Building operationally resilient organizations
by Rajiv Goyal, Chief Strategy Advisor, Board Member, ThoughtFocus
With COVID-19, the world turned upside down. Consumer buying habits changed. Transformation became a priority. Three years later, with the pandemic in the rearview mirror, a land war in Europe reminds us that change, and disruption are constant.
The need for disruption-ready companies and products has never been more vital.
Weathering this crisis, the crisis after this one (and the one after that) means we must rethink how work gets done and secure consistent sources of talent when and where we need it.
Every company is a software company
More than three decades ago, Watts Humphrey, the father of quality in software and CMMI, said: “Every business is a software business.”
This wisdom was repeated later by Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft: “Every company is a software company. You have to start thinking and operating like a digital company. It’s no longer just about procuring one solution and deploying one. It’s not about one simple software solution. It’s really you yourself thinking of your own future as a digital company.”
Software manages your workflows, finances, reporting, and customer interactions. If you are in manufacturing, software controls your machines, supply, and distribution. Data is the lifeblood that creates value and fantastic customer experiences no matter the industry.
Rethink how work gets done with disruption-ready processes
Digitally transformed processes can deliver massive efficiency improvements. Yet, the COVID-19 pandemic revealed a giant weakness – we can develop highly efficient processes, but if we cannot move people into position, highly efficient processes will sit idle.
And, if we need to reorganize delivery teams and operations quickly, we need a process to ensure the work will continue.
Create operational continuity
Digital technologies that enable remote work and collaboration eliminate the need for noncritical employees to be on-site and allows work to shift to other geographies in the event of war, shutdowns, and natural disasters. Beyond essential technologies we are familiar with, like video conferencing and document sharing, advanced solutions like machine-vision algorithms for claims management document processing or wearable technologies help workers communicate with geographically distributed team members and colleagues. For example, a factory work onsite can share problems, collaborate, or simply transfer actional information to others within the organization no matter their location.
Collect digital data
Because manual data collection is error-prone, it pays to eliminate as much manual data entry as possible.
On the manufacturing side, digital solutions automate data collection by adding sensors to machines or connecting programmable logic controllers to collect needed data.
Digital data collection allows supervisors to process performance remotely and in real-time. When processes are connected and automated, supervisors can address problems, conduct performance-management meetings, adapt operations to changing customer requirements, re-organize quickly, improve productivity, and improve operational efficiency – as needed. Even better, these outcomes can be managed remotely, making your organization even more disruption ready.
Reimagine labor and think globally
Global talent pipelines disrupted by pandemics, war, or other geopolitical issues have forced employers to reconsider the nature and organization of labor.
Innovative executives will seek ways to reinvent the use of people, processes, and technology to achieve cost efficiency and process-driven improvements while destroying silos and delivering break-through customer experiences.
Onshore, offshore, or nearshore – location no longer matters.
Human-centric processes are augmented with intelligent automation to manage increased workloads without hiring additional staff. Modern technologies such as AI (Artificial Intelligence), RPA (Robotic Process Automation), and machine learning increase the efficiency of higher-level tasks. Higher-cost sources of talent are used for higher complexity tasks, whereas lower-cost sources of talent are used for more manual intensive tasks.
The acceleration of digitization has also accelerated the demand for advanced computing talent. Forty-five percent of organizations surveyed for IBM’s 2019 report, The Enterprise Guide to Closing the Skills Gap, stated they could not find their needed skills. For large companies, the percentage is even higher—67 percent. A lack of applicants and the lack of necessary experience were significant factors contributing to the shortage.
In addition to accelerating demand for technology talent, current US (United States) immigration policies severely affect the number of international professionals the United States can employ. For IT professionals, securing H-1B visas has long been a dependable strategy for hiring technical talent. Still, this option is becoming less feasible, which reduces the available talent pool and creates further competition for available talent.
Organizations seeking to utilize AI, RPA, cloud computing, and other advanced technologies will need to tap into pools of technology talent wherever the talent is located. Much of this talent will be accessible by relationships with the right offshore technology partners.
Consistent sources of talent and expertise
No matter how we look at the portfolio of skills modern organizations need, the assortment of required expertise looks remarkably different than it did in past eras. The rapidly evolving nature of emerging technology demands a constant infusion of new skills and expertise.
After thoroughly considering the range of necessary skills, most will be well-served to employ an assortment of personnel resources, including a diverse combination of employees, consultants, and strategic development partners. The digital landscape simply changes too quickly to maintain all the skills needed in-house.
While we cannot know the future, we know it will be volatile. The ability to pivot quickly based on changing market conditions and new insights provides the flexibility to manage escalating volatility. Digitally enabled organizations allow rapid change to dynamic market conditions.
Create the right conditions for the primordial soup of innovation
While digital transformation was already underway before COVID, there was subtle resistance to “digital first” as many executives wanted a restrained, low-risk approach to transformation.
The pandemic changed that. New market realities forced out of the box thinking. Many were surprised to find that a digital-first mindset worked – and worked better!
What a difference a few years makes. Continuous and rapid innovation is the new mandate of the C-suite. Leaders are now challenged to assemble the right ingredients for the “primordial soup” that allows innovation to breathe new life in organizations, including:
- Diversity: People from diverse backgrounds bring diverse ideas.
- Agility: Adopt Agile as a business practice. Hierarchical structures and long planning cycles do not work in the modern world. The market is changing rapidly, and every organization needs to adapt fast. Agile needs to be your culture.
- Scale talent globally: Cost, scarcity of workforce, globalization, specialization, business continuity there are numerous factors that suggest that you need to adapt to changing work structure and hire talent where you can find it.
- Retire technical debt aggressively: Technical debt tires your most effective resources by having them waste energy maintaining systems and processes that could be much more efficient. Free your most effective resources to focus on the core differentiators of the business.
- Focus on the core (not the chore): Outsource everything that is not your secret sauce. This includes everything from mundane business operations to moving your infrastructure to the cloud. Focus your operations and technology on building value for customers and protecting the complex core of your business.
- Automate at every level: Automation is not just about reducing cost. It creates possibilities to scale and increases your velocity – which have a much larger impact on revenue.
- Partners: One of the most important aspects of your business is finding and working with vendor partners that drive innovation and understand your digital-first mindset.
It takes focus to innovate. Challenging business models, confronting organizational inertia, and questioning assumptions – all these things take courage which you must have if you are to drive change at meaningful levels. Leadership must fan the flames and keep teams energized and excited.
DO NOT WAIT FOR THE RETURN OF NORMAL. IT IS NOT COMING BACK.
Companies that decide to wait for the market to return to “normal”—whatever that means—will be left behind and – likely – will not be competitive.
The capabilities and technology exist to fuel your transformation. The talent is available too, you just need to know where to look.
If growth and scale are your priority, pick a partner with the right skills and the mindset to deliver your desired outcomes in the best, most efficient manner possible.
However, before you select a partner, understand the risks. Traditionally, most outsourcing vendors make money by increasing headcount. The opposite should be true. Seek partners that value efficiency and outcomes over headcount. To deliver transformation, you need a vendor willing to take risks and use all their knowledge and experience to accelerate your growth – without adding more full-time employees (in fact, by eliminating them).
Leaders seeking true change must improve internal efficiencies to free up time for employees to focus on innovation. Competitive advantage shifts rapidly. Core capabilities that make you competitive today may disappear tomorrow. Unimagined new market entrants seem to appear out of nowhere. Disruption creates rapid changes in customer behavior.
Critical employees must focus on understanding these shifts and the opportunities they present. This is the nature of revolutions and the nature of giant leaps in progress. It is not graceful or comfortable, but with the right technologies, processes, and technology talent leading the way, disruption readiness is possible.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rajiv Goyal, Chief Strategy Advisor, Board Member, ThoughtFocus
As Co-founder and Executive Vice President, Rajiv drives the company’s strategic direction in his role as Chief Strategy Officer. He also heads the Financial Services division comprising of Capital Markets, Mortgage & Lending and Payments. He is a trusted advisor to clients. With a deep understanding of business challenges, Rajiv has been a driving force behind client transformation journeys for companies such as Blackstone, CIFC, Bayview, NCR, Paysafe, and CreditPlus. With over 30 years of industry experience, Rajiv’s strategic guidance and hands-on expertise have been instrumental to building key relationships, including the company’s partnership with Blackstone and its strategic investment in ThoughtFocus in 2013.
Prior to ThoughtFocus, Rajiv had co-founded another global technology company, CIL Inc., which he helped take public in 1999. Before starting on his entrepreneurial journey, Rajiv held leadership roles at firms such as GTE, Security First Technologies (S1), and the Philadelphia Stock Exchange. Rajiv also holds the rare honor of architecting the world’s first internet banking solution at S1.
Rajiv is based in the New York metro area.
ThoughtFocus helps forward-looking companies innovate and achieve a better future faster. ThoughtFocus’ innovative and cutting-edge technology solutions enable its customers to deploy new capabilities faster, deliver better user experiences, and drive operating efficiencies. We do this through executional excellence and mitigating the risk of change. With headquarters in the U.S., the Company has more than 2,100 employees in locations spread across 5 countries.
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