We can only survive through this pandemic with the aid of technology
The current COVID-19 crisis has negatively affected thousands of people worldwide, throwing the entire economy in doldrums. It is not only a health crisis of a global proportion but also the issue of how permanent changes will be made to the face of global businesses and how organizations operate in the future.
For small and mid-sized organizations, survival is the only item on the agenda. On the other hand, larger businesses are trying to find their path through the fog of uncertainty; thinking about how to position themselves once the crisis has passed and activities will return to normal. This brings us to the all-important question ‘What will the new normal look like?’ While no one can say how long the crisis will last, we can be sure that the new normal will not look like the standards of recent years.
Returning businesses to operational health will be extremely challenging, as most industries will need to reactivate their entire supply chain. The global supply chains will face disruption in multiple geographies, making it more difficult to return to previous levels of productivity. Leaders must therefore reassess their entire business system and plan for contingent actions in order to return to effective production at pace and at scale.
Whatever the new normal may shape up to be, Incepta believes the following five factors will remain central to how organizations operate in a post-COVID landscape in order to be better prepared for a similar global outbreak in the future:
- Distributed Manufacturing Supply Chain
- Workforce Decentralization
- Cloud based Productivity & Collaboration Tools
- API-Driven Connectivity
- Customer Self-Service
1. Distributed Manufacturing Supply Chain
The term Distributed Supply Chain gained in popularity when the localised production system was no longer a competitive advantage in the globalised economy. But in reality the organizations heavily relied on a single country with supply cost being the single deciding factor. All major manufacturing companies worldwide ranging from automobile, electronics, garments, household furnishings sectors heavily depended on a single region for supplies – a perfect recipe for disaster.
We never knew when disaster would strike and in what form, but when it did – it brought the world to a standstill. Policymakers and business executives alike are beginning to clearly see the downside of over-dependence on a single country. In this crisis, it has clearly been demonstrated how dependent we are on the global supply chain for medical equipment, such as masks and testing materials.
It’s time that organizations start building smarter, smaller and localized manufacturing units that are redistributed closer to the consumer. Organizations must shift their focus to domestic manufacturing, which is becoming more feasible due to modern technologies. The shift of manufacturing from low-cost countries to domestic can be made a reality by the three key elements of the 4th Industrial Revolution:
• An increase in productivity due to technologies like advanced robotics and artificial intelligence
• An ability to produce custom goods at any time and any place with 3D printing, increasing the value of proximity to the end customer
• An increased expectation by consumers for fast, convenient, customized service
3D printing is to goods what the personal computer was to information: the key to efficiency and effectiveness. Manufacturing centres where individuals and entrepreneurs are able to design and manufacture their own unique products and solutions that can be made more accessible in more places. Manufacturing can be broadly democratized, like how information was during the 3rd Industrial Revolution, making 3D printing the driver of the new digital revolution and the key to the future of the global manufacturing economy.
3D printing will fundamentally change today’s complex supply chain, moving manufacturing closer to consumption. The massive supply chain advantages of 3D printing coupled with consumer trends will enable manufacturers to cost effectively serve consumers, closer to where they live.
Not only does localized manufacturing units reduce the risk of dependency on global factors, but it also helps serve the local community, their economy, prosperity and growth.
2. Decentralized Workforce
Before the COVID crisis, work was distributed, while the work force was centralized. In some cases controlled through rigid organization structures and hierarchy. The recent pandemic has led to a sudden shift in work culture with organizations being forced to mandate people to work from home to protect people from the spread of the virus.
Suddenly, there were no centralized offices. This has led to a spike in adoption of newer technologies that enable collaboration: Video conferencing instead of travel (the Zoom app’s market value shot up 38%), conferencing and collaboration apps on mobile phones, or chatbot interfaces replacing humans. There are still no robots to fully replace human beings, but every company now has to look at automation as its No. 1 priority. Biological viruses do not affect machines, at least not yet.
With employees working remotely, we are relying on collaboration tools that are driven by process rather than by organization structure . This will eventually give more freedom to individual thought and action, thus creating the right atmosphere for innovation.
Incepta believes that this will be the new normal coming forward. Organizations are starting to preferring a decentralized workforce, which will reducing overhead infrastructure cost for maintaining expensive office spaces. However, technology will never completely replace human contact, and as the COVID-19 threat recedes, organizations will develop a healthy balance between working physically together and remotely.
3. Cloud based Productivity & Collaboration Tools
The recent COVID-19 situation has led to a massive increase in adoption of communication and collaboration tools. Incepta believes this to be the new normal with organizations realizing the benefits of such tools and continuing their usage and adoption even after the COVID crisis recedes.
To help employees become more productive at work, organization need to enable them with the right tools and technology. The technology options for employees should be mobile, flexible, and inclusive. This means giving them: 1) technology that is not limited to a physical space; 2) technology that supports multiple types of devices especially mobile; and 3) technology that can accommodate diverse job requirements.
Here is a list compiled specially by Incepta of some of the most popular collaboration tools by category:
- Video Conferencing: Zoom, Skype, Google Meet
- Team Collaboration: Slack, Trello
- Design & Workflow Collaboration: InVision, Asana, Basecamp, Cage
- Wireframing & Prototype Tool: Balsamiq, Visio, Adobe XD
- IT Development Collaboration: GitHub, JIRA
- File Sharing, Sync & Storage: Dropbox, Google Drive
- File Transfer: WeTransfer
- Remote Desktop Access: AnyDesk, TeamViewer
- Calendar: Google Calendar,
- Task Reminder & Time Management Tools: Todoist, Toggl, Evernote
- Invoicing & Accounting Tools: Freshbooks, QuickBooks
- Personal Multi-Task Management: IFTTT
4. API Driven Connectivity & Business Model
As organizations move towards a decentralized work structure, usage of cloud based tools, integration with 3rd party providers, communicating with IoT enabled devices and staying connected with the customers will become the new normal. In a post-COVID world, organizations would be striving even more to connect with customers at a personal level. At the organization level, they will enhance business process efficiency by collaborating with multiple technology partners, data centres and service providers all working in unison. Businesses can no longer afford the risk of building high cost infrastructure and services and rather focus on integrating multiple service providers, thus distributing the risk in the time of crisis.
As organizations integrate more with external systems and devices into their multichannel ecosystem, success will lie in adopting an API-driven strategy. APIs have grown to be the digital glue that enables businesses to develop new revenue streams, streamline their go to market strategy and deliver better experiences to their customers.
APIs can generate a lot of value, but organizations need to understand where the best places are to apply them. At Incepta, while working with organizations to develop an API driven strategy, we generally start by identifying the points where value can be created or destroyed, and measure the potential impact in terms of revenue, customer experience, and productivity.
Analysing customer journeys is often the best way to identify API opportunities. Incepta generally starts by identifying where APIs could help resolve several longstanding customer pain points and gradually build an API driven model that focusses on addressing the pain point thereby creating value.
5. Customer Self-Service
Traditionally companies have spent millions in building a grand customer service experience, leaving no stones unturned by taking that extra step in satisfying the customer. The term “Customer comes first” or “Customer is the King” holds in spirit but not literally anymore. The COVID-19 outbreak has created a Berlin Wall between the customer and the sales and support executive. Suddenly, company phone calls have fallen eerily silent. Call centres around the world are empty and sales executives unseen as if the term customer support has been erased from the dictionary.
On the other hand, customers around the world are increasingly adapting to the sudden change by finding ways and means to help themselves. Self-service apps are becoming a service-centric need in the wake of Covid-19. This trend could become the new normal post-COVID crisis.
One major positive for self-service apps is that it puts customer in control. The customer feels empowered that decision making finally rests on him/her without having to deal with sales and service agents guiding them on what to do or not to do. However, Incepta feels that organizations must have an integrated approach while planning for such an app. It must know the demands and expectations of the customer and deliver information and choices tailor-made for the individual.
This requires a Customer360 approach by aggregating all available data to build an accurate 360-degree view of customers. This is only possible with data management tools that capture data from all systems and channels, and match, merge and enrich it to create the complete customer profile, correlated to their omnichannel interactions and transactions.
Reliable and consolidated customer data can be the biggest asset of modern companies, but only when the relationships between people, products, organizations and places can be matched to maximize the customer profile.
Incepta has been able to effectively incorporate analytics and machine learning in master data management and deliver better data quality and actionable recommendations to organizations. This allows for personalized customer experience, new upsell and cross-sell opportunities, and suggestions for customer engagement improvements to increase the customer lifetime value.
At Incepta we believe that organizations which were still deliberating or resisting changes in digital transformation, connectivity and integration may not have any choice left. Organizations must adopt smarter technology to survive.