How will you spend your COVID-19 bonus? No, not a fatter paycheck (sorry). I’m talking about the additional resources your CFO may be freeing up for new digital initiatives. A survey of U.S. executives by Duke’s Fuqua School of Business shows that due to pressures brought on by the COVID economy “nearly 2/3 of companies are shifting resources to create better digital interfaces and more engaging digital experiences.”
What was true pre-COVID is even more relevant today. Becoming digital is the best way to keep pace with changing market realities and customer expectations. If you’re charged with moving an organization toward digital maturity, your team may be seeing something of a windfall. Of course with great power comes great responsibility — so you’d better spend wisely.
Step one is to create a plan for digital investment. In turbulent times, it can be tempting to skip the planning. Some say it’s impractical, or even unnecessary. But as planning cycles shorten and companies pivot to address the unexpected, the fundamentals of strategy formulation still apply. Good strategy is grounded in insight and vision. Lousy strategy is often rife with speculation, misguided assumptions and shortcuts. Even amid today’s uncertainties, digital leaders can increase their chances of success with strategies that reflect the fundamental qualities of empathy, alignment and agility.
Start with Empathy
In this year of unprecedented everything, empathy is cropping up all over (the word at least, if not always the deed). Google Trends shows a marked rise in “empathy” searches, peaking recently at levels six times that of 2004. This collective yearning should be no surprise, of course, with COVID laying bare so many of our vulnerabilities.
At the same time, digital has never before offered the ability to address customer needs to the extent possible today. But becoming digital is not just about adopting the latest technology. It takes empathy. That means having the humility to recognize gaps in your understanding of customers’ needs (especially since those needs are changing rapidly). Conducting a mix of qualitative and quantitative research into user behavior is a great way to close such gaps. Then embedding those insights into detailed personas and journey maps to communicate them throughout your organization. Empathetic leaders go even farther, developing systems of insight to turn vast amounts of data into meaning. They develop analytics platforms that support learning at scale so they can drive the personalized experiences that lead to competitive advantage.
Align on Vision
Our strategists use Perficient’s CX IQ Customer Experience Assessment to evaluate clients’ customer experience strengths and weaknesses. CX IQ results tell us that, on average, an organization’s functional leaders agree on about 74% of the capability-related issues their firms are facing. Issues that can make or break customer experience success. A gap of 26% may not seem significant. But consider that such lack of alignment can mean the difference between offering a good customer experience and a truly great one.
To inspire alignment and improve the odds of success, we work with leadership teams to define a vision for digital. This typically involves developing multiple future scenarios and crafting coherent stories about what could be… What will we offer that no one else can? How might we personalize online experiences? How do we want customers to feel when we do? The vision becomes a touchstone for sizing up current capabilities, identifying gaps, establishing goals and dissolving the organizational silos that stand in the way of excellence.
Having sown the seeds of alignment, we co-create with our clients’ teams. We build upon customer insights, adding deep knowledge across an array of sectors, technologies and platforms to envision new ways to deliver experiences, differentiate them and grow. We also encourage teams to revisit the vision regularly and use it to evaluate initiatives as they progress from idea to implementation.
Become Agile, Stay Agile
Agility is about equipping your workforce with systems that balance stability and speed. When market conditions change, teams must be ready to respond. Agile teams have tools to help them iterate rapidly, test ideas to learn what works and scale them for implementation. They employ design thinking principles that enable them to think big and start small. They are supported by a culture that celebrates customer-led actions and rewards progress without fear of failure.
Agility also means activating leadership practices that recognize team member contributions at all levels. Traditional leader-follower models give way to a collaboration-based approach. Teams are guided by the agreed-upon vision and empowered to design and develop the best solution to achieve its goals.
Work the Plan
Though the upheavals of COVID-19 make the digital imperative both harder and more necessary, the need to rally your organization around a shared vision remains unchanged. It takes a plan that outlines how business objectives align with capabilities to deliver innovative experiences. A roadmap that’s based on the empathy, alignment and agility you need to survive.
Explore our Strategy and Consulting practice to learn how we’re partnering with clients to tackle the uncertainties of today and meet their most pressing digital challenges head on.