One of the significant shifts that we have seen as a result of the global pandemic, is the move to online. Remote-everything is no-longer a nice to have for a business; it is a necessity. Workers need to be able to complete their jobs whilst being remote from their office. Any business’ services that can continue are those which are available online or can be delivered remotely. This has been true for all kinds of normal life such as working, shopping, learning, leisure. Even exercise has seen a huge increase in online take up, with classes delivered through social media and specific exercise platforms such as Peloton seeing significant increases in popularity (and share price!). I expect that this situation will change again slightly as the lock-down measures ease, but I do not expect things to go back to how they were pre-lockdown. The move to online is here to stay for a lot of things.
If we look at business workers and the move to remote working, enforced remote working as a result of the pandemic has proven that many businesses can adapt to this way of working. Business is still being done. Workers are still being productive. Those old arguments for not allowing remote working have been disproved.
There are still improvements that can be made though. Business process transformation should be on-going. Automation can be introduced to remove human error and make processes complete quicker. Internal business processes vary from one sector to another; however, the basic mechanics of business process are very similar: Input, Process, Output. These steps provide the basis to identify which part of a process to change.
Internal opportunity to change
Identifying which processes that are right for improvement needs a knowledgeable but critical eye. Organisations need to be honest with themselves regarding what things they are good at; what could they be better at, where are the opportunities to be better? This type of activity often needs to be driven by people who carry out the tasks but assisted by people who know modern technology capabilities and those who are experienced in process mapping and process improvement. This is an on-going task and therefore needs to form part of an organisation’s culture. It needs to be embedded into the psyche of the people within an organisation which takes time to achieve. It needs to be done without destabilising job security. Workers need to understand that a transformative culture is much more valuable to an organisation than a stagnant one. Creating this culture should be one of the key outputs of any business transformation initiative. However, once an organisation gets there, the benefits can be significant. Business processes become lean and efficient and can run from anywhere. This drives up efficiency and productivity which inevitably reduces associated costs and business risk. Once work can be done from anywhere, there are questions to be answered about the amount of office space that is required, and the amount of business travel that is needed. These topics can realise significant business-changing cost savings. Having a workforce who can work from anywhere often has a positive effect on staff retention and sickness rates.
External opportunity to change
When we look at the services that an organisation provides to its customers there are more opportunities. Depending on the sector of the organisation, these could be products or services where the organisation competes in a marketplace alongside other organisations, or it could be a public sector or education organisation where services are provided to citizens or students. Thinking about the digital transformation of these services or products is a huge opportunity. Again, the pandemic has shown us the ability of some organisations to be able to think in this way when they are forced to.
I used to have to travel into town on a weekend to go to my favourite butchers and get some of their amazing sausages. This took up valuable weekend time which meant I didn’t go very often. However, the pandemic has reduced the number of people going into their shop which had significantly reduced trade. They have since moved to online allowing me to order remotely and they deliver to me. Sunday morning breakfast has never tasted so good! Also, they have saved me the time taken to go into town so I might order more frequently in the future. Great for their business; maybe not so good for my waistline! This small change to their business model may have saved their business but also will have a lasting effect on how they trade.
Thinking about how existing products or services can move to online is important. You could make those products or services available to more people thereby increasing your marketplace or making them available to people who have previously found it difficult to access them. If you are in a competitive marketplace, you can almost guarantee that your competitors are already thinking of ways to deliver their products or services digitally. However, the digital transformation of your products and services could lead to new products or services being developed. Through remote working technologies, many organisations have introduced remote consultations for example. Doctors are able to see patients easier and remote teaching is something that many parents have benefitted from over the last few weeks. This is how the digital diversification of a business can have a tremendous impact on how an organisation progresses. These services need to be fast, secure and delivered through productive business processes.
What has this got to do with sausages?
Modern technology has an increasingly important role to play in all modern businesses. However, it is only a building block. Businesses need to understand and grasp the opportunity to transform both from a business perspective and from a digital services perspective. Consider IT services in business and digital transformation, to be similar to good quality meat in a tasty sausage. The meat is very important, but we still need a skilled butcher (the business skills), to prepare the meat and make the sausages.