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Business transformation in a time of great change.
Whatever way you cut it, 2020 is a time of great change.
Change can be scary, particularly when it’s happening to you and not being led by you. So how do you adapt? How do you flex? How do you help turn the juggernaut that is your organisation so that it can thrive and grow and achieve all those aims and objectives that you kicked off back in January?
Well, the first question is, are the plans still even relevant? Do the strategy and road map from the start of the year still hold merit? No doubt you made the ‘survival instinct’ alterations pretty quick just to navigate the summer but now we are back into medium-term thinking. Do your 2021 plans need to pivot a few degrees more as news unfolds or better still be ripped up and started from scratch?
If your business is like ours, then it’s probably a combination of the two. If your plan, like many businesses, included a focus on digital transformation, creating a customer-centric business model and the better adoption of data, analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to improve efficiencies, then there’s a very good chance 2020 has done nothing more than to cement and accelerate this strategy.
2020 has also raised new questions around Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity and has really shown how great people are both hard to find and also hugely important for the success of any business. Gartner, in its ‘Smarter with Gartner’ content outlines that skills and good people are the key to business resilience and suggests that businesses should now be hiring against skills and not profiles and that trust is key in this new remote world.
According to just about every report on the internet today, digital transformation still dominates any conversation about business transformation and it’s not surprising really.
According to a report from the Harvard Business School in September 2019, coming into 2020 the top net growth businesses in the US (based on the Fortune 500) were Netflix, Adobe, Amazon, Tencent and Microsoft - all of whom describe themselves as technology businesses - even Amazon who claim that and I’m paraphrasing slightly, they’re a ‘tech business that sells things’. With these businesses at the top of the pile, and having been there for some time, they have quickly become the blueprint for using technology to enable business transformation across all functions of your organisation.
Digital transformation continues to pervade in the area of Customer Experience. Again, studies throughout 2020 have shown that the majority of businesses have seen ‘stronger adoption’ of digital channels by their customers (consultancy, 31st July) and this is not surprising really. The trend coming into 2020 saw greater adoption of mobile, digital commerce regularly breaking sales records and 2020 only fuelled this fire as nearly 40% of the workforce working from home throughout the summer (figures based on the UK as reported in The Guardian, 1st Oct 2020 ).
All of this shows that consumers, who were already shifting to digital over all other channels, were corralled online in 2020. As the Covid situation acted as a catalyst for this shift, and not the cause of it, we predict that this is likely to remain the case from this point forward.
Consequently, the argument that businesses should be digitally enabling their customers more has never been so strong and for most businesses, this is very much the key objective within their business transformation framework.
With the shift to the digitally connected customer and remote working comes the challenge of ‘always on’. Your e-commerce shop has no opening and closing hours. The internet does not follow geographical boundaries (well, in most instances) and so you are now open for business 24/7 everywhere in the world and this is the case for everyone from the local shops, who may have been forced to launch on Shopify during the pandemic, to the global behemoths of Walmart and Amazon who already had digital-first customer experience and corporate strategies.
The new customer battlefield is therefore digital and there is a new pressure to remain competitive and create competitive advantage, through innovation, content and e-commerce.
So how do you constantly innovate and create competitive advantage in the new digital-first marketplace?
Firstly, you need to be open-minded as to how your business will evolve in a speeded-up digital-first marketplace. You need to look at how you can build a competitive advantage in light of a new global operation and be prepared to embrace new ways of doing business and a new operating model.
Secondly, you need to look at your current operating model and find all the opportunities where you can streamline and drive efficiencies. Look at your macro processes and find the points where you can use AI and digital to give your team greater bandwidth to use the many and varied skills that they bring to the table. In addition, you need to be prepared to break up existing ways of doing things in order to find the micro-innovation opportunities within your business functions.
Also, you need to adopt an agile test and learn culture. No one knows how 2021 will play out and whether anything that has come before will come to pass again. Consequently, you need to be agile in your decision making and adoption process, and you need to enter a new mindset of test and learn, including adopting the now old mantra of failing fast. Failure is never a problem where it’s a known possibility and there is a plan to deal with it, should it happen, and given the uncertainty we now have in the market, this is a mindset we all now need to have.
In addition to how you need to change as a business, you will also need to look at how you partner more with other businesses, including your suppliers and customers. Your historic model of using lots of small suppliers to perform discrete functions may no longer be appropriate if you need to improve the speed with which information and direction move between them. Similarly, reliance on your big partners may no longer be appropriate in a market where you need to adopt new techniques, processes or disciplines in a short space of time.
What is clear is that in a digital-first world, you will need to build a stable team of digital engineers, solution architects, designers and customer experience experts who can deliver the customer experience you need, can assess and improve your internal processes where necessary and keep you on the forefront of your new digital marketplace.
As a consequence, your new partners will not provide projects, as we think of them today, but will provide always-on experts who can turn their attention to any task, who stay with you and so have knowledge of your business and your customer and who give you consistency, expertise and the ability to deliver competitive advantage. Your new partners will be agile in their approach, will have a test and learn mentality and will be able to react to your changing business needs and push you to stay at the forefront of your marketplace.
As an agency, we have already adopted this approach, working with the majority of our clients on a ‘team augmentation’ basis. This new way of partnering with our clients has allowed us to deliver on the often stated ‘we’re an extension of your team’ to become a real deeply ingrained part of their business, providing niche expertise to solve new business challenges in an ever-increasingly digital world. We’ve been able to cut back on admin time, remove the barriers of project costing and fixing scope and invest this time into greater collaboration, product creation and driving competitive advantage, truly transforming our client’s businesses for whatever the future has in store!