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In this bonus episode of Emissary Live, we were able to speak with Bernhard, former VP of IT at Johnson & Johnson, for his take on how businesses are responding to the Coronavirus crisis at hand and current trends in information technology.

Here are just a few of his insights on how technology companies can navigate the current landscape of companies today, and where opportunities lie for them to step in and improve a situation.

Here are the three key takeaways from the conversation:

  1. If you have value to offer, now is the time. Don’t hold back. Be sure your value is clear and that you can justify it, but there is no reason to wait.
  2. Feel empowered to incorporate use cases that highlight a need for your product given events like those we’re experiencing now with the virus. Be smart about how you incorporate that into your messaging.
  3. Supply chains are ripe for innovation, especially when it comes to global inventory tracking, data ingestion, and AI applications. Spend time to deeply understand these use cases so that you can play meaningfully in the CPG space.

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Panel Discussion Highlights


Given your background within the CPG space, and especially with R&D and supply at J&J, what insight do you have into what these companies are going through right now?


A lot of supply chains in CPG companies over the years have gone from local to regional to, in some cases now, global. A lot of CPG companies actually moved their production to areas in Italy, which has the worst cases in Europe at the moment, and the entire country has been shut down. But it was a good place to produce and to ship things from across the region, so obviously that has an impact now in terms of availability of goods on the shelves in the weeks and the months to come.

The impact has also increased by the fact that companies work now very much on a just in time basis. So low inventories, because inventories cost a lot of money. But the moment you’ve got a disruption in your supply chain, you quickly see that in the rest of your operation, and specifically on shelf you’ll, see shortages now quickly.


Although we’re still in the beginning rumblings of what could unfold, what impacts do you think that will have on vendor partnerships, both current and new?

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Typically what you find is companies looking at changes in their investment portfolio. Not necessarily reducing spend, although sometimes that’s the case, but it could be higher spend because they feel the need to adopt. What typically happens is focus on more strategic areas now, which could be indeed around supply chain or sourcing, or feasibility to inventory levels across the region, things like that.

Vendors need to be sensitive to what companies are going through, but I wouldn’t hold back, specifically if there are things they can do that help in these specific cases. Now’s the time to engage and to show the benefits you can bring.


Have you seen events like this occur over the course of your career? If so, what really mattered to you during your time in leadership during events like this one?


I think we tend to focus on the current crisis as something like, this has never happened before. But if you think about this in terms of viruses, we had AIDS, Ebola, swine flu. We’ve had many cases like this. Probably less contagious diseases, but much more harmful in terms of the people that got it, and a much higher chance of dying from it. We also had 9/11, and we had the clouds over Iceland.

In a sense, how you react is that you go back to basics – you make sure your basic operation is protected. You try, as a leader, not to panic and make sure your people stay calm, do what they need to do, and you look after the safety and health of your people and their families are safe in the first place. That’s certainly what we started with. Making sure that’s all covered.

Then you talk about remote working, those things helped us to invest in technology to make sure that people can indeed work remotely. And for most large companies, I would say that now 95% of people can actually work remotely. You got documents which you can access from all over the world. You’ve got a firewall, so it’s protected. And I think that’s where I see an opportunity for technology companies. Because smaller companies, government organizations typically aren’t at that level of maturity yet. So I do think that they need to address that and make sure that we come with affordable and safe ways of making it more practical for those types of companies and organizations to work remotely as well.


Is there ever a time not to use a case like this for a vendor to make their case? Or if they have an offering that they know can be part of the solution, is there ever a time where vendors should shy away from being assertive?


I think the key question is, do they really have something of value? And if they do, then now’s the time to speak up and not shy away from that. So if it’s the ability to help remote working, inventory planning, the feasibility of moving things around the world, AI, etc. I would definitely now step forward and say these are the things we can be doing. But people will be sensitive to see, is it real or not?

And for companies externally, they need to understand the ecosystem that they’re dealing with. They need to understand what we are trying to achieve, our business drivers, our objectives, our strategies, and then link that to what they can provide. And if there’s a clear business failure, then I think that’s just great chances for good cooperation there.

Bernhard is here, and he’s ready to talk 1:1. Contact us here to learn more about what Bernhard, or one of the thousands of advisors in our network from Fortune 1000 firms, can do for your business at this time.