In these times of pandemic, is standing still the smart or dangerous thing to do? Should you halt your innovation and Digital Transformation (DX) programs or modify them to align with and alleviate new impacts on your business? There are no easy answers, but some ways forward seem wiser than others.
Different industries have been impacted in different ways. But one truth is constant: that channels are swiftly and dramatically shifting away from a focus on physical presence, creating a need to increase the capacity and resilience of secondary and tertiary routes to market.
This is the last in a series of four blogs designed to support and inspire technology leaders at this disorientating time. Here, I look at how to keep the right bits of your transformation program moving to help you both ride Covid-19 disruption and come out the other side in great shape to compete.
This blog is the part of a series dedicated to exploring four key questions that any CIO trying to steer their organization through this disrupted period now urgently needs to answer.
- How do I manage complex human capability?
- How do I uphold enterprise resilience and capacity?
- How do I maintain cybersecurity?
- How do I keep Digital Transformation moving?
Today, I am looking at the last question on the list: How to keep Digital Transformation moving. Common threads are emerging.
Enterprises right now are operating in more extreme circumstances than at any other time in living memory. While businesses work hard to ride the lockdown and keep moving forward, it makes sense to put non-essential projects on the back burner. This naturally raises the question: How essential is your digital transformation program?
That depends on what your current DX initiatives are and the industry you are operating. For example:
Retail has seen a massive closure of retail outlets and reductions in workforce combined with a mammoth increase in online and ‘click and collect’ orders.
Most retailers do not have secondary and tertiary channels (online, delivery to home) built for this kind of ramped up workload. Innovation is now urgently needed to change the way retailers are structured to drive immediate revenue while being ready for any permanent changes in shopping habits that may be down the line.
Banking had already seen massive branch closures and reduced hours pre-dating the pandemic and had transformed to embrace digital. Most transactions and customer experiences are already call center-based, online and mobile-ready.
The infrastructure is ready, what is now needed is more investment in product and service marketplaces to help clients find goods and invest their money in more imaginative ways.
Manufacturing/CPG is facing massive logistics problems. Operations are set up to manage shipping to thousands of stores not millions of homes. Shipping internationally is also proving to be prohibitively expensive. How do organizations make the shift and be ready to compete in the new, dispersed market reality?
Healthcare and Life Sciences is under immense emotional pressure and delivering life altering miracles around the globe. The first responders are also the *most* at-risk and suffering from a tremendous shortage of equipment.
All hands-on board is required to deliver global solutions to a global pandemic. Does flattening the curve create a long tail of unsustainable pressure on the professionals and technologies required?
Travel/Tourism is not just at record lows, but falling into depths that will surely sink companies that did not have the nest egg to last over a year worth of 0% occupancy. With no one flying, no one sleeping in hotels, no one going on tours or going to theme parks, no one eating out on vacation or buying souvenirs, tens of millions of jobs in the hospitality fields will be lost, potentially forever.
How does an entire industry recover from near zero customers, and what new innovations are required to add safety as a primary consideration?
There are no easy answers here, but a few conclusions are obvious:
- Channels are dramatically shifting and moving away from physical presence. There is a need to increase the capacity and resilience of secondary and tertiary channels (online, mobile, third arty) and make the infrastructure changes necessary to support these channels
- Supply chains and shipping are both now ‘wide spectrum’ when it comes to getting parts and ingredients. This requires different suppliers and supplier relationships as well as a greater level of consumer transparency in the supply chain
- Consumers going forward will still want to maintain the lifestyles they love, but with more channels and marketplaces for buying products that they would usually be physically present to buy or that would have locally been readily available — such as bread from the local baker. How can your business reinvent itself to broaden consumer marketplaces, allowing for the online acquisition of products that would usually be bought in person?
- Demands company wide focus under leadership of the CIO; Every business unit acts as stakeholder towards going Digital
Digital Transformation is a change, a focus on delivering your products in the way your customers wish to receive them. The fact is that most digital transformation programs are focused on delivering vital working practice efficiencies and much needed innovation around customer experience. Any of these programs that can be kept alive still should be — as these continue to be key centers of enterprise value.
It may also be worth considering new transformation initiatives that were not previously on your radar such as:
* Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). This allows all your employees to work remotely, with a workplace-like desktop experience delivered via a scalable platform with security and compliance built in. In these times of pandemic, this is a potentially incredibly powerful productivity fix that you will want to roll out rapidly.
* IoT with ML/AI: By bridging the physical with the digital, you can enable the "machines" like video, RFID, robotics to be instructed to perform repetitive and unsafe human procedures freeing up bright minds for invention and innovation
* Agile every function; Mobile everything; Secure everywhere; Digital - period: you will require agility in every function in the business, not just software development or IT. Every application and function will need to be mobile. Security will need to evolve from everything to everywhere. Digital will need to be the only way forward.
When the going gets tough, the smart keep going: In these tough times, your most business-critical DX projects should not, and cannot, simply stop. Not if the business is to keep moving forward, as it must. What’s key now is to evolve those plans to mitigate business risk, embrace new realities and support the everyday fabric of the organization which is itself rapidly changing.
Are you struggling to keep your DX program afloat and know which projects to shelve, which to evolve and which new ones to create? If so, I hope you have found some of the thoughts in this blog useful.
Paul Lewis is the global chief technology officer at Hitachi Vantara and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also be reached on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/paullewiscto/ and on Twitter via @PaulLewisCTO.