This coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic is edging us closer towards an inflection point, where cyberspace becomes the primary channel for businesses to reach, engage and retain customers. At this critical point in time, organizations must decide whether to adapt and evolve or remain unchanged. The current state of affairs is that technology has become the buoy that is keeping businesses afloat.
Organizations that see this crisis as an opportunity are fearless enough not to scale back on their digital transformation efforts, but rather push forward as they navigate various challenges. Visionary organizations that are technology-heavy, data-driven and can afford to innovate constantly get to live two to three years into the future. These kinds of organizations usually gain their head start by experimenting with and deploying advances in technology to push the envelope for idealistic social reforms, giving small businesses a glimpse of a thriving society with hyper-connected consumers happy to offer personal data in exchange for personalized services and experience.
Larger enterprises have laid the groundwork for an ecosystem where smaller digital-first businesses can operate. Technology has matured such that the price of admission is rather low compared to decades ago. The heavy lifting is already in place, and businesses are afforded boundless digital distribution channels, developed financial networks and robust telecommunications. In addition, evolving technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, robotics, blockchain, big data, robotic process automation, cloud computing, natural language processing, AI-powered chat bots and cybersecurity have not only lowered the barriers of entry, but have also accelerated the pace of innovation.
Amid this backdrop, small enterprises are inspired to take advantage of a mature digital platform to deliver a positive digital experience for customers, employees and other key stakeholders. Organizations planning or revising their technology initiatives need to understand these evolving technology options and apply it to deal with their most-pressing business challenges.
One fundamental challenge is the focus on customers and on how connected consumer demands increasingly drive business strategy. Take it from Jeff Bezos, the man behind one of the largest and most influential economic and cultural forces in the world: Amazon. Bezos built a business that has reinvented the future of work, commerce and technology, pioneering products and services that gave him a head start with no like-minded competition coming in for two to seven years. He said that the number one thing that has made Amazon successful by far is the company’s obsessive-compulsive focus on the customer as opposed to obsession about the competitor.
Netflix, another customer-obsessed enterprise, aspired to discover what delights its customers through a scientific process. This notion of customer science, a data-driven take on developing customer insights, propelled Netflix to use personalized technology to delight customers, improve margins and provide a compelling experience that is difficult to replicate.
In both cases, the technology spend of Amazon and Netflix have always been customer-centric, and their customer-based metrics have driven these investments. Organizations should recognize the importance of customer interfaces, preferences, needs and demands and should adopt technology-enabled services to cater to them. A customer-focused value proposition at the heart of any digital transformation effort offers a huge potential upside for business. Success in this aspect can directly affect consumers by improving their experiences and their lives. This core principle of digital transformation can string together the various building blocks of a gradually changing business model geared towards a customer-obsessed proposition.
To deliver on that challenge is to execute a well-designed enterprise data strategy. One of the building blocks is digitization. Data governance and management has become a priority for organizations of all sizes, because they can leverage data to fuel technology and enable the potential of new solutions across the enterprise. But first, organizations need to get their data right. This means improving data collection and data analysis. Organizations can start by fixing data sources and building efficient models that churn out clean, rationalized and valuable data.
Data management should be more than just sourcing data from individual software solutions; it is increasingly important to see and understand data across the enterprise. Every department, business line and function should have ready access to quality data, as it can provide decision-makers with intimate knowledge of the enterprise. To have that level of visibility, organizations need to digitize every aspect of the business. Businesses can streamline the process by applying intelligent character recognition technology and automation to migrate paper-based data into a digital format. The organization should then ensure that it maps out its digitized data and builds digital foundations that are flexible enough so they can be used for current data analytics tools and visualisation techniques, as well as for future technology solutions.
Robust data management is essential for strategic decision-making. Establishing a single source of the truth for data about your customers, employees, supplier partners and other key stakeholders are fundamental to any meaningful strategy. If organizations can get data in the right form, to the right people, at the right time, business leaders can make informed decisions.
The Covid-19 crisis is providing opportunities for businesses to collect and evaluate real live data that can help them see through the eyes of their customers. It has allowed organizations to test a hypothesis, perform experiments and develop innovative ways using low-cost and mature technology-enabled solutions to reach out, retain and keep customers engaged.