We are closing a year that none of us visualised even in the wildest of our dreams. While there were enough and more predictions of a possible pandemic made in the past decade, truth be told, nobody took them seriously. Who knew it would be a living reality as we entered the new decade? Fact is, the world today is fighting a battle that is far graver than World War II and probably the most significant human challenge that we have ever fought.
Hybrid world dictates new thinking
Albeit vaccines are being rolled out as we speak, there are also new virus mutations coming up by the day. In the face of such looming uncertainties, the need for organisations to adapt working models to meet the realities of the hybrid world ahead is no more a matter of choice. And there’s ample evidence to believe that leaders have their priorities well cut out. The Global CEO Priorities Survey 2020 by Greyhound Research confirms that over 83% of large global organisations believe that a hybrid world will be a reality starting 2021. Hence, they will need to work towards a new working model for employees, customers, and partners. While we’ve already seen this translate to models like contactless delivery, more innovation can be expected here on.
Technology is a critical differentiator
The same survey also confirms that organisations expect technology to facilitate this new world order. While that’s hardly a surprise, what’s interesting is the permanency and urgency of this change. What started six months ago as a reaction to support employees to work from home (and hopefully for a short while) and cater to the overnight spurt in digital consumer interactions is now a well-established differentiator. If anything, that is a decade’s worth of progress in a short span of six months.
And as one can guess, this sweeping change is a reality globally and across industries. According to a recent global study by McKinsey, there’s been more than 30%growth in digital consumer interactions over the past six months in the food and household categories. The consulting major also calls out that this number is much higher in the Asia Pacific region. This pivot has meant that organisations have had to adopt a technology-first mindset.
Albeit vaccines are being rolled out as we speak, there are also new virus mutations coming up by the day. In the face of such looming uncertainties, the need for organisations to adapt working models to meet the realities of the hybrid world ahead is no more a matter of choice. And there’s ample evidence to believe that leaders have their priorities well cut out.
The case for cloud is stronger
But as easy as it may sound, this mindset is probably the most difficult to institutionalise. Hence, organisations starting small and establishing best practices as they scale is highly recommended and widely practised. But starting small also often means the lack of foresight (and sometimes budget) on how much and what kind of technology to buy at the outset. And this is where cloud can be expected to play an incremental role.
Among other things, cloud offers the much-needed flexibility to scale per the requirement with the reliability that organisations expect. When organisations have access to such large pools of computing resources without spending incremental money and steep learning curves, they can truly focus on the innovation of the working model and the ability to deliver personalised experiences.
Not all clouds are equal
While the case for cloud is only getting stronger, what’s also getting better are organisations’ choices. Gone are the days when cloud was akin to only public cloud and restricted to the non-core applications and workloads. Today, organisations can choose from an entire labyrinth and customise their cloud environment based on their IT requirements. Today, most mission-critical applications like ERP, CRM, HCM, among others, are being run from various cloud environments that span both public and private clouds. If anything, a multi, hybrid cloud is a reality for most organisations that offers much-needed flexibility during such uncertain times and allows them to build a predictable and personalised enterprise.
Using data smartly is key
As organisations work towards building this personalised enterprise, they naturally encounter the need to have a more homogeneous view of their customer data. But the reality today is, most organisations have disparate data sets sitting across application silos spanning marketing, sales, and customer service.
Hence, customer data aggregation can be called the bedrock for all things omni-channel, failing which it’s simply impossible to deliver optimised and personalised experiences to customers. In countries like India, where offline retail is still the mainstay, data aggregation can help make meaningful connections between the offline and online channels and improve customer journeys.
Without technology, there’s no future
While the times ahead remain uncertain and pressures are at an all-time high, the choices ahead for organisations and its leaders are well chalked out. Either they rethink their attitude towards technology and adopt a new mindset, or else they slowly fade away and let competitors pace ahead. But those organisations that are truly serious about being relevant in the new world order will adopt a technology-first mindset, invest in cloud-delivered resources, innovate their business models, and continue to deliver exceptional customer experiences. In the end, it is essential to remember that while we may refer to technology as merely an enabler, in today’s day and age, without this enablement there is no future.
Views are personal. The author is president and managing director, SAP India.