Blog | Jul 24, 2020

Speed Matters in the Era of the 'Never Normal'

Upwards at speed thumb

The COVID-19 pandemic has already taken a devastating toll on the UK economy, with GDP falling more than 20% in April, and many experts believe that the worst is yet to come in the final quarter of the year.

However, as lock-down restrictions ease and many parts of the economy are able to re-start in some form over the coming weeks, business leaders will be looking ahead and developing plans to ensure they are well positioned to re-build their operations and drive revenue and growth in the new post-COVID world.

Developing plans for the future, however, has become a far harder task. Having had to absorb a seismic shock over the past three months, with in many cases has resulted in lost customers, revenue and headcount, business leaders are now having to devise strategies to move them forward in a hugely turbulent and uncertain economy.

COVID-19 has dramatically changed our world and there will be no going back. This means that pretty much every business in the world will need to re-assess their goals, values, and go-to-market strategies.

A recent Accenture study describes the coming years as a ‘period of unpredictable and possibly muted economic recovery with new competitive threats and opportunities, and quite possibly a decade of the Never Normal, a new era defined by fast changing shifts in cultural norms, societal values and behaviors.’

Cloud Versus COVID-19

Across all sectors, organizations have had to adapt and change at breakneck speed in response to the pandemic, shifting to ‘digital-only’ strategies almost overnight. Digital transformation projects which would previously have taken more than a year just to be approved have been implemented in a matter of weeks. Work forces have shifted to remote working with immediate effect, placing huge pressure on technology platforms, security, management and productivity.

Of course, some businesses have been far more able to change course and absorb this level and speed of change than others. Organizations that were already moving towards agile operating and resourcing models have found it far easier to adapt to changing demands, whilst businesses that were still deploying fixed infrastructures, constrained architectures, and legacy technology systems have struggled.

Indeed, with technology playing such a critical role during the pandemic, in terms of rapidly delivering new services, driving customer experience and maintaining the welfare and productivity of a newly remote workforce, the benefits of cloud computing have been highlighted more than ever before. Businesses that were already built on cloud infrastructure, consuming as-a-service software, delivered from the cloud, have found it far easier to change direction, scale their digital operations and enable their workforce to operate remotely, than those that were still operating in-house technology systems.

For many organizations, cloud computing really has been the difference. For example, Phil Jordan, CIO of Sainsbury’s, claimed that ‘cloud technology has been the critical enabler to pivot the business from physical to online as part of its response to restrictions brought about by COVID-19’.​

Speed and Scalability as the Norm

Digital transformation, operational agility and resilience have been talked about as key strategic objectives for businesses for many years. Now COVID-19 has turned them into urgent and critical imperatives.

Many business leaders have had to try to instill speed, agility and adaptability within their operations and work forces, and embedded the right processes, platforms and structures with almost no time to think or plan. There has been no other option.

But as these organizations now move from survival mode, looking to the future and re-evaluating their operating models and go-to-market propositions, they now have a small window to re-imagine how their business could look and operate in the future. Many will look at what they have achieved under the most immense pressure and recognize the opportunities to create a more agile, dynamic and resilient business going forward.

As a recent KPMG paper argued: ‘As the new reality emerges, organizations will need to continue to build a digital backbone using cloud-native solutions, anywhere connectivity, hybrid multi-cloud architectures, and an automated and secure delivery chain with the speed and flexibility to meet rapidly evolving business needs.’

In an uncertain and fragile economy, perhaps the only certainty is that constantly adapting to rapidly changing conditions and demands will simply be the norm. The pace of business will continue to accelerate and the speed at which an organization can respond to change, risk and opportunity will become ever more important.

Whilst we must all hope that the COVID-19 pandemic is a one-off, once in a century event, this massive shift towards business at speed should not be seen as a temporary need. As we move into the Era of the Never Normal, speed and agility will remain at the very core of doing business.

For more information, please download our new white paper, ‘The Fastest Business Wins’, which explores the importance of operational speed and agility in response to COVID-19 and in the future economy, where nothing is certain and nothing stays the same.

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