For digital professionals across the globe, the world is transforming in front of us. We are living through a time with no direct comparison, where previous approaches and methodologies don’t really apply. What’s become apparent is that the way we work, interact, and operate will fundamentally change.
The collective intelligence of digital professionals in every corner of the digital transformation landscape will play a key role in the evolution to this new normal. Along the way, digital leaders must proactively devise new ways of collaborating, performing, and delivering continuity amidst these unprecedented challenges.
An adaptive framework for the new age
If there’s one lesson to be learned from disruption, it’s the importance of adaptive frameworks—both for pivoting to immediate, short-term needs and adjusting for longer-term impacts. From my conversations with digital professionals around the world, I see three key phases in such frameworks: respond, sustain, and grow.
During times of crisis, good leaders are quick to respond and do whatever is necessary to ensure employee safety; engage with providers, partners, and customers; and build cultures of proactive change.
Employee safety: In recent weeks, businesses the world over have mobilized quickly to adopt social distancing, work from home (WFH), and other shelter-at-home policies to protect their employees. For some, they have already had all the tools necessary for WFH. For others, it has been unchartered territory. But even for many digital professionals who are well-equipped and well-versed in technology, a gap still exists between WFH-enablement and productivity that is gradually coming to a close.
Ecosystem engagement: No enterprise is an island. They all part of wider, intricately linked value chains. Therefore, adapting to change also requires collaborating with providers, partners, and customers as collectives, working together to put plans in place to overcome any possible hurdles. And as we digitally evolve, changes to processes and expectations, methodologies and frameworks will need to be navigated across industries.
Proactive change: Disruptions happen fast and can have far-reaching impacts. But the good thing is they force us to work equally fast and switch from being reactive to proactive in the search for new solutions. From the healthcare delivery innovation to evolving supply chains, forward thinking leaders are really pushing the boundaries of development time and adoption curves for digital transformation.
During a time when knowledge workers are working at safe social distances from their home offices, it’s hard to imagine returning to traditional workplaces where everyone is concentrated in a single building. The truth is even when we return to a sense of normalcy, many of these new, evolved ways of working will remain.
New ways of working: In the new world, employees will likely think twice about unnecessary long-distance travel for meetings, when internet video conferencing is a viable option. Enterprises will come out of this with more digitally-minded teams and reimagined ways of working, having embraced video conferencing, cloud brainstorming, and other online tools.
Social collaboration: In the process of all this change, mental health and employee engagement are essential to creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. Many will begin missing the social collaboration of the workplace and sense of purpose that comes from physically working in teams. Digital leaders will need to think of ways to support social collaboration online—not only for company-related work, but also fun, team-building exercises like virtual coffee breaks.
Information security: However, there are also inherent information security concerns with these new ways of working. Namely, virtual teams, remote data access, and an increased reliance on public infrastructures all can increase security threats. As they evolve towards the new normal, enterprises will need to invest and have dedicated leadership in information security, as well as training for employees on best practices to minimize these threats.
Disruption also creates opportunities for growth. Digital professionals should expect and plan early for that growth. For those who struggled initially with mobilizing to WFH, it is a good indication whether improvements are necessary for further digitization, such as the adoption of the cloud, analytics and AI, and more digital customer experiences.
Cloud: With the switch to WFH, businesses are finding that cloud-enabled services respond, scale and perform well for distributed teams. Even those that were previously hesitant have come around after experiencing difficulties giving remote employees access to on-premise applications behind firewalls.
Enterprises can expect to see large-scale moves to the cloud ahead. Demand will grow specifically in three areas: the design of new cloud infrastructures, the migration and re-engineering of applications to the cloud, and the management of cloud stacks.
Analytics and AI: With today’s world economies and business environments going through a period of rapid change, executives and teams—while remote—need even more insights and predictions than ever before. They need commercial modeling for revenue optimization and enterprise performance risk modeling and scenario planning. The need for such insights is fueling the adoption of analytics and AI, at a rate that can only be expected to accelerate.
Customer experience: Given current physical limitations, we are already seeing new business models evolve, channels of distribution change, and entire value propositions emerge from the needs of the market. In this still forming new world, businesses will need to adapt how they engage with customers and transact business—and not just a direct translation of previous services.
Enterprises will need to re-imagine entire customer journeys, build new capabilities, intelligently automate lower value tasks, and improve the customer experience digitally.
Where are enterprises today?
So, where do enterprises currently stand on the journey to adaptive frameworks?
Many have done well to respond, but now move into the second phase of sustaining, where they will lay the foundations and evolve towards new ways of working. Step by step through this evolutionary journey, it’s critical that business leaders remain aware of developing trends so that they can stay ahead of the curve and grow out of crises, becoming more resilient as they digitally evolve to the new normal.
- Sanjay Srivastava
- The author is Chief Digital Officer, Genpact.