Over the past decade, disruption has gradually shifted the global business landscape. The convergence of several key elements — such as global accessibility and connectivity online, unparalleled processing power, unlimited storage capacity and the low cost of technology production — have created a perfect storm of disruption.
As a result, technology development has accelerated, and the long-standing rules around how to engage with customers, develop and market products or services, operate a business, and generate revenue have been transformed by the new rules of the digital economy.
The ‘Next Normal’ Business Landscape
This year, the coronavirus pandemic has triggered a range of unprecedented shifts in the global business landscape. Never in the history of modern business has there been the level of digital adoption as we have seen over the past year. As the world went into lockdown, consumers rapidly shifted to online and e-commerce channels to acquire goods and services. Additionally, consumers also prioritized essential purchases, such as groceries and healthcare products, shifting away from nonessential purchases or brand preferences.
Companies also had to grapple with the massive shift to remote work as much of the global workforce was forced to work from home. Few companies were prepared for such a scenario because many had operated under the premise that physical presence was the only or primary working model. Companies had to quickly upskill or reskill the workforce to enable continued productivity in the digital collaboration environment.
Leadership teams faced a trust gap as many had to manage large remote teams for the first time. The digital collaboration environment also required traditional business siloes and organization structures to be dismantled as teams were forced to quickly engage with and collaborate across organizational functions.
These internal and external shifts in the business landscape could be permanent. Given that people have realized that digital adoption has created convenient new ways to work and interact with companies, I believe the adoption of the "digi-cal" environment (a term I use to describe the seamless convergence of digital and physical touch points) will be permanent.
In this climate, the need for strategic business transformation leveraging digital solutions has become critical to maintaining a competitive and resilient position in the market. Below are three practical steps companies can take to accelerate digital transformation to win in the "next normal" business landscape.
1. Audit your current state of digital maturity.
Understand where you are at before developing strategies on where you want to get to. This health check can help you assess strengths, shortcomings, pain points and barriers you could see when pursuing or undergoing a digital transformation.
Auditing the digital health of an organization involves taking stock of three basic elements: developing trends in the market, the current technology landscape in the company, and the skills, capabilities and offerings of the company.
To conduct this assessment on your own, start by assigning an internal task force or small cross-functional team to conduct research and gather insights on these areas. When assessing the developing trends, consider various elements, including evolving customer behaviors and preferences, emerging technologies and their potential impact in business, and the changing competitive landscape, such as impactful startups in the industry.
To avoid getting lost in too much research, the assessment team should conduct a rapid scan of a wide range of trends and then deep dive into selected topics that might have a high impact on the business. Once the assessment research is complete, focus on matching trends or potential opportunities in the market with the internal capabilities of the company (i.e., what the company can realistically deliver in the next few years).
2. Analyze the disruption in your customer journey
Conduct an analysis of your customer journey to identify breaks in the touch points and interactions that might impact the customer’s experience with your business.
In addition, focus on identifying moments of truths in the customer journey where your company could create lasting impressions. "Moments of truth" are defined as moments when a customer or user interacts with your brand, product or service to form or change an impression about your company. Focus on finding micro-moments where you can engage with customers to further solidify the relationship.
Digital and online channels create a great way to engage with customers. Today, other great digital solutions are easy to implement. For example, there are numerous AI-based virtual assistants and chatbots in the market today that are cost-effective and never been so easy to implement but create a big impact when implemented well. These enable companies to supplement customer engagement and fill the breaks in the customer journey with value-added interactions.
3. Leverage technology solutions to pivot the business model.
Digital technologies have enabled a range of new business models and revenue streams for companies. Many digital native companies have been able to leverage these digital-first business models to rapidly displace incumbent organizations.
For example, Netflix has completely redefined the way viewers access and consume movies and films. In addition, Netflix benefited during the coronavirus pandemic because consumers turned to online streaming as an alternative to cinema and television. However, Netflix’s subscription-based business model proved more sustainable than some other newer streaming offerings, such as Quibi, which was forced to shut down in recent months.
To survive and thrive in the next normal, companies should explore their strengths and capabilities and match them to the emerging market needs to find pivots that will create new revenue opportunities. However, companies need to make sure that the pivots align with long-term strategic objectives.
As companies face the "next normal" business landscape — full of rapidly shifting consumer trends and new working models — digital solutions can create a competitive advantage and drive sustainable results. It is critical to focus on the right initiatives, considering the limited investments, time and resources available to most companies in the current business environment. Business leaders should be encouraged to explore new solutions and leverage digital technologies as much as possible to win the next normal.
Author: Kamales Lardi