COVID-19: Implications for Business Models

Here are key questions that senior executives should be considering on the longer-term business model implications of COVID-19.

Back in mid-March, I wrote a piece titled COVID-19: Implications for Insurers. Two of the questions with longer-term implications that I suggested senior executives should consider were:

  • Do we need to reduce our reliance on people being co-located, by re-considering office infrastructure strategies and the degree of remote working as standard?
  • Do we need to reduce our reliance on people altogether, by increasing automation?

In the weeks since, I’ve realized that these questions are merely a subset of a much broader set of questions that senior executives should be considering – all of which focus on the longer-term business model implications that could arise from COVID-19.

Here’s my current list of key questions to consider, grouped under five headings:

  1. Products and Services
  2. Channels
  3. Workforce
  4. Supply Chains
  5. Internal Priorities

Products and Services

  • In the early weeks of the COVID-19 economic downturn, companies with pre-paid revenues, recurring income streams or subscription revenue models (such as insurers and Netflix) proved more resilient than others. What can we do to move more of our revenue to pre-paid, recurring or subscription models?
  • Does COVID-19 create an opening for new, or updated, products and services we should be offering to the market?


  • With huge numbers of people in lockdown, traditional distribution channels (particularly those involving bricks and mortar) often became useless. Do we need to change our existing distribution channel mix or even add channels (such as new digital channels)?
  • The same issues applied to post-sale servicing. For example, many contact centers were quickly overwhelmed by their customers. Do we need to change, or add to, our mix of servicing channels? What can we do to make them more responsive to demand or migrate demand to other channels? And if we currently need to service customers on-site (for example insurers’ claim inspections) what can we do to add remote options?

See also: Business Continuity During COVID-19  


  • As my earlier article suggested, the COVID-19 lockdowns have proved that remote/mobile working is far more feasible than many senior executives had previously imagined. What is our opportunity to reduce our real estate footprint by making remote/mobile working the norm for certain employees? Conversely, how are we going to respond to any employees who, having started remote/mobile working, now demand to continue working that way?
  • As the downturn hit, many companies struggled to deal with unneeded labor that they still had to pay. Meantime, companies such as Amazon and Instacart suddenly found themselves with far fewer workers than they now needed. What can our business do to make our own workforce more flexible in the future?
  • Teamwork and collaboration usually drive significant benefits. And we’ve now discovered collaboration tools that can work successfully across vast geographies. So do we have more scope for beneficial internal collaboration than we previously realized?
  • COVID-19 has shown the susceptibility of carbon-based workers (humans!) to disease. What’s the scope for replacing more of them with less vulnerable, silicon-based workers such as robots, process automation bots and artificial intelligence?

Supply Chains

  • Given the disruptions we’ve seen to supply chains, do we need to carry higher levels of inventory?
  • Given that many countries imposed blanket bans on certain exports, in some cases even from a subsidiary to a parent company, do we need to replace some of our overseas suppliers and overseas subsidiaries with in-country alternatives?
  • Do we need to remove reliance on certain supply partners altogether, by manufacturing that component in-house (where possible)?

Internal Priorities

In addition to business structures, a company also has a tacit understanding of its relative priorities. Do some of these also need to change?

  • Do we need to invest (even) more into IT, especially in hygiene factors such as resilience (use of cloud, for example) and cyber-security?
  • Should we be allocating an increased share of our budgets to risk management and business continuity planning?
  • In common with individuals, many businesses found that their rainy day funds just weren’t big enough when faced with COVID-19. Even once things return to "normal," should we be reducing the levels of cash we pay out in bonuses and dividends so that we’re better-placed when the next black swan event comes along?

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So that's my current list of potential business model implications that senior executives should now be thinking about.

Have I missed any? Do any other business model questions or implications spring to mind?

Alan Walker

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Alan Walker

Alan Walker is an international thought leader, strategist and implementer, currently based in the U.S., on insurance digital transformation.


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