What just happened? And what does it mean? Comment

If, like me, you have read a plethora of economic discussion papers about the impact of the pandemic, fiscal interventions and the crisis in the financial markets, you’ll be ready for what to do next.

The pandemic has created a momentum and willingness to work remotely, says Bayne. Picture: Monkeybusinessimages/Getty Images/iStockphoto.

This is the moment to find answers to the question “are you going to reopen or reinvent?” Just a few weeks ago, the focus was on business continuity and shifting operations to virtual ways of working. Now, organisations are under huge pressure to bring cash back into the economy and to emerge back stronger.

Embracing this momentum of change is the fundamental role of us as leaders, but the window to do so is remarkably short and innovation, essential to prevent a return to old ways, has to skip a stage and move straight into “doing” mode.

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Time to start thinking about the ‘never normal’ - comment
Les Bayne is the joint MD of Accenture Scotland. Picture: contributed.

Whatever path you take, the first challenge to tackle is changing customer expectations. Consumers are growing less patient with the “Covid” excuse and quickly deciding where they spend, which has many implications for the marketing, sales and services offered by any organisation.

Faced with their own economic pressures, people want more value at the same time that companies are faced with enormous operating issues. Making life easier for customers and enabling frictionless transactions is going to be a powerful differentiator in this highly competitive brave new world.

The shift to digital must also be embraced. Enforced isolation has made most people far more familiar and comfortable with screen time, and the use of multiple digital platforms is here to stay.

Contactless payments during the pandemic have risen 51 per cent, with 83 per cent of these consumers expecting to sustain the increased level of usage post-Covid. In-app ordering of goods and services has gone up 47 per cent over recent weeks with 79 per cent saying they will continue to do the same once we’re through the crisis.

Importance of digital

The figures are similar for home deliveries and many other online shopping and entertainment services, making enriched digital experience and capabilities fundamental to support this increased demand.

The third significant trend is the change in the ways we work and how we think about work. On the one hand, the pandemic has created a momentum and willingness to work remotely, with 30 per cent in our recent customer survey planning to increase doing so.

Rightly, there is focus on creating safe virtual working capabilities. On the other hand, however, is anyone looking at how job roles have changed? How we define work for a new generation of recruits needs reinvention too.

Finally, if we accept that the client or customer has changed, this is an opportunity for innovation. Customers have new buying habits, and a rejuvenated set of values. The creation of new or highly differentiated services has become a necessity to deliver what people want; just as a business must innovate to become more agile and responsive to deliver against those new customer needs better, faster and more cost-effectively.

When we come to reimagining the future of our businesses, a linear approach does not cut it in an uncertain world. We need action and a degree of bravery to experiment, be prepared to fail, adapt and keep moving forward.

The pragmatic approach is to get to the “doing” early; this is not going back to square one but innovating from square two (where we are today). Innovation is most effective when it is a doing not a talking sport. Scotland is no stranger to firms with adaptive, agile and ultimately resilient strategies. I feel we could all “be more BrewDog” and take heart from The Scottish Tech Army.

I’m convinced we all have examples of how we have changed things fast and effectively when we really had to. So, don’t wait for the next boardroom “awayday” in September: act now. Live the company values and embrace the change; experiment, learn and adapt. Think about how you want to “show up” and do it deliberately. Leadership with innovation will forge the path ahead and towards economic recovery.

Les Bayne is the joint MD of Accenture Scotland

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