Challenges Your Business Should Overcome in the Post-COVID Phase
- Challenges in Reopening Strategy
- Challenges of Shifting Customer Habits
- Challenge of Operations and Employee Safety
- Impact on Operations for Manufacturing Units
- Challenges of Finance and Banking
- Tax, Trade & Regulatory Challenges
- Crisis Management
- Focus on tomorrow
The past few months have been an extremely challenging time for communities across the globe as the pandemic continues to take its toll. Amidst all the chaos and anxiety however, the world is trying to return to the new normal. During this unprecedented reality, businesses are witnessing the beginning of a dramatic restructuring of economic and social order. Everyone is looking forward to the next normal that will materialize after the battle against COVID-19 has been won, with hopes that it will be better and more profitable. Challenges lie ahead though. What are these COVID-19 Aftermath challenges and how do we combat them? This article will discuss that.
Where Do We Start?
With lives and livelihoods in danger, businesses are running a spreadsheet for basics that never mattered so much before. Plans are being drawn how many people can fit into a workplace spaced six feet apart, where the one-way path should begin and end, and what adjustments can and need to be made to the entrance, lunchrooms, and restrooms.
All of these are critical tasks but chalking them down is not going to be enough to mobilize and stabilize businesses. We need an enterprise-wide ability to absorb uncertainty while incorporating lessons into operating models quickly. This might seem like a daunting path beset with challenges, but an action plan can get you through this successfully. This article discusses 7 major challenges and resolutions to jumpstart the recovery.
1. Challenges in Reopening Strategy
The pandemic has impacted nearly every industry including retail. Manufacturing is on a downward slope as production moves at a snail’s pace. Supply chains are being disrupted due to higher air freight costs. This supply shock is having a knock-on effect on retail. Navigating their way out of this spiral is going to need a solid reopening strategy.
What can businesses do?
- Restart and reset, not just reopen: Employee and customer behaviors have drastically changed. Be ready to start a new era of business. Build courage and foresight to change for more than just immediate needs.
- Be ready to adopt omnichannel integration: Omnichannel initiatives offer contactless curbside pickup and other features, so be willing to continuously improve services.
- Shape your future workforce: Redeploy store associates to fill other roles. Upskill then to achieve the required digital fluency. Cross-train employees so that they can fill in when others are away.
- Act swiftly to radically accelerate in-store integration: Customers may not be inclined to visit stores unless you give them a good reason to do so. Offer your consumers compelling value propositions for store traffic.
- Develop a future-state vision: Adopt an omnichannel view that includes store closure plans or rent negotiations.
- Digitize and automate non-core tasks: Automate labor scheduling. Expand the use of self-checkout and mobile checkout processes. Provide remote-management tools for in-house and field managers.
- Shift tasks: Sourcing and distribution teams must find ways to move certain tasks, such as price tagging and labeling, away from stores.
2. Challenges of Shifting Customer Habits
As the coronavirus spread progressed across geographies, customer behavior has also changed drastically. Customer habits are changing, and we can expect them to continue to change in the weeks and months ahead. We can break down their behavior into three phases where each phase shows a distinct behavior:
- Escalation: Customers tend to load up on essential goods such as groceries and medicines which include immunity-boosters.
- Accumulation: Customers brace for a sustained quarantine by stocking up on everyday personal care products.
- Recovery: Customers will continue to spend on consumer goods.
Also, customers now prefer making purchases online, their focus has shifted more to eCommerce.
How can businesses respond?
- Enable flexible product flow: Ensure your product inventories align with consumer demand. Make distribution centers more flexible. As more customers purchase products online, make sure you minimize distribution disruptions.
- Bolster online presence: Accelerate direct-to-customer sales.
- Maintain close contact with customers: Ensure they know that products are available.
3. Challenge of Operations and Employee Safety
One of the main concerns of a company leader during and after the COVID-19 pandemic is its impact on operations. Evidently, the epidemic has adversely affected sales volume and the ability to serve clients and customers as well as manage the business. Companies are faced with the challenge of employees being quarantined for weeks after business or vacation trips. They lack the tools required to organize remote work during the quarantine.
How to reorganize the workplace?
- Establish dedicated cross-functional teams: They can coordinate the activities between various business units, provide necessary information to the management team, and communicate with employees, partners, and employees.
- Analyze critical roles and key positions: Develop an effective process for managing decision-making under various scenarios.
- Ensure the safety of employees: Review policies for maintaining good hygiene at the workplace.
- Ensure that there is no crowding in the office: Decide on which roles can be done remotely and which roles require employees to be present in the office. This will help you optimize the work with only 20-30% of employees at the office.
- Easy Transportation: Ensure that transportation is arranged for and accessible by the employees.
- Plans for support staff: Have a written plan on how to stagger the arrival of support staff such as receptionists and security guards.
- Workout checkpoints: Have a series of checkpoints where testing can be done.
4. Impact on Operations for Manufacturing Units
Manufacturers face formidable challenges when it comes to restarting their operations. Globally, they are facing workforce disruptions at an unprecedented scale. Most manufacturers are yet to determine how they will function and perform while struggling to cope with the present scenario. They need fit-for-purpose plans.
How can manufacturers respond?
- Start with possible scenarios: Start with the current need for workforce and design a workforce approach.
- Tap into technology: Consider the possibility of automating certain aspects of the industry which would avoid too many people at the site.
- Create a roster: Ensure that teams come in at different times during the day depending on the number of workers and the skill required at any given point.
- Focus on a safe work environment: Organize regular cleaning and disinfection of workplaces and tools. Invest in medical equipment such as thermometers and sanitizers.
- Review sick leave policies: Consider the possibility of providing temporary sick leave without the need to provide a doctor’s notice.
- Develop agile workforce strategies: It keeps the global economy viable.
- Create your own news channel: Misinformation can create particular challenges for manufacturers. Combat this by ensuring that you put out timely, accurate, and appropriate information for your workers.
5. Challenges of Finance and Banking
Economic uncertainty and risk have either directly or indirectly impacted most finance companies. As businesses slow down, companies are seeing lower revenue due to reduced cash flow.
Managing cash and liquidity positions may become crucial in the coming months. This situation is worsened by inadequate digital maturity, staff shortages and immense pressure on the existing infrastructure as companies deal with the impact of the pandemic. You need strategies to safeguard your customers’ financial security while you safeguard their wellbeing and yours as well.
What can finance services do?
- Craft a strategic response: Adopting the right digital technologies enables innovations. These must include solutions for analytics and insights to detect and prepare for new risks.
- Enable Automation: Ensure availability of digital banking services through business process reengineering and automation.
- Leverage AI capabilities: There has been and will be a surge in call volumes during and after COVID-19. Leverage AI-backed tools and conversation platforms to deal with the surge.
- Initiate video banking: Live web video banking solutions can assist your team in serving customers and maintaining business continuity.
6. Tax, Trade & Regulatory Challenges
There are significant tax provisions and other measures to assist businesses that stakeholders should carefully review. Post pandemic, they should think about the broader implications of their business decisions and strategies.
What can you do?
- Business disruption: Develop restructuring plans. Review intra-group service expenses and expense allocations.
- Cash tax savings: Manage cash taxes by potentially reducing taxable income. Obtain available refunds. Work with the treasury function to align repatriation strategies. Model taxable income against the company’s overall tax posture.
- Agile tax models: Supply chains and business strategies need reevaluation, which is best achieved by agile tax models.
- Review all aspects: Stabilize supply chains. Brace for an unpredictable revenue. Reduce costs and increase productivity.
- Meet regulatory obligations: Despite budget constraints, tax compliance requirements must be met. Consider co-sourcing or outsourcing tax compliance.
- Stay informed: Understand the expense of various supply chain configurations and opportunities. Make informed decisions quickly.
7. Crisis Management
Your response to the crisis today can position your business to thrive tomorrow. You need to prioritize incident management along with the safety of workers. It is important for organizations to understand what data is relevant to their business. Some companies are developing new contingency plans while others are using existing ones.
What can organizations do?
- Dedicate a team for crisis management: Ensure that every team member knows what their role is. Train each team member in executing the plan to be sure that they are ready at any moment.
- Establish facts: Strong data reinforces a central element of crisis planning. Establish facts accurately during the crisis. Use the facts to inform your response strategy.
- Collaborate: Collaborate with the public relations team, legal and regulatory teams, and operational and response teams. Create a small core committee from among them.
Focus on tomorrow
The response window for any crisis is measured in months but recovery is measured in years. Create scenarios today to plan for a stronger tomorrow and beyond. Wider and longer-term perspectives can help your business emerge stronger and more sustainable. Data, Readiness, and Empathy are the three vital qualities required to keep people healthy and businesses running. Fingent is closely monitoring the situation and helping businesses return to work with our technology consulting and innovation capabilities. Contact us to know more.
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The Need for Digitalization
Digital technologies have penetrated into every aspect of our lives, transforming the way we seek and receive information. For instance, today, we search for products and services on search engines rather than in yellow page directories and other offline media. We communicate our experiences with other people through chats, email, blogs, or social media posts. In other words, the media we use, the content we consume and share, the customers we engage with – all benefit from digitalization and digitized data.
Read More: A Road Map To Digital Transformation in 2020
Why is digitalization inevitable for businesses and how can organizations benefit from it?
Before we discuss the advantages of digitalization, we need to understand the difference between digitization and digitalization. According to Gartner’s IT Glossary, “digitalization is the use of digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities, whereas “digitization is the process of changing from analog to digital form.”
Digitalization is already influencing the way we do business
Digitalization already has had an impact on our business – from the way we acquire and retain customers to the way we present our business and manage our reputation. While in the past, brick-and-mortar stores were sufficient to establish your business, now consumers want to know what services or products you offer before deciding to make the purchase.
Today, businesses have to be in close proximity with their customers to find out about their opinions and improve customer experiences. When you know more about your customers, you have more data at hand. Digitalization helps apply this data to make better business decisions.
With digital technologies, you have more tools that make work easier. This can lead to increased productivity and reduced costs. Digital tools such as dashboards and collaboration tools such as messengers and video chats help align your employees with business goals and improve internal communication.
What does digitalization mean to you?
Digitalization does not just mean implementing various technologies into daily business. You need to also rethink your business and operating models to implement the technology. Technology is just the tip of the iceberg. Together with it, you need to understand your digital maturity as an organization. Technology does enable digital engagement, but you need to assess the big picture of what digitalization means to your business – whether you are a public organization, a small private company or a global player. To gain control over customer relationships, you need to develop end-to-end strategies to reach customers.
Top 3 opportunities for digitalization
1. Converting excel sheets to dashboards
In any organization, we find an opportunity gap between the growth of the company on a revenue basis and the growth of the support staff. This part of the company needs to focus on improving automation and scalability to better support the rest of the company.
Most of us still enter information in excel spreadsheets. For example, if we track our projects (work in progress), contracts, savings, etc. in separate spreadsheets, we’re only entering the same data many times. Converting to dashboards can help you quickly view and analyze your entire data in one place.
Along with consolidated views, dashboards provide opportunities for business intelligence by allowing users to display only what’s required through the use of filters. Once you start adding insights and recommended actions along with the summary, the dashboard becomes more useful by closing any communication gaps between various departments in your company. In short, you save time, provide clear communication, and drive business goals.
2. Document Management systems
The advent of digitalization has opened up new avenues of data, making its’ management complex. The traditional file and paper methods have become archaic as well as cumbersome. Document management systems have proved themselves indispensable for businesses of all sizes.
With digitalization dominating the trend in business, enterprises are looking for new ways to streamline documentation by using various automation techniques. The rise of cloud-based document management systems has simplified the creation and sharing of digital documents for enterprises.
Managing huge volumes of data has also become relatively easy. Today you have document management systems that vary in scope from simple systems that cater to small enterprises to more sophisticated ones that cater to large global enterprises. Document management systems reduce physical storage, enable quick access of documents, promote security, make maintenance and customization easy, and reduce monotonous tasks.
3. OCR Technology
Another technology that helps with the digitalization of businesses is OCR. The ability of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to automatically extract data from an image file or scanned document has helped businesses to streamline their operations. It reduces the time required in manual data entry and extraction. A robust and accurate OCR can extract data from multiple document formats. Thus, it saves time in data collection, reduces human effort, and aligns business processes with customer needs. AI-powered OCR eliminates manual entry, thereby reducing errors and improving productivity. Businesses that are equipped with AI-powered OCR technology can stay afloat in the digital wave that has swept across the world.
Digitalization can drive recovery from COVID-19
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to take a toll on people’s lives, it has also stimulated change in the social, personal, economic, and corporate forefronts. The focus has now shifted from growth, business development, and digitalization to just riding out the storm, that is, ensuring business continuity. However, organizations should not lose sight of the long-term effects of the crisis. Companies would have to rethink their business models according to changing customer demands. This crisis has forced organizations to invest in their digitalization strategies to establish sustainability.
Companies need to direct their digitalization strategies towards increasing resilience and optimization. Rather than just focusing on increasing productivity, a sustainable and comprehensive digitalization strategy should focus on maintaining productivity during future challenges. Write to us to know more.
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What considerations should be part of a company’s digital transformation strategy?
Smart business leaders are waking up to the fact that they need to get digital transformation “right” for their very survival. The widespread adoption of technology, rapidly changing consumer behavior, and innovation-triggered disruptions are making digital transformation a must-have for businesses.
In a recent survey by Gartner, 87% of senior business leaders responded that digitalization is a company priority and 79% of corporate strategists said that digital innovation is crucial for reinventing their businesses.
It’s clear that organizations have started thinking about digital innovation. What they need to know next is the best approach to start, lead change, and transform.
In this interview, our Senior Vice President – Process and Technology, Deepu Prakash shares his expert opinion by answering these questions:
- How do you define digital transformation?
- What does digital transformation mean to your company?
- How can a brand identify what digital transformation should mean to them?
How do you define digital transformation?
Digital transformation is the strategic, deliberate, and sustained application of modern digital technologies to deliver highly unique customer value propositions, by making fundamental changes to how a business operates.
Can you explain what digital transformation means to your company?
I look after the process and technology practice at Fingent. To us, digital innovation broadly means three things.
1. Strategic shifts
Our focus has shifted from developing products to developing platforms, both for us and for our customers. We are moving away from a value chain-based model towards managing the entire ecosystem that impacts our customer base. Today, we are on the constant lookout for partnerships that can help us provide a competitive difference to our customer base. We expect cross-industry consolidation in the near future.
Related Reading: Why Business Leaders Must Embrace Digital Adoption
2. Developing operational agility through digitally-enabled processes
We are using digital technology to cut across organizational and departmental silos to provide a better Customer Experience. This results in increased cross-department and cross-organization project management, collaboration, and integration. We are reorganizing our processes to enable experimentation and evidence-based scaling.
From a technology perspective: DevOps practices, APIs, and Unified Identity management are being rolled out across the organization. We are setting up practices to actively leverage third-party developer innovation, to reduce the time-to-market for us and our customers. In fact, one of our products INFINCE is empowering small businesses to achieve digital agility without the need to own infrastructure or an IT practice.
3. Culture and competence:
Despite being a young technology company, we have to work hard to develop the mindset needed to adapt to the massive technology shifts, across all departments. While training helps, it takes continuous coaching and mentoring to help deal with the culture shock that such transformation brings in. Roles and job descriptions may not be so clearly defined as it used to be before. Hence, there is less certainty around outcomes and an increased need for greater transparency than what we had previously.
The ability to exert influence without direct authority is a critical skill for career growth.
How other brands can identify what digital transformation should mean to them?
- Successful digital transformation is less about technology and more about leadership. Hire the right leadership talent to create a digital transformation strategy that would work for your customers and your people.
- Start by deeply re-examining your core business through your customers’ eyes. Ask yourself whether your business will continue to stay competitive or will it be sustainable going forward.
- Map out the entire set of customer journeys. Include customer interactions with your allied products and services. Map modern digital technologies to all these journeys. Identify new channels, new opportunities, and see how you can reach out through all these channels.
- Analyze your state of competition not just with the established players, but also with the startups in your industry segment and adjacent segments, especially with a view to identifying the relevant technologies, platforms, and vendors.
Related Reading: 4 Questions to Ask When Your Business Goes Digital
Need help with your digital transformation goals?
Fingent’s team is highly experienced in helping businesses solve their digital transformation challenges.
We have partnered with businesses worldwide in their digital transformation projects.
We can help you define your vision and create robust digital transformation plans that enable your business to transform and grow. To take advantage and get the ball rolling, please get in touch with Fingent.
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Digital transformation has turned into a ubiquitous concept that businesses can no longer afford to look away. The world is going digital at a lightning speed, making it imperative for business establishments to upgrade their skills, processes and technological know-how to this changing model. The fact that digital transformation emerged as a top concern for CIO Agenda in 2017, according to Wall Street Journal report underlines the imminence of the situation.
Leveraging digital technologies to improve business operations and organizational setups is the focus of businesses right now. If you too are considering a digital transformation initiative for your business, here are five questions to consider for making desired progress in a prioritized and strategic way:
1. Why do you need digital transformation?
‘Just because everyone is doing it’ is not the best reason to undertake a digital transformation process. It is important for an organization to understand why, if at all, they need to go through it. The best approach here is to identify the end goals you want to achieve by going digital – whether it is improving product quality, customer experiences or internal processes – and then work backward. This is particularly important for businesses, where digital processes do not directly tune in with core KPIs. Having your end goals in sight right from the onset will help you determine the outcomes of your digital transformation initiative.
2. How will you substantiate the value of your digital transformation initiative?
Well, this is one of the basic questions that must govern almost every business decision you take but is especially crucial in the case of digital transformation. You must have a clear idea as to how you plan to measure the success of your digitization plan, and for that, knowing how the concept fits into your business strategy is of paramount importance. Once these parameters have been established, the process of monitoring and gauging value of other relevant indicators, not just during the process of digital transformation but also beyond, becomes simpler. This will also save you time, effort and money in layering on technology in areas that don’t really require it.
3. Are your key stakeholders on board?
Digital transformation isn’t a small project but an extensive overhaul that will impact every single department and person associated with your business. As with every other big project, unexpected difficulties may crop up along the way. The project may get delayed or the budget may overshoot. If all your stakeholders aren’t onboard or fully convinced about the need to go digital, they may decide to pull the plug on the project. Working on your buy-in is essential to make sure all leaders and stakeholders – business partners, financiers, and shareholders – fully understand the importance of such an initiative and are committed to taking it to its logical end.
4. Have you found the right people to execute your digital transformation?
Whether you are simply revamping a website, building a new one, working on automated marketing, digitizing customer experiences, or doing it all in one go, you need the right kind of experts to get the job done and done well. Which brings up another poignant question – whether you want to hire people to do this job for you or outsource? The answer to this depends entirely on the kind of digitization you have in mind and the resources available at your disposal. If you are an established business with a long-term digital map in mind, building a core team of digital professionals is better suited. On the other hand, if you are a startup with limited resources, outsourcing may be a more practical option. Whatever your choice, you need to focus on striking that intricate balance between experience, skill and in-demand roles. There are a lot of talented professionals in the marketplace, you just need to pick the ones whose wavelength resonates with your end goals and larger KPIs.
5. Are your employees prepared for the change?
When a business undergoes a digital transformation, a lot of operational aspects are bound to change. This may mean that your employees will need to upgrade their skills and learn new processes. You cannot expect them to throw their existing work habits right out of the window and embrace the change instantaneously. A digital transformation will kick-in in the true sense only when you evolve a strategy to inform, educate and help your employees cope with the change.
Just the way every business has its own distinct identity, each digital transformation initiative is unique too. Be that as it may, these five key questions can prove vital in helping you define and execute a digital transformation that works best for your organization.
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Businesses have encountered several technology waves, starting with the mainframe revolution in the 1960s to the decentralized computing wave of the 1970s, and from the advent of PCs in the 1980s to the rise of client servers in the 90s. The cloud and mobility represent the latest evolution of technology.
Such digital disruption is now a fact of life for almost all businesses. Enterprises no longer confront a question of “if,” but rather concern themselves with the “when” and “how” of digital transformation. A recent KPMG and Harvey Nash survey reveals 62% of IT professionals opine their business was already being disrupted or would be disrupted within the next two years. However, only 27% of respondents confined the presence of an enterprise-wide digital strategy.
Digital disruption is much more than co-opting new technology to the business. Businesses need to create entirely new competencies and co-opt it to incumbent legacy cultures and operating models. Here are four major questions to ask, to smooth the transformation process. These four questions also constitute a basic checklist for the digital transformation process.
1. What are the objectives of the Digital Transformation?
Embarking on a digital transformation journey is doomed to fail unless the enterprise has the end in mind, and defines a coherent strategy upfront. Implementing new technologies for the sake of it, or just because everyone else is doing so, is an exercise in futility, and may end up counterproductive by disrupting the well-entrenched ecosystem with nothing to gain in return.
Have a clear idea of the processes where digital transformation is to set in, and how the transformation would improve the process, add value, and how the intervention would make the lives of the stakeholders, from employees to customers, and from managers to owner better.
Some of the processes where digital intervention can automate the process, or make the process seamless and more accurate include form modeling, document integration, report generation, role-based accessibility and user assignment and reassignment, email notifications, task prioritization, and more. However, the possibilities are endless, limited only by imagination.
2. How much Customization will be required?
Most businesses face an issue of integration when they indulge in digital transformation, especially when the transformation involves multiple pieces of commercial software. Off the shelf software, for any function, be it operations, HR, Finance, data analytics, CRM, or any other function, will never suit enterprises perfectly. Seamless workflows will require customization as a rule.
Successful digital transformation takes place when the enterprise knows the extent of customization required. They audit the existing state, have a clear-cut idea of the desired state, have a roadmap to transform from the existing to the desired state, and map the software to the journey, to make sure the software works for the business.
A related consideration is the time-frame for the migration. A Successful digital transformation process progresses as per a predefined time frame, making sure the change does not disrupt business operations. A related challenge is slow down of operations when the new digital systems set in, owing to the learning curve. A well thought out digital transformation process factors in the delays associated with the learning curve, and pre-empt contingencies which may cause the business to screech to a grinding halt when the new software goes down to a bug.
3. How to Quantify the Value of the Digital Transformation Initiative?
Today’s businesses are driven by profits or returns on investment. The top management or owners support all change initiatives, including digital transformation initiatives based on the value it creates to the enterprise.
At the internal front, digital transformation generally makes internal processes seamless, increasing productivity and efficiency. At the customer facing end, digital transformation makes things easier for the customer, unlocks new possibilities, enable customers to buy or contact support in a much better way, and offers flexibility. However, even when the value created by the digital transformation is obvious, it still has to be quantified and made explicit. The harbingers of change need to not only know about the technologies to implement but also how to measure the value created by such initiatives. The end goal of digital transformation is to boost revenue, profitability, and investor value. Some of the factors which can be measured to link the digital transformation to such ends include inventory, human capital productivity, asset utilization, and other Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Tracking some intermediate indicators, such as sentiment and engagement is also handy.
Today, several tools make quantification easy. Nucleus Research estimates every dollar spent on Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system implementation returning a whopping $8.71. Forrester’s Total Economic Impact (TEI) tool enables enterprises to quantify the potential benefits enterprises gain by implementing a stack of technologies that communicate and work together, integrated by a framework of operational transformation methodologies.
4. How to Orchestrate the Change Initiative?
Regardless of whether the initiative is a digital upgrade or digital transformation, it is essentially a change process, and change requires strong leadership.
Implementing the digital transformation requires a well-defined team with a narrow scope and a cross-functional mandate. The harbingers of digital transformation need to make a tough call on the team.
Many of the team will resist change, accustomed as they are what they have always been doing. The digital transformation initiative requires clear cut consideration on how to implement change in the least disruptive way, and chalk out strategies on how to overcome resistance to change. Training the rank and file for familiarity to the new digital processes, and factoring in a learning curve are the basic requirements, but there is also a need for clear-cut communication on why the digital transformation initiative is being carried out, and the benefits it will bring about. Most often, the digital transformation initiative will be inevitable to keep pace in the highly digitally charged world, and for the firm to stay competitive. Today’s tech-savvy customers also demand heavy digital initiatives to be satisfied.
Estimates of digital transformation failures range from 66% to 84%. It requires a method to preempt the process from descending into madness. Roping in a sound tech development partner, competent in the digital technologies you want to adopt, and backed up by the resources and talent to implement a cutting edge digital solution, is the best way to embark on a digital transformation initiative.