Success in COVID times: Create an AI-platform-driven connected enterprise

To be resilient and ride out this storm, there are three shifts enterprises should consider adopting in their transformation strategies:

After almost a year of crisis management in response to COVID-19, businesses are coming to terms with the prospects of prolonged impact. Customer expectations continue to change almost by the day, new and unexpected competitors are mushrooming while bankruptcies are a worry. 

To be resilient and ride out this storm, there are three shifts enterprises should consider adopting in their transformation strategies:  

  • Prioritize real-time connectedness with consumers, employees and the partner ecosystem

  • Replace project-based approaches with a platform strategy

  • Create true partnerships with joint ownership of outcomes

Need for external and internal connectedness

Until early 2020, owning a drawer full of face masks was ridiculous. Now, the mask industry is expected to grow from $4.5 billion in 2020 to $21.2 billion in 2026. In just 12 months, the world has seen a radical change. We are greeted at shopping malls with sanitizers which, honestly, feels as comforting as a welcome drink; people at airports walk about in PPEs making it look like the sets of a medical thriller; and even though tractor manufacturers don’t have their workforces in office, sales are high on the back of a good monsoon.

Everything is changing and enterprises must stay connected to external change, ready to tap into new opportunities before the space gets crowded.

The pace of change is challenging traditional enterprises. Customer service needs to transform rapidly to be in sync with supply chain uncertainties; R&D has to be in tune with marketing to design successful new products at speed. Finance needs to be prepared for new payment methods that customers want. Sales is hungry for better data to serve customers better. Last, and the most important, technology needs to keep all functions talking to each other, and with the external world. 

Success will need real-time external and internal connectedness to be proactive in tapping emerging opportunities.

Need for platform strategy

In the past, enterprises invested to meet the needs of each business function, spawning siloed projects with narrow goals. Some of these integrated well with past systems; very few had the foresight to provision integration for future projects. Now, these enterprises are struggling to bring business functions together into a seamless whole. What they need is the equivalent of a Wi-Fi network. Anyone on the network can access information and collaborate with any function. 

Translated, this means choosing a ‘platform’ approach where capabilities are offered as services to the entire enterprise. Organizational data should be available on a common pipe. If five farmers are engaging with financers for tractor loans, not only should the tractor sales function know there’s a lead to follow through, but supply chain should know there’s demand coming from a certain village! And, marketing should know that a shared tractor may be a better service to offer than to pursue a tractor sale! Similarly, when a noodle brand does consumer segmentation, its soups division should be able to tap that insight and launch a campaign. 

Need for true partnerships

As these examples show, there is a heightened need to harness modern technology and innovation. These should allow an enterprise to rapidly develop and test new concepts and harvest learning at great speed. However, it would be foolhardy to expect an enterprise to understand technological options and make informed decisions. Hence, there is the need to fill this gap by tapping into dependable partnerships with technology providers. 

To make this work, the technology ecosystem must embrace ‘true partnership’ where they partner enterprises on their transformation journey.  Success of the enterprise should lead to success for the technology partner. A true partnership would depend on openness and shared ownership of success. 

Similarly, enterprises need to look at harvesting value from a broad technology ecosystem instead of staying restricted to a narrow sliver of vendors. You could think of this as an ‘open platform’ for business. 

A large shift in perspective and approach has to take place, displacing pre-set notions across the world of business. An open, connected, platform and partner-oriented agile mindset will lead to success.

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