This is a guest blogpost by Gordon Wilson, CEO, Advanced
It would be an understatement to say that Covid-19 has disrupted the way the world does business. How we now operate has to be set in a new context, accepting new realities. But if Covid-19 has one legacy for business, it will be the accelerated shift to a digital first mindset.
According to research, buyer preference for digital engagement, as opposed to traditional engagement, is twice what it was pre-Covid-19 and therefore the pressure is on UK Plc to pivot fast to a digital first approach in all business activity. If the UK is to emerge, and then grow, from the challenge of Covid-19, then it has to make this goal achievable and sustainable. And quickly.
But what are the pitfalls in adopting a digital-first mindset? Is it about the technology? The people or the processes? I believe it’s about all three.
Here are my top 5 tips for ensuring you are prepared for the new realities that trading post-Covid will require:
- Technology: Digital-first businesses are embracing all types of technology. The use of AI and automation, for example, is continuing to grow, and cloud technology adoption continues to hurtle along its monumental growth curve thanks to the agility and flexibility it offers organisations at a time when employee location and end user demand is uncertain. In fact, it is cloud technology that is the precursor to using technologies such as AI. In looking at scoping out your technology requirements, you need to look at the structure of your organisation. Ascertain whether your organisation is optimised for meaningful, digital engagement with your customers. We all know the well-worn quote that it costs seven times more to sign up a new customer than it does to grow existing business, so make sure your technology, people and processes are optimised to make the most of this new-found customer intimacy and build authentic relationships which will endure. Any investment you make in customer facing process, skills or technology (social channels, remote working platforms, collaboration tools etc) will not be wasted.
- People: Create more agile and flexible ways of working which are aligned to your customers. Trust and empower your employees to manage their workload wisely and deliver on their goals. Given that workforces are now made up of five generations, identify the digital natives within your organisation who can act as ambassadors for change and can effectively mentor those who are perhaps less open to doing things differently. Longer term, continue to engage with your staff on a regular basis and maintain a level of understanding about how employees want to work now and in the future. Understanding their preferences and motivation is key. If your business relies on the interaction of people and processes, my advice would be to put people at the centre of everything you do. And by people, I mean customers and employees, because getting both right will guarantee a brighter long term future for all.
- Support. It won’t come as any surprise to hear me recommend cloud technology, but digital first is the new reality, I’m afraid, and those that adapt quickly will reap the rewards. Adapting successfully, however, involves making the right investments, and that means investments in the right technology. Legacy systems, for example, are unable to reliably support or integrate with modern applications. They create unnecessary expense, often consuming a high proportion of a company’s IT budget and so, regardless of how deeply entrenched an organisation might be, business leaders need to think ahead about redirection of funds towards cloud. To be successful, make sure you enlist the right support. Choose the right cloud provider – with vertical specialism, experience and knowledge if appropriate – who are passionate about developing software solutions that can transform organisations. Don’t let a lack of skills internally allow the competition to score the equivalent of an own goal – find providers that can plug any gaps in industry and technical knowledge
- A digital-first mindset = a digital-first culture: Being successful in adopting a digital-first mindset for your organisation is heavily dependent upon both the strength and vision of leadership, but also the strength of communication. With your digital-first plan in place, consider appointing storytellers within the organisation to help communicate and filter this approach down, from leadership to shop floor. This digital-first approach should be the red thread that runs through all decision making within all departments of the organisation from HR policy setting, to sales and marketing, development and the finance function. More than a mindset, it’s a culture. And this culture will shape the way tomorrow’s workforce approaches business and captures how Covid-19 disrupted any previous modus operandi. How we now operate has to be set in a new context.
- The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Ultimately, businesses need to look at their situation holistically. They will only become a true digital-first organisation if they invest in the right technology, people and processes. Focusing on just one or two of these is not enough. Indeed, in a recent survey, 77% of senior business decision makers across the UK believed that one of the legacies of Covid-19 would be for their organisation to shift to a digital-first mindset, and 98% agreed that technology will play a major role in the global economic recovery.
Unfortunately, being a digital-first organisation is no longer about choice. As I said at the beginning of this piece, buyer preference for digital engagement means, if you want to survive, never mind thrive, in a future that demands digital transformation, being left behind is not an option.