Still, many questions remain and in all my years of scenario planning, I’ve never seen uncertainty like that which has arisen from the COVID-19 pandemic. Leaders are in need of guidance as to how to plan for the months ahead. Salesforce has been tracking the many uncertainties surrounding COVID-19 since March and developed a range of scenarios that clarify a selection of key possible outcomes and help show the range of possibilities leaders must keep in mind. Considering potential uncertainties and outcomes can help any company make clear-eyed choices during a time of great change.
As an organization, the We Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.
These uncertainties can be combined to create a range of plausible scenarios that highlight the many possibilities to consider. My team at the Salesforce Futures Lab developed a selection of hypothetical scenarios in discussions with leading experts in epidemiology, geopolitics, economics, and social movements, to help business leaders grapple with the months to come. They are presented for business planning purposes only, from the most hopeful to the most challenging. These scenarios illustrate the range of variation that leaders must plan for and help drive home the importance of keeping tabs on what possibilities are currently on the table.
Impact to business leaders: In this scenario, business leaders could look forward to the crisis ending as quickly and evenly as possible around the world. In-person work and consumer confidence could come back close to pre-crisis levels over the summer and fall of 2021, though masking, distancing, and ventilation would still be necessary for many more months.
This scenario sees a range of vaccines developed by a range of different countries around the world, buoyed by tests on militaries or pushed forward by emergency authorization. Production would scale up quickly, creating a climate of heady optimism that the pandemic is all but finished. However, since each vaccine would likely vary in effectiveness and come with some side effects, those factors could fuel vaccine hesitancy and or even misinformation. As a result, adoption of the vaccines in this scenario is uneven; while a large minority of people do take it, by 2025 the numbers have still not broken the threshold of herd immunity.
Impact to business leaders: In this scenario, many business leaders might initially make investments betting on a rapid re-emergence from crisis conditions, only to be surprised as optimism evaporates. As the crisis stretched on, those who recognized the continuing risk would likely be in the best position, but even they would still face stiff economic headwinds.
Hypothetical Scenario 3: “Long March”
In this potential course of events, repeated disappointments exhaust the public, as one vaccine candidate after another fails to provide the needed combination of efficacy and durability. Government leaders resort to repeated lockdowns during 2021, but many countries’ stimulus is insufficient, resulting in a wave of business and personal bankruptcies.
Finally, a usable vaccine is approved early in the summer of 2022. This vaccine would be rolled out globally much like any other vaccine, with COVAX working with countries around the world to ramp up local production. Several countries nearly eradicate the virus within 18 months, and a larger group is successful within two years. The virus is never fully eradicated, as it continues to persist in the most unstable parts of the world, but many countries are able to move on
Impact to business leaders: In this scenario, business leaders could be increasingly challenged to maintain the safety of their staff and customers before the vaccine arrives, as the public becomes less willing to adhere to public health guidance. But after its arrival, the impact is similar to “Zero Hurdles” above, with a relatively rapid return to workplace safety and consumer confidence.
There is no way to know now which vaccine(s) will work which is why, as the Guardian recently noted, “wealthy countries are paying upfront for something that has not yet been proven to work [and are] willing to spend whatever it takes to get their economies running again. And yet, they could back the wrong horse. It’s a lottery on an unprecedented scale.” As we all play that lottery, we hope these stories give organizations a framework within which to stress-test their own expectations, plan for several realities at once, and navigate today’s unprecedented uncertainty with confidence.
To help businesses and organizations around the world make their workplaces safe in this context, Salesforce launched Work.com for Vaccines this September. The tool, built on the Salesforce Customer 360 platform, helps governments and healthcare organizations around the world more safely and efficiently manage vaccine programs at scale. Work.com includes technology for inventory management, clinical scheduling and administration. It also provides a range of features to help organizations shift with the changes that the virus could bring, helping leaders handle shift management, tackle contact tracing and even respond to emergency and employee wellness issues.
Such a technology drives home the need for tools that offer organizations flexibility to adjust to changing circumstances. More critically, it drives home the need to put a range of preparation measures in place, forging much-needed trust with workers navigating the pandemic in the long term. That trust will be critical for taking care of staff and customers – and for building resilience organizations will need in the months and years ahead.
This content was originally published here.