. As a human-centered design firm, we believe that before you can properly solve for the What, you have to solve for the Why. You must make swift changes, and you've undoubtedly started tacking on tools and modifying your processes to transition to a remote workforce, but it is critical to pause to answer some questions about how you are delivering on your capabilities.

Are you solving for what you do or for why you do it? Are you adjusting for what you provide or why you're able to provide it?

Remote Workforce Post COVID-19
0%Remote workforce post COVID-19

Start with Identifying your Key Capabilities

The result of people + process is a capability, and your use of technology, partners, institutional knowledge, and culture all contribute to these capabilities becoming competencies that create value for your customers. Understanding your key capabilities has always been critical to uncovering opportunities in new or existing markets. Now more than ever, you must be innovative in your approach to maintaining and excelling in all these domains.

Before you can determine how your business should adjust to remote work, changing markets or your changing capacity to deliver, you need to get perspective on the whole picture. First, you must understand your Why - the value you create by resolving customer pain points. Next, you can find your What - the critical path of capabilities in your value chain to deliver value. After that, you'll need to assess this all through the lens of the newly created remote workforce. Finally, you can begin leveraging your highest performing capabilities to innovate new, differentiating competencies.

A good tool for this is a Business Model Canvas. We use the canvas to narrow our focus to capabilities across 6 key areas: Partners, Activities, Resources, Relationships, Channels, and Customer segments. These areas compose the Cost Structure and Revenue Stream of the organization, but they also represent the end-to-end value chain for delivering on the organization's Value Proposition(s).

Business Model Canvas
0%Business Model Canvas

(Design by novel Work Co. & Business model courtesy of strategyzer.)

As you identify your capabilities across these areas, you can begin to evaluate how they influence your Value Proposition, Cost Structure, and Revenue Stream. The order you fill out the canvas isn't always important.

Note: Though we would typically start with a customer focus, at this time we believe it is important to first understand if your Value Proposition is viable as-is.

1. Value Proposition

Your Value Proposition is the benefit you provide to the customer and pain-point you resolve for the customer. In light of a new norm due to COVID-19, you must first assess if your Value Proposition has changed. For many, it has, and these organizations are rapidly trying to figure out how to continue their business in this new state. Here are some thoughts to consider:

  • is your Value Proposition from 3 months ago still viable today?
  • have your core offerings shifted due to supply or demand?
  • what is preventing you from creating value?

Organizations today are rapidly band-aiding problems caused by the global pandemic; however, without a clear picture of how capabilities contribute to the Value Proposition, these organizations may be solving for the wrong problem. Next, we need to look into the demand and supply sides of your value chain to ensure they support the Value Proposition or impact how it can be delivered.

2. Revenue Structure and Customers

Revenue Structure takes account of customer-centric attributes including Customer Segments, Relationships, and Channels. These contribute directly to the viability of your Value Proposition as they drive demand and opportunity.

  • do your customers have sustained buying power?
  • how is the customer base shifting?
  • can you support the same channels for interacting with customers?
  • do you need to explore new channels or disable others?
  • how are you maintaining and cultivating customer relationships?

As you can see, the demand side of the value chain may need to be modified even if your Value Proposition remains the same. If you don't see opportunities to innovate in your Revenue Streams, you will need to look to your Cost Structure.

3. Cost and Organizational Structure

Cost Structure is comprised of organizational attributes including Partners, Resources, and Activities. Looking outside in from the Value Proposition, you can begin identifying the activities that must occur to deliver the proposition. After identifying the key capabilities associated with the activities, it will become clear what Resource and Partners contribute to the value chain. As organizations shift to remote work, it is important to assess internal operations as well as those upstream with partners.

  • will capabilities need to be shifted to match changes to offerings?
  • have the teams that deliver on your core offerings changed?
  • what do these teams rely upon to deliver your offerings?
  • how are you interacting with your supply chain and partners given the recent shifts?

In order to see how the individual capabilities of Partners, Resources, and Activities contribute to your Cost Structure, you must understand how various business units interact internally and with partners.

Evaluating your business model in this new era of a remote workforce

All capabilities across your business model must be assessed through the lens of a shift to remote work. Are there changes to the business process that contributes to an Activity capability? Or what about the channels by which you choose to interact with customers? Does technology inhibit the value chain as workers try to collaborate remotely? Now, as you assess the critical path of capabilities in your value chain, you will be able to define where remote work is impacting your business model and start working towards solutions for filling those gaps.  It is important to go back to the Why, because without it, the What does not matter.

This process, especially given the current circumstances, must be done with an audience of organizational leaders. Proper evaluation of the model in order to determine next steps will require thought and research from individuals closest to the problems. By collaborating with the people closest to the problem, you are able to quickly ideate solutions to overcome any shortcomings found in the business model.

The COVID-19 pandemic has abruptly impacted organizations around the world. As leaders are reacting to survive, they must understand the key capabilities of their business model and how they can continue to deliver value as the workforce shifts.

How we can help

Innovation and strategy are needed more today than at any time in recent history. We empathize with the position you are in and want to help!  Novel Work Co. is a strategic design firm. We merge creative disciplines and strategic thinking to help organizations navigate transformation with human-centered design. Through human-centered design, we help organizations think strategically, innovate accordingly, and empower teams for growth.