ICON and its clients’ reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic

April 30, 2020 9:32 am

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We caught up with our CEO, Ian Castillo, about ICON and its clients’ reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic

When it comes to COVID, what are some of the crisis management measures you have put in place within ICON?

We’re lucky enough to have established a substantial risk mitigation and business continuity structure that’s been in place for years. As an ISO certified company, it’s necessary, but it’s also good business practice. I feel most of our measures are common sense. In essence, we have a predominantly mobile and dynamic workforce, our IT systems are almost all in the cloud, and we have an excellent remote-working policy which much of our staff were already using. Operationally at least, I’m pleased to say the onset of COVID didn’t affect us too negatively.

Ian Castillo, CEO

What have been the most significant challenges so far, and how have you addressed them?

The greatest challenge we face at present is finding clients in the right headspace to think strategically. We’re seeing many companies frozen, or at least unable to take the right decisions. Some are focusing on the here and now, but nothing further. The pandemic has caused many businesses to experience an almost immediate and significant loss in income, and the haemorrhaging needs to be dealt with, but the approach you take shouldn’t result in brand damage or operational headaches later down the line. At some point in the near future, the lockdown will lift, and business will start to pick up again. Now is the time to be building up for that – whether it’s new service lines or product launches.

Apart from challenges, there’s also been the benefit of the shared experience (we’re all in this together), so the conversations with our customers are much easier and broader. Our ability to empathise with our customers’ needs has always been a strong point, and now, more than ever, this is helping in our conversations. We discuss the impact in real-time and work out solutions and lessons-learned together.

Many businesses are seeing opportunities emerging in addition to challenges, whether it be in addressing new client needs or opportunities to improve your company’s effectiveness. What opportunities are you seeing?

There are clear short-term opportunities for digitisation, especially in the retail sector, but also in logistics. We’re seeing the rise in eSports over conventional sports. There’s also a lot of prognostication in general at the moment, whether it be about a new normal in which businesses shift fully to the cloud while office culture almost disappears entirely, or a low touch economy where social distancing is built into every transaction. However, I think it’s still early to tell which specific changes will stick in the long term.

For me, the most significant opportunity that I’m observing is a clear illustration of the need for businesses and government to embrace a rapid adoption of digital transformation. Businesses in particular thrive based on their ability to adapt rapidly to change, whether it’s pushing out a product to serve the particular needs of a new generation or adjusting your current offering based on changing consumer habits.

The pandemic has made a lot of leaders seriously question long, drawn-out tech projects that last years. Apart from the attendant budget overruns and management headaches, the value is often lost before the end either because the opportunity has changed, or a competitor managed to move more quickly.

Many businesses are now dispensing with the usual bureaucracy and heavy-handed approach to digital projects and they’re seeing first-hand the benefits of an agile approach in taking products or services to the market. We’ve seen this across the board, but in financial services in particular.

Ian Castillo in one of ICON events

What are your thoughts on how the world will be different after COVID-19, and how are you moving to address that new world?

From a financial perspective, unfortunately, we’re already seeing several redundancies and even insolvencies, some of which happened almost immediately as the shut-down began. Going forward, a stronger emphasis on healthy balance sheets and well-capitalised businesses will be a must. Insurers, banks, and even authorities will be modifying their risk-tolerance and mitigation approaches.

From a digital perspective, success in business has a lot to do with the ability to adapt to changes. This pandemic was an extreme, abrupt change, and it shocked many companies into realising just how slow they some are to implement change. It’s forced long hard looks at a lot of bloated, years’ long IT projects that aimed for a big-bang approach, when in fact, what’s needed are shorter, rapid-release initiatives that allow business owners to deploy, test the market, and pivot accordingly. An organisation with that energetic approach can handle upheaval better. We’re uniquely positioned to help organisations address this – we’re used to deploying multi-disciplinary teams to work on quick turnaround projects with high business value.

If you’d like to know more about how ICON helps companies with their digital transformation, do not hesitate to get in touch!

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