This image above has recently been circulating on social media, business sites and in professional groups. The message behind the image, that the current global health crisis will force enterprises of all sizes to expedite digital transformation efforts to compete in the rapidly evolving marketplace, is a solid argument.
The overnight transformation by so many industries in order to maintain operations, retain customers or just plain survive has been astounding – to say the least.
The shift has seen us go from:
- Co-located workforces to teleworking
- In-person meetings to videoconferencing, calls, more emails, shared platforms
- In-person business meetings, Happy Hours, Meet-ups to virtual events
- Internally hosted systems to greater reliance on SaaS, PaaS, Anything-as-a-Service
- Restaurant dining rooms and bars to fast food, fast casual, casual, upscale dining offering to-go meals and direct-delivery with even cocktails delivered
- In-person grocery shopping to contactless pickup, Instacart and other delivery services
- Essential workers to those who feed us, protect us, take care of us and keep Americans going
With the proverbial apple cart upset at a level not seen in a century, many enterprises are biding their time until the economy reopens and businesses gain some semblance of normalcy. While cost-cutting and streamlining of operations are essential focuses during this economic upheaval, a laser focus on the customer experience will be critical for businesses who want to emerge post-pandemic ready to compete in a tougher marketplace.
Not only has the way customers consume services changed overnight, but consumer tastes, spending habits, means of consumption, and needs are shifting in real-time. Businesses need to double-down on empathizing to customer needs and then fine-tune the customer experience to meet those needs. Scaling business agility, developing digital core functions that reduce costs and foster new ideas at a faster clip and creating a lasting culture of never-ending innovation should be strategic goals of businesses of all types.
Within enterprises, resetting priorities to meet new customer needs should drive adoption of Agile principles across the board (rather than just in the IT shops) to increase business velocity, focus on Product Management principles that help tackle the Problem Space and lead to technology decisions based on new customer needs. The journey from projects to products to a true customer focus translates to people, process and technology decisions being made to focus on these internal and external customers. Agile and Product Management principles lead to cohesive teams that are more adept to change and reduce organizational silos that lead to friction in productivity.
Now is also the time to focus on a different type of organization silo that can prevent true digital transformation: disparate systems and data silos. To make true data-driven decisions in real-time, data systems need to be able to work together, thus money spent on integration projects should lead to high ROI. Streamlining information flow for internal customers (end users) is essential in true digital transformation considering that all of the new automation, analytics and data tools are hindered without actionable data. Speaking of internal customers, the customer feedback loop applies to them as well, with this enormous shift in how we work, it is imperative that businesses are listening to their teams and tweaking process and tools to better meet their needs.
While many businesses are postponing or cancelling process or technology initiatives to reduce costs during this uncertain period, the long play is to direct budget now towards rapid digital transformation in order to become well positioned for the post-pandemic marketplace. Be it an economic downturn, a more competitive market, or evolving customer-spending habits, the way America does business is permanently changing. While this is easier said than done, the payoff of digital investments is even bigger today than it was before. Enterprises that digitize their architectures will be able to conduct business even with a lot of headwind while those who retain legacy process and technology will suffer the fate of previous businesses that failed to adapt (Blockbuster, Kodak, Sears, Blackberry, to name a few).