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Product Strategy

Supply Chain & Operations: The ONLY Technology Strategy you need in a Post COVID world

Nisha Gopinath Menon
April 7, 2022

The most demanding leadership test for many is now looming. Bringing business back bigger in an environment where economies are still reeling will demand a lot out of us. Accelerating technology trends are already benefiting the industry's biggest players and this pandemic has reinforced reliance on services from innovative digital tools and technologies.

This phase of the COVID-19 crisis will be the most challenging one for most firms in their corporate history. And it's one most might have to undertake with tremendous handicaps. Workforces have started coming back to the office, revenue could still be unpredictable, there's a chronic shortage of investment capital, and supply chains are fractured. Digital technologies will prove to be a powerful option for recovery in this unprecedented environment. In a post-COVID-19 world, a proactive technology strategy built around building resilience and adapting operations can give you a better competitive edge.

The core driver of organizational change has been a digital transformation for the better part of a decade. The transition to cloud computing from legacy IT; the rise of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and smart automation; the expansion of banking and retail into the mobile space; and the rise of IoT were, amongst other such transformative technologies, at the center of an evolutionary leap, a complete generational forward. And so, it is unsurprising that these same technologies have enabled governments, businesses, students, healthcare systems, and workers to adapt to this maelstrom of disruption caused by the pandemic.

If the value in the huge investments in innovation and technology we saw over the last 10 to 20 years wasn't clear already before this crisis, it has to be now, especially in the areas that have played a crucial role in assisting us in adapting to the radical changes that were forced upon us so out of the blue: The digital tools we interface with, the software that powers them and network connectivity. Businesses were already dumping their own data centers to rent computing from Microsoft, Google, and Amazon. That shift has sped up as millions of employees were forced to work from home, straining the corporate technology infrastructures. The smartest tech companies will come out on the other side of this far stronger. That's not to say you shouldn't be worried. Software innovations and digital tools might be our only boon in these times.

  • It is more of a struggle beyond the biggest companies. Tools like the videoconferencing service Zoom have now become essential, but property-rental sites like Airbnb and ride-hailing firms like Lyft and Uber are seeing users trickle down. The technology industry is recovering fast this year, but by how much remains unclear. Big Tech can benefit from changes in consumer habits when the economy eventually improves. The work from home shift has shown us the benefits of cloud computing when use unexpectedly spiked. Adjusting computing needs on the fly is complicated and expensive for companies managing their internet infrastructures. Cloud computing has made it easier.

You have to adapt operations to fit a new future. The impact of this pandemic on our economy and lives continues to evolve, leaving behind an increasingly unknown operating environment for firms. The ability to adapt fast to a new way of doing business will be critical.

Key things to keep in mind while adopting a robust technology strategy:

  • You need software that limits physical interactions. To support a distributed workforce, you will have to rethink infrastructure, one which supports a flexible communications platform for back-to-workplace. Keeping an eye also on the long term, this infrastructure must support remote working, collaboration, and higher levels of automation in operations.
  • To foster an ecosystem approach to business operations, accelerate cloud adoption. Connecting customers, suppliers, employees, and shippers is more crucial than ever to allow all parties to work collaboratively. We anticipate a saw-tooth, up-and-down economic recovery, and so the use of the cloud will allow companies to ramp up or down depending on conditions.
  • To optimize the workforce for recovery and crisis, use intelligent platforms and automation. Automating tactical tasks allow employees to focus on initiatives that bring more value. And to better adapt to volatile market conditions, the ability to scale platforms can help teams. Digitize estimating tools for contractors and other professionals
  • The pandemic has forced the adoption of new business models, like adopting new digital experience that increases customer engagement, embracing co-sourced workforce structures, and the acceleration of digital businesses while shedding traditional physical channels.

As many companies rush to adapt to these new conditions, a lack of digital preparedness has hampered some. Siloed and legacy technologies that are, more often than not, slow-moving and high-cost, are an even greater liability now. And if you're working without solid protection against cyberattacks, you're at increased risk as cybercriminals are bound to exploit opportunities with your staff working beyond the firewall and in newly digitized operations.

Digital technologies will be critical as enterprises work to build a more flexible, resilient enterprise. Focusing on 3 main areas can guide an effective approach:

  1. Rethink your tech stack
    This is a good time to make hard decisions around expanding cloud infrastructure, replacing legacy technologies, and assessing new technologies, including 3D printing, contactless payments, and virtual and augmented reality.
  2. To support new commerce models, rebalance IT operations
    This will enhance the virtual customer experience, direct-to-customer delivery methods, and digital sales channels.
  3. As threats escalate, double down on cyber-security
    Ensure virtual infrastructure is secure, and data is backed up and safe. Review your mobile security and endpoint and revamp where needed. Take a closer look at how to better support the security of third parties such as customers, suppliers, and contractors.

At a time when agility is crucial, leaders need to know that better security measures don't have to mean a slow down to business. Through the development of a "zero trust" guiding strategy, which requires verification from all, built upon architecture, which allows for identity-centric integration and micro-segmentation, we are currently helping a corporation get the balance right. This provides a more flexible and effective defense against the present generation of security threats.

A small percentage of companies, less than 10%, emerged stronger than before after the 2008 recession. Balancing cost-cutting through divestments with studied investment, mainly in new technologies, was their winning strategy. Which part of the digital divide will you land on? The COVID-19 crisis is likely to see the same scenario play out on a wider scale. The digital divide is bound to widen, a divide that already exists between lagging and leading firms. Companies that accelerate digital transformation to fast-track recovery will come out of this on the winning side.

Businesses will have to fast-track their adoption of digital technologies with COVID-19 creating fundamental changes to how we live and work if they are to thrive or even survive. Accelerating the use of collaborative technologies, crisis-driven innovations, cloud-based ecosystems, cyber-security, and intelligent platforms can give you a competitive advantage and speed recovery in a post-pandemic world. Companies that don't invest in or innovate with the software will either go out of business from lack of revenue or be left behind. Culturally the way people interact with each other will change for the next decade. So, the companies that invest in software that embrace the social changes brought about by COVID will prosper for years to come.

We've already helped companies like Nova Telehealth early this year to re-imagine their tech stack and help build out a technology strategy. Reach out to our team to get personalized feedback on a solid technology strategy that could help you scale better.

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Nisha Gopinath Menon