COVID-19 driving the pace of innovation.

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As we move, in pockets, towards a return to normal, those businesses that can keep this pace of change going will, I feel, create a sustainable competitive advantage because of it. Businesses that examine the lessons that COVID-19 has taught and take the best learning from the imposed experience can deliver incremental value in future transformation projects. The crisis has seen many casualties, it has forced every business to be more nimble, flexible and digital or frankly die, faced with the stark alternative traditional obstacles have been forcefully cast aside. The implication for innovation is equally radical, when you consider many businesses delivered projects in a matter of days that would have previously taken months if not years. If that pace can continue COVID-19 might be the genesis of an accelerated rate of innovation.

During this crisis business have taken radically differing approaches, some are fighting for survival,
others maintaining and holding wait see pattern and some are flourishing as demand for their services increases as result of the crisis. However, the brave are taking advantage of the situation, they are investing in projects that deliver in the long term. This is not limited to high-tech business, brave owners include for example retail businesses using downtime to refurbish or upgrade facilities while customers are absent.

“Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” The implied corollary here is one of investing in uncertain times.

Warren Buffett
Warren Buffet
Warren Buffet

Brave businesses then are characterised by those who:

Invest in innovation and use this time to upgrade core infrastructure to emerge in the strongest possible position.

Boldly following through on M&A activity and capital projects. Then executing these projects at pace in this time of global uncertainty, whilst mindful of the necessity for cultural and behavioural integration which has become fluid during this crisis.

Devoting time to data and customer centric perspectives. More than ever data provides the fuel to power better faster decisions, being able to visualise, translate and gain insights from data has never been more strategic. For organisations to gain competitive advantage, data compiled from across the organisation and its interpretation are key. Interpretation might be supported by machine learning, or artificial intelligence, or advantage might be as simple as speed and contextualisation. Unless businesses have deployed data warehouses reporting from systems typically serves system centric purpose and does not provide a customer centric view. Today cloud based analytics tools and machine learning platforms provide a range of solutions that can unlock competitive insights in client data as well as delivering customer centric views enabling a differentiated service culture. Being “customer centric” is a well established model, but many mature business struggle with competing pressures and often side line these initiatives because its value is misunderstood. Companies that sustain a comprehensive focus on the customer should be able to generate economic gains well in excess of the cost of these projects in addition to the operational and technology improvements.