Smart Restart Considerations – Don’t Turtle Shell

I was delivering a webinar recently with Dr. Bob Hall from Launch and we started talking about the two responses to crisis. The first is to hope it goes away and the other is to accept, understand, and respond… seeking a new normal. When many companies talk about “Smart Restart” I think they are hoping that everything will just return to normal. They are like a turtle that is going into its shell and peeking out to hope that everything is just what they found it before and they can just start up shop. If this is your business, stop, drop, and roll. Things are not going back to normal, unless you are instead considering what the new normal will look like and how your business will succeed in it. Consider the two product or strategic trends… one tries to return to the old market… the other creates a new market. Of course, both erode over time, but one engages in the opportunity the other gives up. Consider the first rule of thermodynamics… “energy can neither be created nor destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another”… who will you be in this picture?

Think about the business transition in this way, we started with an understanding of how we work from home (or were forced to), we moved into needing to keep our business viable (everyone’s still working on that) and we need to respond. Responding will not just look like opening your business and expecting everything to work the same way. THIS is when the market disruption happens. Think about it in the context of this diagram.

In the diagram are you attempting to return to “business as usual”, or are you thinking about where you can create new value with digital business? Where can you meet the un-met need in the market, engage your employees, and think about your response differently? How typical market disruption happens is a new incumbent disrupts the lower end of the market and displaces an established competitor. In this case, the lower end of the market was disrupted via the virus… now the replacement story is where you come in.

Let’s consider a few scenarios that we’ll need to think about in the Smart Restart era and how we can employ different techniques:

Smart Restart 1: What to restart?

We’ve talked at length about demand & inventory, had Michael Walton on our COVID Survival Kit series, and talked about how the best businesses are applying AI to this part of the story. You can either restart using your intuition and guesses, or you can start to use data. Your job is the minimize the delta between these lines and maximize your profit and ability to deliver for your customers. The best businesses will leverage data and AI… the weaker ones will not. This is an arms race and the companies without it, at sufficient scale, will simply not be able to compete at the same level. Think about the gap between the blue and green lines in the diagram below and the opportunity to close it. This is sometimes known as EOQ, or just another way of thinking about optimizing the relationship between supply and demand.

Want to learn more? Listen to Michael Walton from Microsoft talk about Smart Restart and its impact on business’s return to operations:

Smart Restart 2: Are you meeting your customers where they are at?

How have you shifted your product focus to how consumers will buy now, vs. in the future? Let’s consider the following… consumers have gotten used to buying from their homes… businesses have figured out that people don’t NEED to be in the office to be productive (especially information workers). Are you aligning your business to how your customers are going to buy and the disruption that is happening? A few weeks ago we talked about some of the scenarios below, many of which we’ve adopted:

  • Remote medical analysis (my wife currently uses a virtual doctor)
  • Watching movies at home (way better than going to the movies)
  • Remote home inspection (a major customer shifted all services to video walk-through)
  • Food delivery (drop off to nearest car vs. going into the store)…

In this space a recent customer of mine had to deal with contact-less exchange of a product with their customers, with their current product requiring a hand signature. They leveraged Power Apps to change the way that customers interact with their team and provide an experience entirely digital. Now is the time to analyze the opportunity and change the game around your customer’s needs.

The best companies are agile… and are constantly talking to their customers… asking the RIGHT questions…

Think about Jobs Theory and what NEW job your customers are trying to get done. The goal now is to receive their feedback and change the game around how the unmet need will now be satisfied…

Want more? Listen here to Bob Hall talk about engaging customers where they are, what Launch needed to do, and how they are seeing customers be successful:

Smart Restart 3: What about your employees?

Perhaps the biggest unknown about Smart Restart is the movement of employees back into the offices, or NOT? I’m not sure anyone has the crystal ball on what the new normal of the working environment will look like, but I do believe it will hold a healthy amount of working remote and distancing and that our collaboration environment needs to deal with that. In a sense, this is actually HARDER than what we had before, because everyone was forced into a video-conference, remote world. In the new normal we’ll be dealing with some people together, some remote, and trying to make this environment productive and to mitigate exclusion amongst the workforce. It might look like this… can you do this in way that makes leverages everyone’s strengths? Are you prepared to engage and not make second-class citizens out of either side of the conversation? This is where effective Teams strategy comes in… not just tech, but more-so organizational change tied to your new normal strategy.

In this conversation, potential considerations you are thinking about:

  • How do I ensure the working environment remains productive with what we’ve found in the remote world?
  • How does a collaboration platform enable or limit this? Do we need to train our teams differently? Set expectations?
  • Where does technology come into play with the work environment expectations?
  • How does distancing play into the way we work even while at the office?
  • How does technology help our leadership team organize ourselves around our response?
  • Am I prepared to thrive in the new normal vs. mearly exist?

What about skilling?

We’ve said multiple times that the “new normal” includes a shift toward a different way of engaging customers. Remember that this includes a shift of your talent pool and their ability to help you get there. We’re about to see one of the most rapid shifts in talent we’ve seen ever. We saw the move to furlough, to the drop of contractors… now moving to a talent gap and a response that will either include massive re-skilling and/or hiring new contractors. Think about the following trend in the demand for tech talent:

Are you prepared to respond to this demand change? Have you a re-skilling approach that allows you to take advantage of the shift? This is the time to adjust and react with purpose. Consider the shift in skills toward multi-skill frameworks. In cases like these the IT organizations are tremendously overstaffed and supporting an inefficient environment. How can you move to multi-skill cloud frameworks and facilitate acceleration of every team member toward a productive cloud environment?

What about security?

The employee security equation got harder during the pandemic, but not necessarily if you were already on the right track. We talk in a second about how the cloud has transformed the approach to security. Watch the CISO of Brunswick talk about how the cloud and Microsoft 365 E5 has simplified the approach to security within their environment:

Smart Restart 4: The Cloud

The companies that responded best during the thick of the COVID response were those that had set themselves up in the first place. Those that had an excellent work from home strategy and had migrated to the cloud had significantly less challenges in being fully productive over the last couple months. In an interview with the CISO of Brunswick (above) he credited their cloud migration with helping them mitigate the threat of double the security attacks. The fact that they had moved to the cloud enabled an environment free of much of the tech debt in on-premise environments, prevented restrictions tied to on-premise worlds, and enabled security scale. You may have existed throughout the last several months, but did you get stronger, or even more behind? Consider where you are on the cloud maturity curve… are you ready to allow your business to respond?

The companies that didn’t act before are acting now. They are assessing two major scenarios for the cloud (1) what can I get rid of (meaning SHUT DOWN NOW) and (2) what can I move and reduce my dependency on my on-premise environment. If there was ever a time to clean house, it’s now. People are furloughed, they have reduced salaries, they are challenged… why are you still running workload X and Y? This is the time to modernize in order to either save money, or find new revenue. Both are areas where the smart companies are looking at the business and investing. At Concurrency our Cloud Economics program has never been busier… why? The simple reason is that companies realize that the business condition reinforces the opportunity to reduce and move their environment and eliminate dependencies on big costs.

What about that old cost comparison?

When companies did original cost comparisons they often used funny numbers… or they didn’t reduce the existing environment / refactor. The smart companies look at this and say… “how can I eliminate the 30% of stuff I don’t use, or barely use… the rest I can move and reduce”. This how you save money moving to the cloud… optimization.

We knew before the pandemic that the cloud was a foregone conclusion for almost every organization. Have you responded by preparing an operationalized cloud, analyzing the current spend, looking for opportunity to migrate and cut costs? This should be at the top of your list because it lets you STOP throwing good money after bad. It lets you modernize and reduce the ultimate ongoing costs. Consider the following video where we talk about programs like the Cloud Economic Assessment and how it can enable insights into legacy and modern platforms in the cloud:

Smart Restart 5: RPA and Process Automation

Why has RPA and process automation become such a frequent conversation amongst the pandemic? The recession historians will tell you that every recession is followed by incredible need for technology. The businesses will have let go of their overhead, are running efficiently, and the only way to do so effectively is to automate and leverage technology to bring about advances in service delivery and maintain operations. RPA and process automation were created for just this purpose. The only problem is that historically they failed… mostly because they required serious internal investment with weak ROI calculations. The current generation, especially Power Apps / Power Platform is different. This is because of the commoditization of technology and the engagement of digital natives.

Why is commodity different?

The difference between commodity RPA and non is the opportunity to enable every business user to optimize their own processes, or those of their teams. Non-commodity looks at automation as a project that requires allocation and large effort to complete. Commodity looks at a problem and leverages organic human ingenuity by bringing the problem closer to the person able to solve it. This is why we’re seeing incredible growth of Power Platform across a wide set of industries. Think of it as a force multiplier… in the image below you see a process with high error rate, not automated… replaced by one with automation and low error rate. This takes less people to do more work AND takes advantage of human ingenuity vs. making people slaves to dumb processes. I was talking with a professor about the idea that the 1st, 2nd, and partially the 3rd industrial revolutions served to make humanity an input into a manufacturing process and remove the craftsmanship and ingenuity from whole generations of people, in service of high production. The 4th industrial revolution reverses that trend… by returning creativity to the workforce and moving more repeatable tasks to machines, while creativity and invention return. What if I could enable a model like this and help people to find meaning in creative work?

A customer of mine used Power Platform to automate all loan document approvals… combined with Teams to run the loan review virtually. Rather than meet in a room with physical documents, the team moved to virtual engagement and powerful exception based review. Check out Brian Dang below talk about his experiences:

The most successful organizations are choosing NOW to enable employee innovation and drive this via a Center of Excellence around process automation. Now is the time to challenge employees to think different and leverage their strengths vs. hide from problems. Now is the time where leadership encourages all of us to be our best. RPA brings even more capability to the table for this, by taking our best and applying intelligent automation to augment human ingenuity… bringing commodity + attended/unattended processes together:

Temperature Screening

Check out what we’ve done with Power Apps to enable Temperature Screening for customers. This took a couple days of work, but addresses an immediate need. This didn’t take 10 weeks of development and a complicated application. This is Low/Code – No/Code

Now is the time to respond

The Smart Restart is real. You need to be in control of your business… understand its threats, weaknesses, opportunities, strengths and seize the moment. This is not a time to crawl into the turtle shell and wait for the next sunny day. It’s the time to look the problem in the eye, understand how you can be present to the market, and will your company to succeed.

Consider that all of these ideas can be self-funding if pursued correctly. Never underestimate what people can accomplish when motivated, engaged, and enabled with technology that leverages their strengths.

Nathan Lasnoski

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