Published on the 02/04/2020 | Written by Heather Wright
The tech to experiment with now to hit the ground running, post-Covid…
As Covid-19 and lockdowns bite deep into businesses on both sides of the Tasman, companies are refocusing on business resiliency plans to help them emerge from this pandemic intact and able to hit the ground running.
Cost cutting to get through the pandemic is tempered with the need to accelerate digital transformation plans in order to adjust to rapidly changing market conditions and to set them up for the post-Covid world.
“Covid-19 is hyper-accelerating decision making.”
Experimentation and creativity now could pave the way for businesses to hit the ground running in a post-Covid world, Louise Francis, IDC New Zealand country manager told iStart.
She says Covid-19 is on a scale and speed of change above that seen with the GFC, and that’s hyper-accelerating decision making.
“However, there are a number of things that businesses can do that will help them emerge with the strength that will be needed,” Francis says.
“It’s a time for experimentation and creativity and anything that can involve the whole business such as virtual planning sessions and a virtual suggestion box will get employees engaged, empowered and active.
“The focus of these sessions should be on areas and ways business resilience can improve – now is the time to dissect the good the bad and the ugly (and that is why an anonymous virtual suggestion box to democratise the process).
Businesses also need to identify what parts of the business can they will be able to get up and running quickly and what are the quick tech fixes that can be deployed.
Francis says with many businesses in hibernation mode, there is an opportunity to superscale testing projects that would normally take place over other extended breaks.
Covid-19 is expected accelerate a trend towards companies seeking simpler, more resilient solutions. Moonshot projects are likely to give way to IT ‘that gets things done without the bells and whistles’, Francis says.
Those moonshot projects that do continue are likely to be industry or process specific, rather than grand, all-of-business projects.
“Unless they solve an immediate problem, or are already well underway, any projects considered risky are likely to be deferred until the future – and what the business needs – is clearer,” she says. “However, if these technologies are part of a wider solution, such as supply chain transformation or customer engagement, they are likely to continue, but probably within a different capacity that originally intended.
One area where projects are expected to go ahead – or even be brought forward – is collaboration tools. With many free trials or discounts now on offer, Francis says it’s a good time to experiment and find out what tools fit best with your business using real-life testing.
“This is also one area we expect to continue and even accelerate post COVID-19.”
She says another area worth focusing on is contactless customer engagement.
“During this crisis, those businesses which have invested in technologies that enable this (such as virtual events, electronic signatures, contactless delivery, etc) have been able to retain high levels of engagement.”
Security and compliance projects will also continue unabated, but this is also compelling organisations to pay more attention to security when the workforce is working remotely. Francis says many companies will need to update their governance policies around content sharing across collaboration platforms, particularly if they have implemented the tools under urgency.
And while cloud projects are likely to accelerate, Francis says it will be with much more attention to the resilience and capability to deliver cloud services.
“Cloud investors will be scrutinizing how different cloud providers, aggregators and partners cope during the COVID-19 crisis, so there will be winners and losers.”
On the flip side, large scale or massive transformation projects are unsurprisingly expected to be delayed,
“IDC expects businesses to break these down into the needs versus wants categories. In many cases the areas of focus will change to target areas of weakness exposed during the lockdown, such as connectivity, future workplace tools, creating a collaborative culture and security beyond the organisational perimeter.”
Some other suggestions for getting through Covid-19 and going beyond survival mode:
Focus on who you are as a brand
Thomas O’Connor, Gartner retail supply chain expert, says now’s the time to really focus on who you are as a brand as a retail organisation, what your promise is and what consumers see you as.
“That is what you need to double down on. It’s the foundation stone: who are you in the eyes of the consumer, and making sure your messaging and everything you’re doing in the market is aligned to that.”
Prepare for 100 percent digital with a knowledge management strategy
“Companies need to accept, right now, that we now live in a 100 percent digital world,” Tim Sheedy, Ecosystm principal advisor, says.
“And you know what? This is how a lot of us prefer to interact anyway. So how about we prepare our business for this model going forward.”
He sasy companies need to think about what customer interaction looks like in a digital only world. “You realise all the flaws you have as a business right now.”
That, he says, includes inconsistent messaging.
“Does what they read on your site reflect the message in the market? A lot of the time it doesn’t. In a digital world you don’t have a human to tell you you’re going to be ok, so I put much more faith in the digital content I’m looking for.
“That means there is a much higher imperative for businesses to make sure digital touchpoints are aligned and digital content is consistent and aligns with what sales people or your call centre staff are saying.
“It’s much bigger than just content. It’s a knowledge management strategy.”
Diversify – and pivot towards smart opportunities
Kim Voon, CEO of Auckland digital marketing agency Insight Online, says now is not the time to be fussy.
“Take whatever business comes your way. We’re accepting smaller projects because it helps our customers and our staff and helps keep us in business.“
Distilleries are turning their hands to making hand sanitiser, clothing manufacturer Cactus Outdoor has converted its factory to make face masks.
“Many of our clients are looking to invest in providing their products/services online as well. Some are looking at new offerings – which is terrific,” says Voon.
“We also find, after some discussion, there’s likely something your business provides that can be switched to digital channels quickly and at a minimum of cost. Or perhaps a part of your sales or delivery process that can now be provided online.”
Drive online integration with physical retail
“Because of the increased emphasis on online, make sure the capability of being able to fulfil from store is there and really drive the online integration with physical retail – that’s a big point of emphasis we expect to see,” O’Connor says.
“Try to position yourself for acceleration coming out of this.”