“For some organizations, near-term survival is the only agenda item. Others are peering through the fog of uncertainty, thinking about how to position themselves once the crisis has passed and things return to normal. The question is, ‘What will normal look like?’ While no one can say how long the crisis will last, what we find on the other side will not look like the normal of recent years.”
Ian Davis, a McKinsey partner wrote this during the 2008 global financial crisis. This article which was written more than a decade ago was titled “The New Normal”. Where else have we heard the term?
Based on the circumstances that we are in currently, the above words carry weight even now. It is exactly why we keep hearing the term “the new normal” because Covid-19 has not only restructured our medical care facilities but has brought about a global change in every economic activity, including our behavior.
Covid has changed the business world- lock, stock, and barrel. The future is digital- that’s something everyone knows. But the unprecedented strain of a virus named Corona has accelerated the inevitable. It is no more a luxury for businesses to adopt digital engineering strategies, it is a must to survive. Remember this, the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic has forced many businesses to be cautious, but they are the ones who will stay where they are.
There is a multitude of challenges for businesses. Your sales team cannot meet prospective clients. Business heads have to make do with video calls instead of traveling business class to meet up in each other’s office. Employees are still getting used to the concept of working from home- some love it while some detest it. All of these cataclysmic changes can result in doom if they are not tended to, immediately at that.
Here are strategies that businesses need to adopt for success despite and after the Covid-19 era:
1. Agile Business Continuity Plan (BCP):
Most businesses have BCP plans laid out carefully in 100s of pages, unfortunately, none of them had an answer for Covid-19. While you cannot blame businesses as the virus and its after-effects were totally unprecedented, most of them seemed to have managed to stay afloat despite the looming crisis. Businesses cannot indulge in the normal type of BCP plans anymore, they need to have an agile BCP.
Not only that, the agile BCP plan should be devised in such a way that it is implementable with less friction and more ease. The Agile approach is all about having all the resources required to help a business achieve its objectives. For an Agile BCP plan, you must include both the employees and the management team to be a part of the discussion since it affects everyone who is a part of the organization. Since Agile also involves making incremental improvements of features or functionalities, its BCP plan is more manageable and smoother.
2. Create a data-driven system:
The efficiency that digital tools and technologies bring in cannot be discounted, especially in this scenario. How efficiently they help businesses totally depends on the way they leverage it. Businesses are spending increasingly on creating a digital infrastructure and data-driven initiatives. The Meaningful Brands 2019 report by Havas Group predicts that more than 81% of European brands could go extinct if they don’t create relevant content or offer personalized discounts. Brands collect data from various points, if businesses make use of this content, they will be able to understand what customers want, when they want, and how to deliver them.
As a part of this data-driven structure, they are recruiting people with advanced data skills, buying data preparation tools for data management, investing in data security processes, and so on. These are changes that will enable organizations to build capacity in areas such as Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, etc.
The management team should be rallying behind its technologists and equip them with the confidence and authority to make changes which will ensure that the business uses technologies that are perfect for them. For every change that aims to make a tectonic shift in its technological infrastructure, the leadership should show special interest. To replace legacy systems and processes that are outdated and to challenge the Covid crisis, businesses require leaders who are motivated by data and technology. McKinsey says that businesses that are data-driven are 23 times more likely to acquire customers.
3. Cloud adoption:
Thomas Kurien, the CEO of Google Cloud, has written in a blogpost that the usage of Google Meet is 25 times what it was in January 2020.
If not for cloud infrastructure, most of the businesses in the world that depends on technology would have come to a standstill. How? Without the cloud infrastructure, it would be impossible to share files remotely. Every tool or application that promised you real-time analytics or real-time updates will find it difficult to keep up its promise. Even the powerful smartphones in your hand would be rendered useless.
Adopting cloud infrastructure will be useful to your business as it not only helps you with cutting costs but also unlocks innovation for you. By planning properly with the help of technologists, you can address issues that stopped you from embracing the cloud. With the difficulties brought about by Covid, companies have no choice other than overcoming cloud management issues so that they can adopt it with relative ease. With every passing day, businesses are staring at a loss and competitors are shifting to the cloud, thereby giving themselves the ability to offer better products.
4. Virtual Engineering:
Designing and constructing products using advanced computer simulations and other pieces of software to test its efficacy is called virtual engineering. Depending on the type of product that is being made, businesses will have different objectives with virtual engineering: longevity, focus on maximizing safety, virtual simulation for a variety of use cases, etc. Since quick changes can be made in a simulated environment, businesses can arrive at the final design much faster, therefore reducing production time and allowing for a quicker go-to-market time.
Using a virtual testing working environment allows companies to explore the products without any safety fears. For products that are manufactured in potentially dangerous environments, you can test them and reduce the time taken to complete the entire design as the multiple iterations that it might have to go through are during simulations. With virtual engineering, businesses can reduce model design time by 10% and construction time by 7%.
5. Moving from silos to integrated systems:
Silos stand in the way of businesses exchanging information between their departments. It is not customer-centric and certainly doesn’t augur well for productivity. The first step towards moving away from silos is to acknowledge its existence and how it slows down the effectiveness of your day-to-day operations.
DevOps organizations thrive in a culture where there is ample collaboration. With traditional SDLC methods, the development, testing, and operations teams worked as separate entities. Therefore, there was hardly any dependency between each of these departments. Modern development practices follow the agile methodology and DevOps practices. Each of the teams is responsible for engaging in continuous delivery practices so that the collective needs of the organization are met.
For businesses that want to successfully adopt DevOps, it is crucial that they identify and address the silos before it creates bottlenecks from which recovery can be difficult. There will be widespread adoption of DevOps, it is expected to grow to $6.6 billion in 2022. It is time to do away with silos and move to an integrated architecture that will result in more efficiency.
6. Information Security:
Gartner says that 52% of legal and compliance leaders are concerned about 3rd party cyber risks due to remote work because of Covid-19. Safeguarding data connected to your customers, organization, and any other sensitive information is a big problem for businesses. Thanks to the Covid scenario, there has been an increase in security breaches since everyone is working remotely. The security systems are not going to be effectively safeguarded because most of the applications were not designed for remote working. Zoom, the communications company, acknowledged that they faced security issues because they did not expect a sudden increase in the number of people using it.
Information security should be given the same respect that other areas of IT get. When organizations are building their digital infrastructure from scratch, they need to give equal relevance to data security by making it a part of their core development activities. By decentralizing security, security issues can be detected earlier in the life cycle, decrease the time needed to recover from failure, and even reduces delivery time.
7. Omnichannel strategy:
To deliver a consistent customer experience at every touchpoint, businesses should adopt omnichannel strategies. You can deliver an omnichannel experience only when there is an integration of both back-end and customer-facing systems. The impact that omnichannel strategies bring about is more than just an enhanced customer experience.
When your data is integrated, you would be able to do more than what you presently can. Integrating information about your inventory, sales information, order fulfillment, customer data, and more, leads to a high level of operational efficiency. Some of the most successful companies ensure that they focus on omnichannel strategies. By pairing operational data and customer data, the business is in a position to make smarter decisions, better their customer experience delivery, and allows them real-time insights into their business.
8. Automation Solutions:
There was a time when certain time-consuming processes could only be performed manually. It used to consume hundreds of man-hours that led to slow processes and tired workers. Adding automation solutions into the mix will replace these time-guzzlers by creating automated workflows which will result in increased levels of efficiency and speed. They not only simplify business operations across different units but also reduce the complexity involved with a lot of functionalities.
Automation and AI in combination can help you unearth opportunities that might not have been visible earlier, can scan millions of datasets, assist in continuous process improvements, and even help drive autonomous decision making.
Gartner says that by 2023, 40% of the operations team will use AI-augmented automation in large enterprises and it will reduce the need for IT specialists by 20%. The same Gartner report says that more than 90% of enterprises will have an automation architect by 2025.
9. App modernization:
The app modernization market is slated to reach 24.8 billion USD by 2025 at a CAGR of 16.8% during the forecast period of 2020-25. Businesses understand the advantages associated with investing in modern technology systems and are ready to implement the same given they get the right guidance.
Taking your existing legacy applications and modernizing the platform infrastructure, internal architecture, features, etc., and bringing these applications into cloud architecture and other modern approaches is app modernization. The key to the success of an app modernization project depends on your strategy and the modern applications that you include as a part of your transformation.
Legacy applications are difficult to update and incredibly expensive to scale. For businesses that are fast-growing, they will only pull them down. If there is an issue with a single component of an app in a legacy system, you would need to scale up the entire app.
Gartner says that by 2023, 90% of applications will be in use with most of them receiving insufficient modernization investment. Your investment in modernizing your apps should not be an action plan just because others are doing so. Take stock of the systems that you are using right now, and partner with a technology firm that will guide you on what needs to be done.
10. Build operations resilience:
In PwC’s Connected and Autonomous Supply Chain Ecosystem 2025 study, they found that only 9% of supply chain costs were invested in advanced capabilities by digital champions. More than 1,600 executives across seven industries and 33 territories were surveyed as a part of this exercise. 1.8 years is the payback period of investing in advanced supply chain abilities, but they offer huge returns.
Coronavirus has exposed the fragility of our supply chain systems. Even if there is a single part in the supply chain ecosystem that isn’t working to its maximum potential, the effects will reflect in the entire supply chain thread. Smart companies will use this time of lull to create new levels of agility and productivity in its supply chain. Operation heads need to use this time to reinvent the way they function.
Redesign your operations and supply chain network to protect yourself against any shocks in the future. Re-evaluate your sourcing techniques and value chain with the help of technology and also by using customer data. By using a suite of digital and analytics tools, you can reduce your cost and make your operations methodology more flexible so that it benefits your customers.
11. Let go of legacy technology:
More often than not, the time when businesses let go of their legacy technology might be when it is too late already. The problem with holding on to legacy systems is that it will slow down your progress, guzzle the speed of your incumbent systems, increase your costs, and reduce your desirability in the eyes of your customers.
Businesses should evaluate their technology stack regularly and use the help of an external eye to assess their situation. They should put themselves in a position where the external consultant will suggest changes in their IT infrastructure. If there are legacy systems that can be updated to the latest version without a hassle, then those are welcome. But if you are not letting go of legacy systems just because it entails a lot of change, then it can have negative repercussions.
12. Revamping sales channels:
The way consumers behave and shop has changed drastically, thanks to the Covid-19 virus. You can expect the buying pattern and behavior to last for quite some time in the future until the whole world is administered the vaccine, otherwise the fear of contracting the virus will always lurk.
Even B2B businesses will have to make do with a different strategy to close sales. There was a time when million-dollar deals were only possible after repeated meetings with various decision-makers over a long period of time. This behavior and expectation have completely changed and we are looking at everything going the online route.
Businesses should start investing in the following technologies to revamp its sales channels: 1. Sales automation- It saves the time that is spent on repetitive tasks, thereby allowing more time for salespeople to concentrate on their core tasks, 2. AI can help the sales team make data-backed decisions and even play a role in creating personalized product offerings, 3. Using AI, ML and Big Data, businesses can identify their sales targets and forecast the sales by making reliable predictions.
Despite the pandemic and everything that was wrong with it, we will come out of this. Economies will start flourishing and it will result in a ‘new world’ where our thinking and implementation will be completely changed forever. Businesses that do not use this outlier situation to course-correct will find themselves in a quagmire. Sticking with legacy software and processes will never allow you to progress beyond a point. Customers expect a lot, and so do your employees, do not let the reason for your downfall be poor technology infrastructure.
The leadership in every organization should encourage technology-driven changes that will increase productivity and drive innovation. Hire highly skilled technologists into your team who will handle your tech ecosystem. Tie up with tech partners who can expedite your business transformation by leveraging technology.