The COVID-19 pandemic has had a considerable, unexpected impact on how humans, societies, and businesses function across the globe. As companies struggle to respond to the speed and scale of disruption, a key area of focus has been maintaining business continuity and, in particular, supporting distributed working. Whilst these are critical short-term steps, we also believe organisations need to reflect on the current disruption and look to build greater resilience and adaptability to weather extreme events as they recur.
It is understandable that organisations’ main focus has been on managing the immediate impact of the pandemic on their operations. Yet, surprisingly, many of the decisions that have been forced upon organisations have had unforeseen, but not necessarily negative consequences.
For example, a national telco was forced to close all its call centres in order to maintain staff safety and usher their customers towards digital self-care channels. Their business has hardly skipped a beat and has even benefited from higher customer satisfaction and lower operational costs than they experienced pre-pandemic. Months earlier such a move, discussed within the context of operating cost reduction, had been deemed impossible by management.
Equally, for a major insurance provider, one of their core business assumptions has been challenged: that all employees in digital delivery should work onsite. Without the ability to co-locate, the organisation has moved to distributed and remote delivery of their digital platforms.
Aside from the benefits that this could bring to their onshore staff (work flexibility, employee retention), given current quality and throughput metrics suggest that having some delivery capability in another location (what’s known as mixed-shoring) will provide a comparable level of quality, but at much lower cost.
There is clearly opportunity in sensing and adapting as customer and employee behaviour evolves. Organisations that identify these shifts and rapidly adjust their products, services and ways of operating will gain a competitive advantage. The challenge is that not all change is as obvious or as dramatic as that driven by COVD-19. Nor are the responses always as obvious.
Detecting change effectively calls for constant monitoring of the market, consumers and their drivers; as well as a ‘digital core’ that can work at the same pace as these feedback mechanisms. Reducing the occurrence of extreme events is not feasible, but mitigating their impact is essential.
Achieving this this calls for the agile methods used in software delivery to be adopted across the entire business, from procurement to HR to legal. This digital core provides resilient operations, versatile processes, clarity of messaging and innovation. It is easy to see the advantages of being agile, but more difficult to implement in practice. Firstly, business leaders need to recognise the potential impact that both extreme events and evolutionary shifts in behaviour can have on their business. Then they need to figure out what aspects of the organisation need to change to take advantage of the new norms.
At NTT DATA we offer a proven Business Agility Framework that helps leaders to identify which teams, structures, processes, messaging channels, products and services need to change. This needs to be backed up with the ability to implement the necessary changes at the right pace. Too much change, forced through too quickly, can damage employee morale and diminish the expected business benefits.
The idea that businesses can succeed without constantly adapting is clearly absurd. To thrive organisations must be able to sense, evaluate and act at pace. In other words – be ‘business agile’.