Helpful advice from business leaders across a range of industries
There’s no question that the COVID crisis caught most of the world off-guard and the impacts are ongoing. Our economy fell into recession, unemployment continues to rise, and many businesses are still reeling and trying to adapt to the dramatic changes that have affected virtually every aspect of our lives.
CCG recently brought together business leaders from across a range of industries to discuss how their organizations have reacted, recovered and reimagined their businesses during the pandemic and how they plan to regain their market share and drive revenue going forward. This Virtual Forum took place over two days and the discussions were both enlightening and optimistic. [Access the Virtual Forum: Part 1 and Part 2 for the full webinar]
Out of those discussions, six key themes emerged that your business should focus on to help make it through this difficult time and prepare for success in the post-pandemic future.
Whether it’s through predictive analytics, ecommerce strategies, or automating manual business processes, now’s the time to embrace and accelerate digital transformation. Lee Crump, CIO and Group VP at Rollins, Inc. said that their analytics tools not only alerted them early to the impending crisis, but that “analytics allowed us to respond much more quickly than we ever would have.”
Wilcox remarked on the importance of creating products, services, and processes that ensure your customers’ safety and peace of mind. “Your technology enablement strategy has to consider this “no-touch” world where you can see and do things virtually. So, how do you unlock the capabilities in your business that will allow for that?” Businesses need to invest in technology to ensure that they can accommodate the shift in consumer buying behavior.
Additionally, Kevin Davis, VP of Analytics and Architecture at Kforce said, “The speed at which we can do things was a big lesson learned.” He explained how working from home had exposed a number of manual processes within the business which they were now working on automating. In essence, the COVID-19 pandemic is driving digital transformation across the board.
Natalie Greenwood, Director, Client Partner & Strategy at CCG, noted that Data Governance was already becoming more important before the virus, due to privacy concerns which sparked new regulations surrounding customer data around the world.
Add to those concerns the new challenges that come with businesses suddenly shifting to a remote workforce before they were fully prepared to do so. She said, “As businesses were scrambling to get technology into people’s hands, they didn’t necessarily consider how they were securing and protecting data.” With employees getting laptops that might not be on the network, how would the company make updates and apply security patches?
Greenwood is currently helping clients with their Data Governance policies – ensuring that they include contingencies for information leaving their building, put systematic controls in place, and educate their staff. “Governance can be a catalyst for growth,” she said. “You can reduce inefficiencies and quality issues with documentation, which is especially important to enable remote workers.” [Learn more about Data Governance and Management]
Brian Beesley, Director of Data Science for CCG, and Ray Diwakar, VP of Innovation for Goridan, discussed a recent project in which they leveraged AI and machine learning to streamline Gordian’s construction proposal process (see Case Study).
Beesley said, “The whole idea behind machine learning and AI is the ability to adapt to massive shifts in information. Your program can evolve and adjust to changes in the environment.” This is invaluable in a crisis situation. In this case for example, the AI program will be learning new language specific to the pandemic that is being used in construction right now such as “social distancing” or “sanitization stations.”
Bottom line, data science applications such as predictive analytics, AI and machine learning can do in minutes what it would take humans years to achieve. Businesses on the forefront of that acceleration and innovation will have a distinct advantage over those that do not. [Learn more about Data Science and Advanced Analytics]
Chris Dieringer, Sr. Director Retail & CPG at Microsoft, studies trends within the retail and consumer goods industry, and has seen sweeping changes in consumer behavior due to COVID-19. He advises retailers to focus on “navigating the now”, building a crisis center of excellence, protecting employee and customer safety, and “doing as much as you can to deliver services and products outside of stores – or limiting time in stores – while still providing a great customer experience.”
“In 1929, we had the Great Depression. In 2008, we had the Great Recession. COVID-19 is going to be known as the Great Acceleration.” Dieringer noted that e-commerce has grown more in the last 8 weeks than it was expected to grow over the next 5 years. Digital is key. “Those who have invested in their digital practice will be successful and not just able to react and plan their recovery, but able to shape the new normal.”
He advised retailers to “double down on hardening your digital acceleration. Consumer behaviors and appetites have changed, so be relevant. We’ve seen giants in this space fall.” [Learn more about Customer Intelligence for Retail]
Jason Kurtz, Managing Director, at Accel-KKR, a private equity firm, said informing themselves with data is key to making the right investment decisions that would lead to future success. “As the pandemic started, we began looking at data –sales, customer retention, and modeling numerous scenarios so we could assess those companies and predict how they would fare going forward.”
“We stabilized and now we need to go back and figure out how to invest in growth. We’re looking for leading indicators of future growth – engagement with prospects, pipeline analytics, conversion rates, etc.; if those things are improving, we can start to invest again, but we need to do it carefully. Only unleash cash to a market that is becoming viable again.”
John Jose, Senior Finance Director of Headington Companies, agreed, saying his business had to work together to prioritize what metrics they needed most. “It forced us to pick our top two or three metrics. We had to agree on the critical things to focus on and spend our time there to get the greatest return.”
His final advice: “Avoid analysis paralysis and prioritize your metrics with a team that’s focused.” [Learn more about Enterprise Business Intelligence and Analytics]
Chris Laping, Chief Innovation Officer of Bagel Brands and best-selling author of “People Before Things” had a number of insights about how to be a better leader during times of change.
He said, “People resist change because of practical reasons. It’s not because they are lazy or aren’t invested. Many times, they simply don’t have the time to do or learn something. They are at full capacity already. People are tired. My job as a leader is to clear the decks, make it clear what the priorities are, and take away some other responsibilities to give people time. People are not resisting change – they just have not had the right conditions put in place to make them be successful.”
“What people really need is for leaders to show them two things: love and clarity. They want to know that that their leader cares about them, and they want clarity. Everyone wants to feel like they are making a difference.” Ultimately, leaders that are able to demonstrate empathy for their employees will find their change management efforts are more successful.
For additional takeaways from our panel discussion, be sure to read John Bastone’s post, “Rats and Roaches Don’t Read the Wall Street Journal.”
CCG is dedicated to our mission to bring great people together to do extraordinary things. As we experience the unsettling changes caused by COVID-19 and the global economic crisis, our purpose is more important than ever. We hope that events such as our Virtual Forum, where we can all learn from the brightest and best business leaders, can be a helpful resource for you. Learn more about our ADAPT initiative to help businesses succeed through crisis, or reach out to our team of expert consultants. We’re all in this together, and we’re listening.
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