Can Agriculture Use Technology to Help Maintain ‘Business as Usual’ Through the Coronavirus Outbreak?
The agricultural industry has found itself at the very centre of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as supply chains are placed under significant strain to keep up with demand in this challenging time. With concerns mounting about shutdowns and potential containment measures, how can agricultural business attempt to safeguard operations?
While technology can support other sectors in maintaining business operations at largely the same rate, agriculture remains a sector that relies upon people power, particularly when it comes to seasonal workers. Remote working is an effective strategy to ensure business continuity in times like this, however it may not be an option for many agri-businesses or departments. So, whilst industry experts await further government sanctions in these areas, what can agricultural businesses consider when making contingency and business continuity plans?
The industry is undergoing significant technological developments, but many businesses are far behind the curve in adopting leaner processes, technology and innovation. There is a growing focus on innovation, efficiency and data in agriculture, but this is yet to be fully realised in the sector. Many businesses have grown through acquisition leading to siloed and disjointed operations.
While it may seem counterintuitive to look at internal operations in the midst of a potential crisis, this is an excellent time to consider company efficiency and productivity and focus on areas to streamline and improve. With the prospect of even fewer workers available, it makes sense to maximise the capacity of those we have. But where do you start?
While it may seem counterintuitive […] this is an excellent time to consider company efficiency and productivity and focus on areas to streamline and improve. With the prospect of even fewer workers available, it makes sense to maximise the capacity of those we have.
PROCESSES AND INFRASTRUCTURE
A useful first step is to understand the day-to-day processes and operations: how are decisions made? How is data captured, stored and shared? What systems are in place and how is information shared around the organisation?
For businesses of all shapes and sizes, communication is key; efficiently sharing information, and keeping various teams up to date with latest updates on work and customers is vital. With a centralised flow of information, decision making can be better informed, and led by the data itself.
It is often tempting to tackle any company challenges individually, as they arise. This can lead to piecemeal updates, and a lack of integration. By reviewing challenges across all areas of an organisation, companies can develop wide reaching digital strategies that set up a solid foundation for future growth.
A perhaps obvious point here is to roll out unified, company-chosen systems that allow for integration. The alternative is individual teams turning to a variety of platforms and solutions, and the natural outcome of this is an even more disconnected workforce!
Vitally, company infrastructure and streamlined processes are not measures that become useful only in a crisis.
SECURITY AND CONTINGENCIES
When considering digital strategies within the context of wider business goals, it is also vital to consider security, of data and systems, not to mention business continuity in any event. Minimising the number of systems also minimises the opportunities for security breaches and building in training for staff helps mitigate the risk of any external attack.
Setting a clear contingency plan should there be the need to move the full business to remote working should be a consideration for any management strategy. Communicating this throughout the team, with regular testing, ensures staff are aware of their responsibilities to enact these plans ahead of time, making the transition quicker and reducing the risk of downtime.
Vitally, company infrastructure and streamlined processes are not measures that become useful only in a crisis. It may be challenging times for businesses, with more unknowns ahead. Instilling a solid foundation can help support productivity, flexible working and business continuity, ensuring smooth and efficient processes and staff collaboration, whatever the situation.