As we begin to look to a future that views the past year in its rear-view mirror, businesses have one key question to consider: “What did we really learn?”
The last year has been particularly challenging for firms seeking to not only maintain their business in the face of growing uncertainty and upheaval, but to also grow.
The immediate impulse for many at the start of the crisis was understandable. Batten down the hatches, shore up relationships with customers and continue consistent delivery of services. A significant hinderance to this strategy, however, was the move to remote working and the resulting disruption of business operations. Almost overnight, firms were forced to address their digital lag by adopting new technologies and processes.
The fear for many firms was that failure to adapt at pace would risk losing ground to more agile rivals, which is true to some degree. However, the efficacy of transformational strategies relies on whether they address an organisation’s core business problem, not simply provide a temporary solution.
A perception problem
In the wake of the pandemic, the Bank of England forecast that UK GDP would contract by 14% in 2020, with the unemployment rate rising to 8%. Despite recent good news, the stark reality for many organisations is that budgets have been tightened and sacrifices made to maintain profitability.
As offices around the world closed to protect workforces, businesses were forced to rapidly adapt to “the new normal”, adopting, at the very least, cloud platforms that enabled communication and collaboration for remote workers.
A notable result of this rapid cloud adoption across industries has been a prevalence of conversations relating to the apparent acceleration of digital transformation. The assumption here is that cloud migration is synonymous with digital transformation. But as any CIO or IT business decision maker will tell you, true digital transformation requires that firms use technology to transform business processes, evolve business models or underpin new market strategies, all of which demand a shift of mindset.
Increasingly, driving this mindset shift falls to CIOs, who are expected to be business, as well as technology, leaders. Wearing both hats is a daunting prospect, as the implementation of new technology can have a significant impact on business operations. This factor, along with an increasingly evolving technology landscape puts pressure on CIOs to choose the optimal solutions to deliver maximum ROI.
Compounding the timeless challenges of technology adoption during the pandemic was the sudden imposition of implementing technologies that enabled the managing and maintaining of remote workforces. This initial challenge was hastily met with the introduction of cloud platforms and technologies, with little time to consider how these services might be implemented to deliver lasting value or transformation.
The pandemic offered CIOs an inflection point to assess how their organisations coped with unforeseen upheaval. It has been the ultimate stress test to determine whether the organisation’s technology leadership, its technology partners, management, and the team as a whole, was genuinely prepared and able to respond to the almost over-night side swiping of normal working models.
Put simply, a crisis can be a demonstration of forward thinking, planning and leadership or a painful reminder of failing to maintain agility and invest with forethought. Equally, it can be a catalyst for a positive change.
Business opportunities from unexpected problems
Take the contact centre industry as an example. The industry today employs 1.3 million people in the UK with the average salary of a contact centre worker standing at £17,741. The total fixed costs of employing one worker is £30,000, which begs serious questions around cost effectiveness with almost 50% attributable overhead per role.
The contact centre industry predictions for 2021 reveal that the pandemic has precipitated significant changes to workspaces, with 57% of contact centre firms planning to move to a socially distanced office model. As one might expect, providing this space will cause fixed costs to grow significantly, which if passed onto the customer, will jeopardise relationships with firms that are facing increasing revenue variability due to the current and mid-term economic climate.
Increasingly, organisations are addressing this challenge head on, changing the business model of contact centres through a combination of tech enabled gig economy solutions and technology.
By replacing the traditional contact centre – and associated fixed salary and related overhead costs – with salaries shifting to a “pay per contact/pay per transaction model”, firms have adopted a more profitable and agile model powered by freelancers. These freelancers can choose their hours, work remotely, and are empowered to determine their own productivity and profitability.
Of course, technology must also play its part in enabling this new model. The core components of a contact centre, such as IT systems and connectivity, must still be provided for workers. Furthermore, these components must be both reliable and secure, enabling continued and protected access and exchange of data.
In this example, and many others, technology has enabled the transformation of a business model, but the driving force behind this change has been the business requirement to address the cost of legacy working models.
Replicating this approach ensures the cart and horse are in their rightful places. Start with the business problem, be bold with your vision of transformation and employ the technologies that realise that vision.
About the Author
Geoff Kneen is Group Managing Director for Content+Cloud. Content+Cloud is one of the UK’s leading technology services, solutions and support providers, with a passion for helping ambitious organisations and their people to succeed. We believe in helping to create a world in which organisations grasp all that technology can offer, improving results and the experiences of their people.
Featured image: ©Digilife