We are halfway into 2020 and who could have predicted this year a virus would put the whole world into lockdown, severely impacting global trade, business and education.
As sudden and unprecedented as the crisis has been, the way governments and businesses have responded to it has been telling. Governments implemented strict lockdowns and rapidly launched websites so residents could acquire movement permit within minutes. — an example of truly agile service development and implementation.
In several cities, barriers of scale and speed were overcome to construct hospitals with thousands of beds in a matter of days.
Customer focus is not going anywhere
Today, the digital journey for many businesses has been compressed from months or years to a matter of days. What remains a constant in this rapidly changing business environment is the need for empathy with customers and employees and the ability to anticipate both their present and future needs. Now more than ever, businesses need to develop and deliver value to internal and external customers, aligning priorities, investments, resources, and incentives accordingly.
For many organisations, this requires a rapid shift from a classically inward-focused, efficiency-driven model to an outward-focused one that intimately puts the customer at the centre of everything an organisation does. When it comes to providing services, this shift translates to an increased focus on safety, speed, sustainability, and transparency in addition to the usual focus areas of efficiency and convenience.
During this crisis, one of the world’s biggest malls, The Dubai Mall, moved online to offer customers a virtual shopping experience at home. Listening to customers along every step of the online transaction, developing the emotional compass to gauge their mood, and harnessing the data to anticipate future needs, these businesses are well-positioned to retain their customers once the crisis is over.
Instead of being the disruptor, digital is now the only way to do business in many cases. The digital model has proved to be socially and economically viable, boldly overtaking existing physical models. For customers the barrier to digital adoption has been crossed, and there is no going back.
Unlocking digital agility and realising its full potential is key to being successful in today’s volatile operating environment. Based on our experience working with leading global and regional public and private sector clients, here are recommendations and best practices to help organisations pivot their digital transformation efforts in the new reality:
* Focus on what matters
Think long term but act now. During and amid the COVID-19 crisis, be prepared to shift focus to act fast on your digital services and channels as the business environment is changing daily. Establish dynamic, flexible targets over static ones through a greater focus on speed, sustainability, transparency, physical and mental safety, and overall value for customers.
*Adopt an agile work model and pivot talent
The era of remote work has arrived rather dramatically and is increasingly being institutionalised. In the post-crisis era, we can expect cost-cutting, customer needs and, potentially, new regulations to also shape work models. While it is still too soon to assess the impact of remote work on hiring, development, and retention, an organisational mindset that fosters agility and accepts failure as a necessary step to succeeding is vital.
* Promote a diverse digitally savvy culture
One that focuses on the customer, favours experimentation, and supports employee engagement. And develop a supportive and creative work environment that fosters and nurtures the required talent. Develop and/or acquire agile and digital competencies that are critical to building the dynamic capabilities needed to manage and thrive today and tomorrow.
* Leverage quality knowledge and insights
Organizations today need to develop intimate empathy for their customers. It requires pushing analytics beyond their head office to front lines before, during, and after customer interactions, while being able to rapidly predict and identify patterns and analyse potential scenarios.
* Act fast and strengthen digital capabilities as you go
Investing in Industry 4.0 technologies such as Blockchain, AI, and VR/AR, leveraging a prioritised use-case driven approach fosters innovative and new business models. Technology lets us create a digital twin of an organisation, enable rapid prototyping and iterative and incremental development of products and services to ensure we are building them right, and at the right speed.
* Protect yourself
Prepare yourself — be proactive. Remote work makes organisations more vulnerable to threats than before. Regularly assessing the cyber landscape, strengthening monitoring and response capabilities, conducting cybersecurity threat and vulnerability assessments, and implementing the right measures promptly and proactively, become critical.
* Don’t wait to innovate
While there is no definite end in sight to the current crisis, what’s clear is that those who learn from these difficult times and master the art of driving digital transformation, with innovation and agility, will thrive.
Though the COVID-19 crisis is still unfolding, it has irrevocably altered the global social and business landscape. With digital rising to the challenge, remote work, online learning, and social distancing are all part of the new normal.
Organisations that embrace digitalisation, with agility and empathy, will emerge on the other side with a stronger value offering, enjoy a loyal and expanding customer base, and retain an engaged, motivated and innovative workforce.
— Hamid Tamimi is Vice-President at Booz Allen Hamilton.