The Digital Age has passed, long live Digital! “Digital Transformation” has given way to something bigger, even as technology has become ubiquitous. People no longer pause to think about it as they go through their days using digital toys and tools. Global enterprises have adapted to this reality, with even the so-called “Digital Laggards” learning to embrace being digital. Consulting and IT Services have naturally changed too. Whereas we used to answer questions about why companies should transform, today the question is “How?” How to achieve scale? How to deliver big impact? How to improve the human experience at high velocity?
Global business has been interrupted rudely by COVID-19. Seen as “the Black Swan” or “New Normal,” depending on the lens one wears, COVID-19 has made transformation an unavoidable response. In fact, it has amplified the case for even more transformation and justified the case for scale, impact and speed.
We have witnessed the unequivocal emergence of what is truly essential to business (and life). Based on how resilient enterprises are responding, 7 Essentials have surfaced that will remain core to the New Normal.
- People top the list. Safety and health have been prioritized over all else, this time not to gain hype or a top spot on “Best Place to Work” lists. Now, it’s about ensuring employees’ engagement, mental health and psychological safety. It’s about building cohesion through a unified sense of purpose and action. And ultimately, it’s about a sense of service to colleagues, clients and the community at large.
- Productivity and enabling “work-from-home” are now non-negotiable business realities. Solutions for connectivity, security, risk management and collaboration have existed, but recent lockdowns have pushed even the most unmoved decision makers into immediate adoption – literally overnight. Will these solutions pass the stress test? How do colleagues’ access, availability and predictability get managed? How does empathetic discipline fall in place? How explicit must social contracts become? Enterprises that answer these questions early will be poised for success once the pandemic lets up.
- Supply Chains need human-centric reimagination. What’s more, they must be seen not as chains but as symbiotic ecosystems. Blocked inventory is as harmful to our economy as thrombosis is to a person’s health. AI and blockchain will enable supply chains to mimic human systems that are intelligent, sense and respond within seconds – all while remaining invisible. Resilient enterprises will focus on defining new rules of the game while executing them with finesse.
- Ways of Working will extend beyond hierarchies and boundaries. An agile mindset will remain the most effective, taking advantage of autonomy and alignment in business areas beyond product development and software engineering. For example, the concepts of small teams, virtual stand ups, rapid problem solving, intelligent automation and metrics-based decision making will become increasingly relevant to sales, marketing, distribution, customer service, finance and HR.
- Financial Health and Liquidity needs hyper focus. Sunk costs in change and innovation need to be managed with a forward-looking approach. Change is inevitable, but the change portfolio and roadmap may need re-prioritization and course correction. Re-applying the first principles for planning change can help navigate the current crisis but also prepare for growth once it passes. Zero-based budgeting and lean thinking can deliver breakthroughs in cost management, too. Companies have long known about virtualization, as-a-service models, automation and outsourcing; the key is to look beyond the obvious, question the status quo, conceive new solutions and manage new risks.
- Social Solidarity in times of social distancing is underpinned by trust and the implicit expectation of help. Trust is not about the “soft side” of leadership. While it may seem premature for most enterprises to look at the ROI of trust, the art and science to laying solid foundations for trust do exist. It is useful to invest time and money in building the “Trust Quotient” across the enterprise and its ecosystem.
- Philanthropy, Ethics and Sustainability are no longer “good things” that only “good people” and “good companies” believe in. Increasingly, these are levers for business vitality. Consumers and employees have also begun reading the fine print, looking into a company’s sustainability record and ethical practices when making their purchase and employment decisions.
Transformation is not just an episodic business continuity planning intervention. Rather, it’s an irreversible mutation in how enterprises are run, how customers are served, and how people work and live. Digital has become almost unrecognizably embedded in each of these spaces. It is, therefore, no longer a “Digital Transformation” but an “Essential Transformation” for businesses to thrive in the post COVID-19 era. If all goes well, the Essential Transformation mindset will also prepare us for future Black Swans that glide in out of the blue.