The Opportunity of Change during Disruption
Written by Daniela Chetcuti
The prevailing situation of managing a business during the pandemic has created an opportunity for businesses to transform themselves. In some situations, this transformation is a do or die; and those who do not change are at a greater risk of closure.
But one must ask – the incessant talk about the essence of being “digital by default”, why then wait for the pandemic to really transform? To do everything from the comfort of home or office has been the mantra to sell online services for “ages”. So why is the need for social distance being touted as the catalyst for change?
However, the need for social distance over a longer period of time has quashed the notion of a quick return to normality. This has led to people getting used to different patterns of behaviour that businesses need to note, understand and transform to succeed in a rebounding economy.
Businesses and Governments must think differently in terms of delivering services to citizens and other businesses.
Irrespective of whether one is social distancing or transacting from home or office, technology infrastructure is a critical factor in service delivery. IT infrastructure is critical to maintaining constant internet connection to clients whether citizens or businesses.
The way software applications are implemented must provide a pleasant user experience so that they are quick and easy to use. Of equal importance is to enhance the information on services, to ensure that potential users are aware of the services’ availability.
Moreover, the logistics of products and services needs to be re-designed and transformed in a way to ensure that feedback to citizens and businesses is given in a rapid and accurate manner. This applies across industries and functions. From a supermarket which needs to stock goods; to a catering establishment which serves clients both on-site and as take-away; to also a government entity which needs to design its back office processes and ensure that feedback to a request, claim or sale is prompt and accurate. Thus, having an appreciation of the customers and their typical needs, is critical. This is true in any role; be it the front facing personnel or the person behind the scenes solving a tax issue or supporting a beneficiary in tracing the application to a social benefit. So, we need to apply the innovation cycle (idea-> concept -> test -> learn -> implement) to design innovative processes aided by the power of IT, keeping the customers’ needs in mind.
Technology supports these transformations in a robust manner. Those who can vision the benefits of a strong national and organisational IT infrastructure will have established the foundation for this transformation. Business of any size can move on this path. Whilst Governments and large organisations can afford to implement an IT infrastructure on premise, small and medium enterprises can leverage the public cloud to have access to IT infrastructure that can be managed according to actual consumption. Small businesses can also have a robust infrastructure to implement IT solutions that will help them transform their service offering and the required logistical capacities.
The next building block is the IT solution itself and the process engineering which needs to leverage the wealth of information available on the internet or within organisational systems to be able to design a product or service offering that will reach its market. This applies to both products and services. Typically, large organisations such as Governments have a wealth of information (in line with legislation) from which the needs of citizens and businesses can be anticipated or served. Technologies such as Advanced Analytics can help to find the needle in the haystack that can help or serve a client. Data and systems can be merged into re-designed or transformational processes to help identify new products or opportunities for new service offerings.
Moving forward, customer care will be another key success factor. It may seem obvious, but in these times where business change is giving more value to agility and accuracy (because the tools are there), the ability to accept a customer issue and rectify it immediately, is key to improving market share and maintaining good business relations. Again, one must ask why some key service providers still require their clients’ presence at a front desk; rather than solving the issue on-line (or over the phone). Especially when identity verification can be safely done online. Of course, risk mitigation must be part of the service design to determine the risk appetite based on the materiality of the issue in terms of legal, monetary and personal impact.
Finally, it is the employee who must have the right tools to design, deliver and ultimately provide the service. Employee well-being is a must within an organisation and the flexibility to adapt to personal and family needs is key to retention. However irrespective of the technology; training and development must ensure that employees operate within a triangle of data, processes and people (development) to ensure that change is rapid and effective. People must be aware within all roles (software engineer, back office, customer care, service design etc.) of the existence of information on their ICT systems, and their relevance. More so is the importance that people understand the value that such information brings in the enablement of tailored designs of processes for the ultimate user experience. The concept that data, processes and design are considered to provide a unique view of the customer is key to facing new challenges posed in these disruptive times.
To quote Simon Mulcahy (Salesforce Vice President): “Well, yes. But too often people think of digital transformation in terms of, “Let’s put some really powerful technology over this and it’ll suddenly be much stronger. That’s not how it works. Just digitising an analogue that was conceived decades ago is not transformation—without going back to how you can serve the customer’s need better, you haven’t transformed anything.”
The prevailing situation of managing a business during the pandemic has created an opportunity for businesses to transform themselves.