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08 June 2020 6 min read

Keeping the digital transformation momentum going as lockdown unwinds

Tom Roberts

Tom Roberts
Director | Customer and digital | London

Robert Ward

Robert Ward
Partner | Customer and digital | London

Covid-19 has forced many companies into radical change: core business models are under threat, customers are forced to engage digitally, and many employees’ working lives are now spent in their homes, giving them no choice but to embrace remote ways of working. The rate of digital adoption is at an all-time high, and the need for digital transformation has never been greater. Failure to react now might mean a failure to survive. As lockdown begins to unwind, what should be on a company’s to-do list right now to keep the digital transformation momentum going?

Five tasks for your 1-2-3-4-5 to-do-list  

1 guiding purpose 

Remember your company’s one guiding purpose and make sure all decisions are true to it 

An organisation’s purpose is its one true constant through periods of uncertainty. However, it is in these challenging times that this purpose gets tested the most. Remembering your company’s purpose and staying true to it will help shape the decisions that impact your customers, employees and stakeholders and build long-lasting brand loyalty. 

In a recent interview, Unilever CEO Alan Jope described his organisation’s commitment to being a purpose-led business based on three deeply held beliefs: “...that brands with purpose grow, companies with purpose last, and people with purpose thrive.” Re-check your organisation’s purpose and understand how it shapes your actions.

2 lenses of customer strategy 

Check and validate the two lenses of customer strategy namely ‘Who is your customer?’ and ‘How are you planning to meet their needs?’ 

Never waste a good crisis. As lockdown begins to ease, reaffirm your core customer strategy across these two lenses and in doing so check your business model and the way you serve your customers are still relevant: 

  • Who is my customer and are their needs the same as they were before this crisis? E.g. if my business relied on physical footfall and passing trade, will that still be the case in the future?  
  • How do I meet my customers’ needs, and how does this fit with the future? Being forced to pivot to serve customers virtually works in a crisis, but what role should this channel play in your future business model? 

These considerations are critical, as evidenced by Primark, the British high street clothing retailer. Not having established an online channel pre Covid-19, Primark was reportedly left carrying over £1bn in ageing fast-fashion stock. Is the logical next step for Primark to build an e-commerce business? Would this allow Primark customers the same impulse buying experiences, driven by appealing merchandising and a wide variety of choice, they are familiar with from Primark stores? And can Primark stores ever go back to being as busy as they were before, in a world where social distancing may remain the norm? 

3 core objectives 

Identify the key measurable outcomes across the three core objectives of growth, cost-optimisation and organisational agility 

For many organisations, customer behaviour has changed substantially and fundamental adaptations to their business are required. Use the time now to set clear, measurable objectives for the ‘new shape’ of your business: 

  • Set a growth objective arising from what you’ve learned from being a business that trades differently, e.g. “We will grow our online sales channel by 25% whilst customer mobility and physical stores are still restricted and retain 50% of that growth when restrictions are relaxed.” 
  • Set a cost-optimisation objective using digital operating models to provide automation, digital tooling and a reduction in headcount and physical assets as cost reduction opportunities, e.g. “We will reduce our premises rental costs by 30% by moving to a remote, but more virtually connected workforce.” 
  • Set an organisational agility objective which recognises that rapid or immediate change will be the new norm, e.g. “We will reduce our standard product launch lead-time by 80%.” 

Take advantage of the disruption and set new goals for your business. Make a plan for how you will establish the measures, use data and visualisation tools to monitor the customer behaviour, and observe financial and operational impacts of future COVID waves. 

4 key dimensions of your digital transformation

Digitally transform your business across four dimensions—vision and strategy, propositions and experiences, platform enablement, and organisational alignment  

Having validated your customer strategy and set your objectives, the way you look at Digital Transformation across your business needs to be holistic.: 

  • Vision and strategy: Fundamentally rethink the way you make money, particularly if you’ve relied on physical presence in the past. Define where you need to play, what ecosystems you need to be part of, and who you could partner with. 
  • Propositions and experiences: Look to accelerate the design and development of new digital propositions and digitise or automate end-to-end customer journeys and services. Be clear on what it will mean to bring your physical channels back online now restrictions are easing. 
  • Platform enablement: Evaluate the capabilities of different platforms and services that can help you protect and grow your business. Whether that’s internal collaboration tools, customer engagement platforms, or operational support capabilities. 
  • Organisational alignment: Foster the development of a remote working culture, capabilities and methods for front-line, operations and change teams. Then define how much of this you want to persist in the future. 

5 positive steps 

Take positive steps to protect your business now, and to adapt and respond as the lockdown relaxes 

As the lockdown begins to relax, uncertainty has—in some ways—increased. Whereas before, businesses were prevented from trading, there is now more discretion emerging as to what you can and should be doing. The positive steps you can take now will reap rewards as confidence improves: 

  • Continue to proactively engage with your customers through digital channels, and form a meaningful digital relationship with them. Put resource into social media and web channels, make sure your marketing is up to date, and your website reflects how your business is trading. Make a plan on how this evolves from a ‘stay at home’ to a ‘here’s how we can serve you’ tone of voice. 
  • Unlock entrepreneurship within your workforce by creating leadership opportunities. Create space and enable those with different ideas to step forward, and encourage your people to organise around growth. While your workforce is dispersed, use digital channels and consider idea collaboration platforms to capture inputs and to allow leaders to step forward. Create experiments you can run to validate those two lenses of customer strategy. 
  • Embed and start to formalise ways-of-working changes now by evolving your operating model. If work is no longer a ‘place to go’ but an ‘activity to do’, then be rigorous in planning your physical footprint and what it is used for. Identify which elements of flexible workforce models could work for your people (e.g. allowing contact centre agents to work in an Uber-style ‘log-on/log-off’ model), and run experiments to see if they work. 
  • Digitise or automate key processes, and consider adopting low-code solutions, such as Business Process Management platforms or Robotic Automation, to help achieve this. Drive for the automation outcome rather than the most beautiful solution. Find what under-exploited capability may already exist in your business e.g. the functionality offered by cloud platforms such as Office 365, G-Suite or Salesforce. 
  • Find time to be bold and work out what opportunities the current disruption presents. Right now, the immediate focus might be on survival – but find some headspace to scenario-plan for growth and evolution. 

Now is the time to take advantage of the disruption. The intersection of consumer behaviour change, adoption of digital and remote working/communication and a better-than-ever level of capability in platform services means that those businesses that exploit digital transformation will be the winners in the long term. 

Reach out to Tom Roberts, Director or Rob Ward, Partner at Baringa’s customer & digital practice if you would like to explore any of these suggestions further or would like to discuss how to make them work in your organisation.