In the media

Your approach to digital will define your ability to grow after the COVID-19 crisis

By Chris Walker

Sync NI Magazine

27 July 2020

This article was published in the Summer 2020 edition of Sync NI Magazine

If you were nervous or sceptical of becoming more familiar with digital skills, now is the time to welcome and adapt to the tech transformation!

Digital will be critical to the survival and growth of organisations as the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and a new reality dawns.

Further prolonged disruption is on the way as customer behaviour, already materially changed due to social distancing measures, shifts. Effective, timely and convenient digital services will be key to adapting to these new behaviours, unlocking opportunities to grow revenue, build loyalty and thrive.

In our work with digital leaders around the world, we’re seeing three practices that successful organisations have adopted to ensure they’re constantly able to learn, adapt, iterate and delight their customers.

Make digital a priority for the whole organisation

Digital drives innovation and lets you effectively accelerate new services to your customers. But it can only be truly transformative if it’s a priority for every level of the business, from the board to delivery teams.

Organisations succeeding at digital don’t treat it as a silo. While it might need dedicated leadership for board representation, it draws on internal expertise across the firm and external partnerships as needed. Digital doesn’t hire

‘digital people’ into its own unit, but helps existing units hire digital natives to continually upskill and improve the entire organisation.

These businesses also have a laser-like focus on understanding bottom-up customer need, rather than relying on top-down business assumption. This lets them actively meet customer needs, boosting loyalty, improving operational delivery efficiency and transforming financial performance.

At the same time, their boards look to use iterative delivery to achieve demonstrable value in a shorter timescale. And they use customer experience, engagement and feedback as a key metric for judging success.

If your organisation has ‘a digital bit’, you’ll need to overcome more substantial challenges to grow and succeed in the new reality than organisations that have made digital everyone’s priority.

Expand your definition of customer

When developing or reviewing your digital strategy, there may be a strong focus on the end customer, but internal customers – such as your staff and key service delivery partners – are usually underrepresented. End customers, staff and partners should all fall under your definition of customer as all will either rely on, or be impacted by, your digital strategy in some way.

Customer-centric thinking equally often focuses solely on the end customer, missing a huge opportunity to use digital techniques and technologies to fuse everyone’s needs in a way that benefits everyone.

If your digital strategy encompasses this broader definition of customer, it will lead to better overall outcomes – faster buy-in and adoption, more opportunities for innovation and greater insight into how to make incremental improvements. This will lead to better prioritisation, a happier customer set, more efficient use of budget and a substantially higher ROI.

Practically, when looking at your digital strategy ask yourself these questions:

1. How do we broaden our approach to include the breadth of our stakeholders?

2. How can we use the expertise and insight of customers to accelerate effective delivery?

3.What do we need our internal customers to do differently so everyone aligns to the strategy and is prepared for the changes that will result?

Fully empower a cross-discipline squad to get things done

At the heart of any digital strategy is delivery – if it doesn’t get made, it doesn’t matter. But digital moves as fast as customer expectations do. So, you need to drive rapid business validation, prioritisation and requirements. And everyone from across technology, product, legal, risk, finance and marketing needs to move as one. It can be done.

Your organisation is likely full of people eager to help move in this direction. You just need to find them, empower them and keep them focused on the outcomes the Board is seeking. This doesn’t mean you need to create a huge new team. To start, a small one will be more effective in developing business-specific agile approaches that colleagues can then adopt more widely.

To create a high performing, cross-discipline team, free them from existing constraints driven by internal structures, technology norms and processes. Give them the power to be agile and focus on the customer. And ensure digital is their priority, not a side project. They need the time to develop a clear proposition, analyse needs and prioritise requirements.

Measure these teams against delivery of digital services, iteration in response to live feedback and adoption. In short, their key metric is customer engagement. Perhaps most importantly, recognise and reward them and their contribution as a team, not as individuals.

Be bold to grow after COVID-19

Whatever our new reality ends up being, it’s certain to be radically different to what we took for granted at the end of 2019.

Digital will be an even more critical part of your organisation’s core moving forward. Now is the time to review where your digital journey has got you to date, and how you need to modify and accelerate your capabilities to adapt and grow in our shifting but shared reality.

Be bold. Be ambitious. Be ready to learn fast and iterate faster.

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