Businesses have to adapt to survive, and history is full of examples, good and bad, of those who have reshaped their business models in an attempt to stay current with customer demand. Some have gone all out, not simply “adapting” but rather “transforming” themselves and with that have become market makers, not just market leaders.
The COVID-19 pandemic has inevitably impacted both the need, pace and desire for transformation. It has accelerated many trends already in existence and obliged organizations to think more deeply about the future. And it has also forced businesses to re-examine the balance between delivering short-term shareholder returns with creating longer-term, sustainable value. Indications are that investors’ money is already being directed toward those companies demonstrating the ability to navigate disruption.
Digital solutions are, of course, at the heart of any transformation strategy as technology can help address a multitude of business challenges and enable a similar volume of new business models. It can help businesses identify future trends and business opportunities, and support in finding new partners to innovate future products and services. Successful partnership collaboration leads directly to new business contracts being signed, and interestingly, almost three-quarters of all business leaders believe partnerships are the only way to ensure future success. It’s no surprise that the majority make partnerships their core priority.
Technology can also help in other ways: it can help in further improving the customer and employee experience, and lead, ultimately, to better financial performance across the entire organization. Technology alone is not a panacea; its value and importance cannot be fully recognized if a business continues to work in siloes. Breaking down those siloes and working collaboratively allows transformation to sit as a muscle at the core of the business that can flex in response to market changes and recognizes people as its greatest asset.
With this in mind, companies are increasingly turning to digital platforms and solutions that span the life cycle of a transformation and can address a number of very specific issues that a business might face:
- Innovation, for example, is a recurring key challenge: companies must quickly identify new technology and trends and validate use cases for their own businesses. They need to scan, qualify and manage new partners to create additional growth opportunities and run proofs-of-concept (POCs) that not only support better decision making but also speed to market. And they also need to find ways to accelerate the time to market new digital offerings by applying customer and market insights to the design of new digital solutions.
- Transformation, measuring the progress and impact of any “change” process is also a constant challenge. Businesses need to continuously measure “experiences” that in turn help design and manage opportunities that improve or maintain customer and employee-centricity. They need to find ways of sustaining the capabilities required for a state of dynamic transformation by continuously designing and managing opportunities to improve performance across all functions.
By using solutions that are leveraging digital platforms, companies are benefiting not only from the most up-to-date, relevant, curated content but also from working collaboratively with the solution providers and their wider ecosystem of partners. This turns outwardly “passive” content into priorities, actions and business outcomes. This translates into faster time-to-market, quicker development of new capabilities, lower implementation costs and a greater ability to adopt new technologies.
The breadth and scale of the support that a new generation of platforms can deliver is significant, from identifying trends and technological advances in mining to sustainability in the health and beauty space. On the one hand, they are helping companies analyze investments in such diverse areas as crop protection and agricultural machinery, while on the other, they have assisted federal governments in identifying and supporting innovation and start-ups.
Platforms are already delivering tangible benefits in real-world examples. Like the case of the global media business that recognized it was developing products from the inside out, rather than through the lens of the customer. By transforming the way it mapped the customer journey, and developing a set of tools to better understand, measure and enhance the customer experience, it has realized a 20% uplift in sales. The customer experience has been enhanced in a way that had previously been unimaginable and perhaps, even unachievable. And this was only made possible because of a significant shift in mindset, and the framework of an integrated solution.
While success should not be measured by money alone, another business – a global human capital management solutions organization – used a digital platform to prioritize and accelerate its transformation strategy and to “operationalize” its transformation vision. This led to an additional US$200 million of incremental Earnings before interest and taxes through new initiatives each year of a three-year program.
Digital platforms certainly help companies jumpstart or accelerate their transformation journey. While change is inevitable, transformation is by conscious choice,2 and the winners of tomorrow will be those who are prepared for a radical shift in their mindset. Business leaders have an opportunity to create more innovative business models, enabling them to better engage with customers and employees, and gain a competitive advantage.