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3 realities leaders must embrace to navigate the post-pandemic economy

The president of Capgemini North America says companies must future-proof against the next disruption with a strategic and operational plan driven by technology.

3 realities leaders must embrace to navigate the post-pandemic economy
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Cloud platforms are seeing the largest, most rapid adoption in the history of their existence. Restaurants are maximizing online models and outdoor seating. Retailers are reevaluating supply chains to stock up on newly in-demand items. Car companies are automating the end-to-end car shopping experience to create a contactless, touch-free purchase. 

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Disruption comes in many forms, and the pandemic is turning out to be the biggest one of our generation. As we’ve seen, companies across industries have had to do more than just anticipate change to survive and succeed against these odds. They must have a strategic and operational plan in place that is driven by technology. Future-proofing against the next disruption will take active resiliency plans that think beyond cost and efficiency, striking the balance of “playing offense” while incorporating risk management and sustainability into decision-making processes. 

According to a recent survey of Fortune 500 CEOs, more than 45% said economic activity won’t return to pre-pandemic levels until at least the beginning of 2022. At the same time, 75% said the pandemic has accelerated the rate of their technological transformations. Despite the current uncertainty in global markets, leaders of the largest organizations see this disruption as an opportunity to innovate their business. 

Still, navigating the challenging road ahead will take a focused and strategic roadmap. To succeed in the post-pandemic environment, businesses must accept three realities:

Reality #1: Your customers have changed, and you should, too

The world as we know it has dramatically changed. Organizations who once knew the patterns and behaviors of their loyal customers are now forced to relearn how those customers are interacting with their products and brands. Over the next six months, 40% of consumers say they will have a high number of interactions through online channels, many for the first time, receiving a different experience than they would have in person; 77% of consumers also say they’re more willing to use technology to avoid interacting face to face. 

Companies need to find new ways to reach these consumers—through new products and service innovation. Understanding how to create relationships with these “new” customers is critical to business survival, and the organizations who identify and embrace new business models and strategies will effectively evolve with these newly created consumer tendencies. 

When the pandemic first hit the U.S., the grocery industry saw a large increase in demand for online orders and digital purchases. For organizations to meet this demand, they needed to ensure their online platforms could handle the increased traffic and provide a seamless customer experience for consumers to locate products, import payment information, and receive their items in a timely manner. During this disruption, we helped one of our national supermarket clients to implement a new digital customer experience solution resulting in 369% growth, with a staggering 37% of grocery sales (out of $7.2 million total sales) coming from their website between March and May. 

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Reality #2: How you use data needs to evolve

As seen by the Fortune 500 CEOs survey, organizations who aren’t leveraging new technologies are now falling behind. Digital functions such as AI, analytics, 5G and IoT are some of the top focus areas for transformation. For AI specifically, recent Capgemini research found that even while their organizations focus on cash management and immediate crisis response, 40% of companies have been continuing and even accelerating their AI transformations during the pandemic. 

Technology must be integrated into the business strategy and not viewed as a bolt-on function. The result is an intelligent industry agenda where organizations are interconnected across their operational technology and information technology. Working in silos is no longer an option. IT must have equal visibility into the operations and research of engineers and developers. Change management programs will be critical for employees to thrive as processes become synced, and in many cases automated. 

A leading publicly traded fashion retailer saw firsthand the benefits of integrating operational and information technology when it activated its crisis response at the start of the pandemic. The organization pivoted quickly to producing masks and gowns for businesses who needed to protect their employees and comply with local health recommendations. Capgemini designed a new B2B commerce solution that digitally connected the fashion retailer’s newly manufactured protective equipment to its customer base. The seamless integration of IT and operations enabled the organization to quickly get its products to those who needed them. 

Reality #3: Your digital infrastructure needs to adapt

Companies will need the ability to rapidly turn work from home capabilities on or off–not necessarily for their entire organizations, but for specific, relevant functions and roles. Fifty-one percent of organizations say they are either planning to invest more in collaboration technologies such as remote working and knowledge-sharing tools, or to maintain their existing investment commitments.

Going to work has been redefined since companies initially closed offices when the pandemic began, and they must now consider the right tools that foster productivity and business success within the new normal. That could be a strong transition toward the cloud, a more thorough digital infrastructure, and heightened commitment to cybersecurity defenses that can keep virtual collaboration functional and safe.  

Within a week of making the decision ourselves, Capgemini managed to move 95% of our more than 200,000 employees across the globe to a work from home environment. We found that overall employee satisfaction increased as a result of active leadership engagement, virtual volunteering opportunities, and the deployment of an employee engagement app where people could sign up and participate in projects to respond to the pandemic. 

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This disruption is not over, and more of its obstacles may continue to emerge. Don’t let the unpredictable nature of this event–or others–lead to indecision that could negatively impact your company. How you execute during this time will determine how your organization overcomes the adversity and positions itself long-term. Leadership is never more challenging or critical than in a crisis, and taking bold, innovative steps to seize this moment can define and shape your company’s future.


John Mullen is president of Capgemini North America, a global leader in consulting, technology services, and digital transformation.

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