April 29, 2020
Focusing on Fast Business Transformation Will Save You During COVID-19
Do you remember the moment when music streaming and downloads first emerged? The music industry was rocked by an abundance of digital piracy and musicians took to the courtroom to sue the company they viewed as chiefly responsible for what they saw as the inevitable downfall of their industry. Indeed, the predictions of the death of the music industry were widespread in the immediate aftermath of the advent of file sharing.
Fast forward 20 years and the music industry is booming, and file sharing of MP3s has ground to almost a complete stop. What changed? What was the magical process by which this industry staved off ruin? Digitally enabled business transformation is the answer.
When a big change comes to an industry, you have two choices: Either you can fight against the change, or you can embrace it and find the best way for your company to move forward into the new, unknown landscape. This is true of any change. Whether its origin is man-made (such as a new way to access music) or natural (such as a global pandemic that comes up from nowhere and brings the world to a standstill for a while).
Unknown. Unexpected. Paramount
Last summer, we were setting up a pitch for a company that’s a world leader in the beauty industry. The company was considering a global agile transformation program. At some point in the preliminary discussions with the teams, I asked a fellow Valtecher how he would define Agility in three or four words, and he gave me this amazing answer which became a mantra to me: “Agility is resilience to the unknown.”
Unknown. Unexpected. Paramount. This crisis is all of these and the most life-changing event the world has experienced in our lifetime. And as such, it will require more resilience from us to make sure we can come out on the other side stronger.
A lot of problems for companies come in when they’re afraid of change or afraid of the unknown. When business is going well, the ideology is to keep things running smoothly by not changing anything. When a major disruption happens, however, there’s no longer an option to simply keep going with business as usual. Being afraid to change, being afraid to innovate at times of major disruption is the kind of outlook that can sink a company.
But the future needn’t be so dire. The business transformation that’s necessary for pushing us through this moment and into the future is already happening. For example, the trends coming out of China as the country works hard to put the worst of COVID-19 behind them are very promising.
Social Ecommerce is one innovation that’s leading the way. This development has given brands the ability to sell their products directly through some of the country’s top Social Media platforms. In a world where people are stuck at home on Social Media anyway, and when the ability to make sales through brick and mortar stores is limited, embracing the situation and making it work for you is the best option. Sitting back and waiting for the storm to pass is not.
Likewise, everyone from the local gymto popular night clubs have embraced live streaming in these uncertain times. Since no one can go to the gym or to the club, companies are bringing those services directly into people’s homes. Only by embracing the situation as it is and using the digital tools already available have these and other companies been capable of not simply weathering the storm but making the storm work for them. And now that life is starting to return to normal for that area of the world, those companies are the ones poised to experience even more growth.
In the digital innovation space, we talk a lot about the risk of being left behind if you don’t adapt to changes quickly. In a time like this, it’s important to think about what being left behind could really mean. Because innovation is the product of people working together to bring their ideas to life and to help to actualize the potential of each other’s ideas as well.
If you wait to innovate in a time like this, if you aren’t agile and making quick changes when and where you can, you risk losing your workforce. The people who you might be counting on to facilitate your business transformation after this is over might not be there. When you don’t have the people needed for innovation, you can’t innovate, and then you’ll be left behind in more ways than one.
We Will Make It Through This
I don’t want to seem like I’m downplaying the seriousness of the situation we’re faced with right now. Our top responsibility as citizens of this world is to make sure that we protect our health so that when we make it past this moment, we have a future to drive towards at all. That’s far more important than any company’s bottom line.
However, equally true is that if we’re going to be able to keep going, we need our economy to also keep functioning the way it needs to for us to prosper. Not to prosper as individuals, but as a collective. In order for that to happen, we have to be agile, and we have to be ready to quickly innovate and transform when and where we can. COVID-19 is not ending the push forward, it’s accelerating it.
Concepts surrounding contactless payments and voice-activated tech have been right around the corner for some time now. Because of the pandemic, those initiatives that were always going to land at some point have needed to be adapted perhaps slightly sooner than planned. But that shouldn’t be viewed as a bad thing. Instead, there is an abundance of opportunity right now for companies to learn and grow to meet the new challenges of our world.
When Netflix began streaming instead of simply delivering DVDs to customers’ homes, people predicted it would be the death of television as a whole. Instead, TV is experiencing the kind of renaissance any industry would love to have. This is because networks embraced the Netflix model and accepted the business transformation that model led to. Likewise, if we ride this wave of change, there’s no telling where it might take us all. But one thing is clear, we will make it through this moment, and we will be stronger for it in the end.