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Four ways digital transformation strategy is playing havoc with crisis readiness

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(Image credit: Shutterstock / aorpixza)

A lot can happen in a year. If you can remember as far back as 2019, you’ll remember that disruption wasn’t a dirty word. It meant innovation, transformation, dreaming big.

Then came 2020 and disruption took on a whole new meaning. Crisis has seen our lives in and out of work disrupted, reshaped and reimagined, with digital transformation being propelled front and center in response. As Deloitte’s recent report, ‘A case of acute disruption’ identifies:

“We expect that the companies that emerge stronger from the crisis are those that innovate through it, using the current crisis as an opportunity to digitally transform their company. Roughly 75 percent of CEOs indicate that the crisis has created significant opportunities for their companies.”

Nothing has shaped digital transformation as much as this crisis. Unfortunately, nothing has shown us quite so clearly the mistakes organizations are still making.

Now is the time to address them. Based on our research, on our conversations with businesses and in the solutions we’ve implemented for our partners throughout this crisis here’s what we’ve learned…

1 - Letting technology do all the talking

There’s no doubt that technologies can help solve the most challenging of business needs. You spot a problem; you get a technology to solve it. A global crisis hits, you respond with rapid deployment of tech. That might seem reasonable, and sometimes it is. But if this is your continuing approach to transformation, you’re steering the wrong course. What if the obvious problem isn’t actually the most pressing one?

Sure, in the face of disruption you need to keep the business going as best as you can but what if in doing so you’re storing up problems for the future?

The paperless office is a classic example of the wrong business issue taking precedent.

What we must realize is, it’s not about the document. It’s about moving away from ‘documents’ to understanding the value of the data they hold. It’s about how to get to the data you need in the most efficient way, how to safely share it, how to enable it to do more.

Upgrading long forgotten mailrooms into data processing hubs is now being seen as vital; 80 percent are looking to digitize mailrooms, with over 70 percent seeking to digitalize document processes.

But paper was never the issue. It was access to data. The lesson? Technology is just a tool that helps deliver a data-led transformation strategy. It should never drive it. Instead, strategy should focus on maximizing data; how it’s used, the journey it takes through an organization, the hurdles it has to jump, the compliance or security requirements it has to meet - and the crisis’ it has to survive.

2 - Ignoring the panoramic perspective

With months of home-working under our belts, many of us have spent time perfecting our own home offices, designing personal spaces that have become protective bubbles. For businesses, this kind of insular thinking spells disaster.

Despite operating within a global economy, hit by global crisis; what was painfully clear at the start of lockdown is that localized thinking still reigns. At the start of the crisis, the majority of business continuity plans were center and city specific rather than enterprise-wide. In other words, there was an assumption that there would never be a need to close multiple offices and worksites. Local offices were bubbles that couldn’t be easily dispersed.

And now? It’s clear that tending your own backyard won’t cut it. We must take a view of digital transformation that is location-agnostic. And where does this start? Always with data - set data free from the binds of centralized workflows and the rest can follow.

3 - Naysaying quick fixes

In the last decade organizations have lived and died by the success of five-year digital transformation strategies. For example, just three years ago McKinsey analysts confidently spoke of the need to build five-year digital roadmaps. In May 2020, their research suggested that …'businesses that once mapped digital strategy in one- to three-year phases must now scale their initiatives in a matter of days or weeks’. This research showed that top performing companies were accelerating tactics such as data-mapping and learning new technologies from quarterly or even annual priorities to weekly routines.

Simply put, we no longer have the luxury of time.

As TechUK’s deputy chief executive Anthony Walker told the BBC, “We’ve seen two years of digital transformation happening in the space of two weeks.”

Right now, quick wins count and there is nothing wrong with that. In recent months, Zurich UK & Ireland implemented a two-year digitization program in just two weeks. Other stories of two-year or even five-year plans being achieved in mere weeks are proving that where there is a will, there’s a way.

We’re not talking about ‘quick and dirty’ fixes that will need to be dismantled as soon as we return to ‘business as normal’ (whatever shape that takes). We are talking about taking a strategic decision to act fast to implement proven strategies that will deliver organizational resilience and business continuity right now. And continue to drive better business far beyond your five-year horizon.

4 - Relying on the wrong people

According to recent research from Opinium, nearly a third of UK companies are seeking to outsource at least one business area following this crisis. McKinsey cites, the outsourcing industry has been an “integral partner in companies’ crisis response across sectors”.

If you could go back to January 2020 with the knowledge you have now, would your crisis-ready dream team include your current service partners? Or, with the benefit of hindsight would you seek better? Our research suggests that the vast majority of us would wave goodbye...

In the months following lockdown, satisfaction with outsourcing partners was just 38 percent. A third viewed the readiness of outsourcing partners to respond to crises as ‘low’. You were looking to

partners to help you weather the storm. It’s clear that some were more focused on putting on their own lifejacket than helping you find yours. Your partners need to be more than ‘satisfactory’. They need to be the experts that help propel digital transformation forward at pace and proactively seek ways to drive data-led strategies - not just sell technology.

Certainly not just to be ‘good enough’. In readiness for the next crisis, 86 percent of organizations say they will review their existing service providers. What should you expect as part of a crisis-ready package?

  • Now is a good time to assess your relationships with partners and consider how they handled the immediate aftermath of the crisis. What does this tell you about their readiness to accelerate alongside you on your new digital transformation roadmap?
  • Make business continuity planning alongside providers your priority; consider flexibility, location and geographical limitations.
  • Make sure to investigate and leverage the expertise of partners as back-up resource, they can bring experience and knowledge from a wider perspective.
  • Ensure access to easily monitored and updated crisis dashboards across outsourced services that ensure service levels are being met.

As Deloitte states in its report ‘Covid-19: A wake up call for the BPO industry’, “the ‘DNA’ of the outsourcing model needs to become more flexible and responsive, so that it can anticipate and respond to seismic shocks to their clients’ businesses and markets, and provide solutions at speed.”

Seek partners that are borne of this DNA, not those that have yet to mutate to fit the new normal.

Gary Harrold, CEO, Swiss Post Solutions, UK & Ireland

As CEO of Swiss Post Solutions, UK & Ireland Gary Harrold leads a team delivering business process solutions for clients across industries including banking, insurance and healthcare. Headquartered in Zurich, SPS is a global full-service provider of physical and digital Document Management services and information processing.