Interviews

‘No One Wants To Be In A Position Where They’re Unprepared For The Unexpected’

Matt Zilli

Matt Zilli, chief executive of Clarizen, explains how organisations can adapt to sudden crises typified by the Covid-19 pandemic.

How are businesses dealing with the rapid and ongoing changes driven by the COVID-19 crisis?

In the last three months, I’ve spoken to nearly 100 executives, all of whom are dealing with uncertainties within their businesses – from the global economic outlook to specific economic pressures on their industries.

Others have seen increasing demands for their products and services amid rapidly changing circumstances or their supply chains have been disrupted – leaving them trying to figure out how to service their customers. Those we’re seeing succeed are those finding opportunities in the uncertainty.

COVID-19 has shone a light on where companies really are on their digital transformation journeys. The pandemic has accelerated the trends we’ve been witnessing over the last few years and, with the blink of an eye, everyone has had to start working remotely.

Suddenly, companies that have never had a disparate workforce before were having to empower entirely remote teams.

The first instinct for companies struggling to adapt to change is to slash costs – but blanket cutbacks are not necessarily the answer. The companies that are succeeding in today’s environment are those that are using the rights tools to help maximise each and every individual’s time and productivity so they can be as effective as possible.

Those that are achieving real visibility at every level of the organisation are able to understand where the real value is and that simply cutting without knowing the impact that will have is not always the right way to go – saving them from being exposed by any potentially unforeseen gaps in future.

How can organisations cope with more of the unexpected as the crisis continues to evolve?

No one wants to be in a position where they’re unprepared for the unexpected. In an era of uncertainty and growing instability, the organisations coping the best are those that have been able to create cohesive teams while fostering the creativity and flexibility they need to deal with the changes that come their way.

But teams need to be ready to adapt to more than the visible and expected challenges we see today – they need to be ready to deal with both positive and negative opportunities.

To do this they need to work more effectively together across departments, geographic locations and business units, with each team aligned to the strategic goals of the organisation. And they need to put in place the tools that enable them to do that.

Employing a work management solution that goes beyond the PMO and traditional IT projects fulfils that need – using it across the enterprise, from customer-delivery teams to marketing to operations and supply chain management.

Without a clear view of their own progress and priorities, any team can feel at a disadvantage. Those able to communicate, collaborate and track work across organisational lines are going to be more productive and adaptable – and each individual will know how they’re contributing to business-wide objectives.

When work management tools are deployed throughout an organization, their leaders have real-time visibility, ensuring that they can spend their time taking action supported by accurate data vs. spending time simply trying to collect the right data.

Leveraging the right work management tools enables all employees to feed into the company’s strategic process, helping everyone to futureproof the business.

Are businesses becoming as agile as they need to be as the current situation evolves?

There has never been a time more critical than now to foster agility and adaptability. It is an approach that enables organisations to manage the ongoing impact of COVID-19 while ensuring they can remain competitive in a post-pandemic world.

Every organisation wants to be prepared for the next phase of the coronavirus crisis – or the next new crisis. They’re all trying to understand how work is getting done in their business and they’re all trying to elevate the impact of their work across the organisation.

It doesn’t matter where each business starts – they all want to be faster and more productive. Some are already using work management technologies to embrace the uncertainty COVID has unleashed.

But the businesses that haven’t changed their processes in decades or have just taken the first steps on their transformative journeys are having to ask questions they’ve never had to ask before.

The simple fact is the agility needed to successfully navigate the current level of transformation requires collaboration, information sharing and visibility throughout the organisation.

Empowering teams through tools that enable each member to communicate in context, keep sight of team and organisation-wide goals, track work progress, and to make adjustments when and where they see a pressing need ensures that organisations can embrace opportunities that come from changing market conditions.

Leaders must also put in place methods that ensure collaboration is as easy and direct as possible, deploying cloud-based technologies that allow employees to coordinate work, monitor resources and manage workflows.

Linking a diverse workforce through technology is not an option anymore but a necessity. The sooner a business realises that, the more quickly it will be able to adapt to the changes it is facing.

How essential is software to enabling adaptability?

Every large organisation I’ve spoken with since joining Clarizen in March has said basically the same thing: they don’t really care about the particular technology and, instead, their focus is, first and foremost, on solving a problem.

So, it is not about the software but helping enterprises to use it effectively for what they need to achieve. Many companies are now trying to drive largescale change management while enabling digital transformation.

A highly configurable solution like Clarizen helps empower every organisation to do that – making them more business agile than ever. Many enterprises have hundreds of unique processes that they’re trying to manage each day and we’ve found that our solutions help them handle a high degree of complexity.

By giving them an understanding of how to scale the work they do and the ability for each and every team to define their own workflow, teams are more efficient and can quickly adapt to new demands when conditions inevitably change.

For them, they can achieve nirvana by using a tool that helps productivity and also provides visibility for those at an executive level, enabling greater adaptability than ever.

PM Today Interview Team
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