This year will be remembered for many complex challenges and changes. It may also be the year that many business leaders truly discovered what leadership is all about.
We all continue to navigate through the changing business environment; digesting new information, guidance, policies, schemes and support measures, and making quick decisions, even when they have been tough calls to make. Some decisions have had an immediate impact, others address a longer timeframe, focusing on potential “plan ahead” business scenarios.
At Anderson Anderson & Brown, we channelled all of this activity through a dedicated “Plan Ahead Team”, formed shortly after lockdown began in March and once we felt confident we could free up some capacity from the business resilience team.
The team focuses on building multiple scenarios of what the future could look like for our business. It identified options and actions needed to act strategically and tactically.
The team is also responsible for collecting the forward-looking data to give an early indication if a particular scenario is emerging, enabling us to act quickly.
Plan Ahead has a number of small interconnected teams with projects running concurrently. These highly focused teams draw on skills and experience from across our business as and when required. This approach, using agile methodology which we have already adopted into our everyday working lives, is proving very effective.
Although it would be near impossible to say what the future might look like for our business, the Plan Ahead Team concept, models and scenario planning will help us be ready to react to future changes and developments. The ability to make decisions quickly has undoubtedly been a huge advantage.
For our clients in the energy sector, this changing landscape has become even more complex and is increasingly challenging for executives and their leadership teams to navigate.
Throughout the energy sector, in traditional industries such as oil and gas or in renewables and clean energy, we have been working with clients on the Plan Ahead concept and how it can be adopted by their businesses. In doing so, we have been practicing what we preach.
Through Plan Ahead, businesses have been taking time to make improvements and address change. Many of our clients are embracing lean models and ways of working, for instance, embracing technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) which extend to many other aspects of the way we work and run our businesses, such as outsourcing certain support functions and employing virtual finance services.
While 2020 has thrown energy businesses some highly unwelcome challenges, it has provided the opportunity for clients to redefine strategies, bringing innovation and inventiveness to the fore and adapt to the next normal at a pace never seen before. The energy industry is more used to the challenge than others.
Quality information drives good (and accurate) decision-making. We have worked with clients on how readily available, reliable and timely good data is for key performance indicators, management accounts, financial statements and business and economic models. They have also addressed the question of how effective and well used are their existing enterprise risk management systems.
Deal activity has been very low so far in 2020, though we have seen that this has been a good time to prepare for transactions and transitions. Typically, in volatile market conditions, seller and buyer expectations can differ considerably. This does not mean that parties should not begin to prepare themselves by investing time now in ground-work for potential transactions and transitions.
To address these areas, and others in a potentially challenging and different market, our leaders need to be sufficiently experienced and robust. They need to be ready to innovate, adapt and be prepared to pursue new opportunities in the energy sector.
While the landscape around us will continue to change in this next normal, if our leaders are able to plan ahead and embrace some of these areas, then our businesses will be well placed to not just survive complex times in the energy sector, but to thrive in them.
Graeme Allan is chief executive at Anderson Anderson & Brown