The coronavirus pandemic is having a massive effect on businesses of all sizes. Each business is responding in their own way, but no one can deny the attention COVID-19 is drawing to digital transformation technology.
Digital technology is helping businesses survive social distancing, keeping employees and customers engaged and the virtual business doors open. We recently discussed how you can use digital technology to reach your customers while they isolate at home.
Now, we want to turn your attention to the future and consider what you can do to position yourself for growth when the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. PWC actually points out several ways businesses can focus on their strategy and brand during this time. It’s no surprise to us that digital transformation is on their list.
We understand (and empathize) with organizations that simply may not have the resources during this time to invest in new technology, but if you do have the means (and the resolve) to invest in the future now, we think it’s the ideal time to dig in and get to work.
5 ways digital technology is going to position you for future growth
We are all well aware that even after the current wave of coronavirus slows down, it’s not going to disappear. We will return to a new “normal.”
There will most likely be more rounds of social distancing. Employees and businesses may be more inclined to support more remote work, if it ends up working well for them during this time. Your customers will most likely become more accustomed to living an online lifestyle. You can use this time now to make sure your business is prepared not only to function, but to thrive, in this new way of doing business.
There are several specific steps you can take to make sure your business is ready. Here are the top 5 we recommend.
1. Innovate without distraction
Encourage employees to innovate and think about what new products or services you can bring to market. If possible, invest in them now, so you have something new and exciting to offer.
If the financial resources aren’t available for development, you can still use this time to work on design and low-cost mockups. You may very well find reduced rates for outside expert help right now, which can move your idea along at less cost than you might expect.
Decisions you make now can position you to be in a better position than your competitors when things return to “normal.”
2. Adopt a general preparedness mindset
While none of us want to think about it, experts are predicting a second wave of social distancing. We all need to be prepared. If your business didn’t have the technology in place to support your operations, fix it.
You may have even branched out into new variations of your products or services. Many businesses have begun to sell more online. Most restaurants have switched to curbside pick up and contactless delivery. Some are converting from sit-down service to delivery-only meal services, forming “ghost kitchens.”
You may find that some of the modifications you made for social distancing are actually viable revenue streams for the long term. Many pizza parlors, for example, had the idea of offering a “make your own pizza” delivery kit. This has turned into a fun activity for kids stuck at home and gives them something fun to do. Even when things go back to “normal,” this is certainly a service that many families would still love to take advantage of on a regular basis.
As you assess the long-term viability of new processes or services, make sure you have the right technology in place to sustain the new model for the long haul.
3. Clean house
Many of us are finding ourselves digging into home projects that have been on our to-do lists for quite some time, now that we’re stuck at home. We finally have time to clean out the garage, reorganize our closets, and repaint that bedroom. It’s wise to do the same with your technical assets during this “down” time.
In more normal times, development teams are usually operating under the gun, working to add new requirements and meet the next deadline. Teams don’t always do a complete and thorough job under such pressures: they make compromises, they leave old or inefficient code laying around, and perhaps don’t test every possible condition. And while you hopefully do run application security tests along the way, you may only have time to address the most pressing issues. As a result, less critical quality, maintainability, and security issues can gradually pile up in your code – and can cause you headaches in the future.
We in the industry like to call this “technical debt” (because that sounds better than “the mess we left behind”) and no matter how minor the issues may seem, they do need to be addressed. Right now, for better or worse, your team may have more time on their hands because your customers are isolating, making this an ideal time to work off that technical debt and optimize your applications. Refocusing efforts on clean-up can improve the security, performance, quality, and long-term maintainability of your products and services.
4. Support remote work
Assess how well-prepared your company was to deal with the current social distancing guidelines. In addition to the likelihood of new cycles of isolation over the coming year, we do expect (as noted earlier) to see a continued rise in remote working as a “normal” model when the current crisis passes.
These times have shown us that more types of jobs than we may have expected can, in fact, be done just as well from home. If your business falls into this category and you’re using a makeshift solution to support your current workers, use this time to invest in the digital technology your employees need to thrive from home.
This is more than just making sure you have a Zoom account. Consider web and video conferencing solutions, of course, and also collaboration platforms and omnichannel support for your staff, business partners, and even customers. The good news is you may be able to save money on office space, while also preparing your business for any future social distancing.
5. Respond to changing customer expectations
We can benefit from thinking hard about what the world will be like when this is over, and how we can best adapt. What will your customers want? Will it be the same as before the pandemic? Many industries may be in for a major shift (when will people feel comfortable going to a concert or taking a cruise?), while others may experience more incremental shifts in expectations.
Digital technology such as mobile apps, a robust web presence, chat, and social media are excellent tools for maintaining a relationship with your customers: serving them and keeping a pulse on how they’re changing during the pandemic. Digital engagement keeps you connected to your customers, partners, and suppliers (so they don’t forget about you), and provides valuable information for planning for the future.
It’s an uncertain time in our personal and professional lives, and we are all dealing with it in our own ways. We hope these ideas and tips help you focus your energy on creating a positive and bright future for your business. We are happy to discuss any ideas you may have and explore how digital technology can support and promote your growth and profitability.