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Agilence for corporations: defend, digitalize and disrupt (Part 4)

“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at, when we created them” - Albert Einstein

picture of a transforming pupa to a butterfly with the words digitalize, defend, disrupt at each of the three stages

In our series on Agilence — a higher order life-skill that will help every system and person adapt to the new (post-pandemic) reality, we’ve discussed the dramatic changes we are going through and its impact on citizens and countries. This article expands that discussion to the corporation.

Our discussion around Agilence for the citizen explored certain elements such as personal development and professional life that have obvious implications for the corporation. In addition, aspects like love and relationships, lifestyle and social life, are seemingly personal factors that can affect companies. 

The customer

Infrastructure and resources: People have been leaving cities in droves to be with their extended families. This has caused smaller towns to see a boom in internet connectivity, online delivery (also boosted by limits on physical interactions) and a faster melding of the proverbial village and city life. 

This mass exodus is also gradually ensuring an even distribution of the working and non-working population across the world – which could ‘adequately distribute the fruits of economic growth.’

Another interesting fact, the rise in couples sharing household responsibilities has changed buying habits, to include a greater adoption of digital home care; cleaning equipment or dryers. Another indicator of ‘habit-changes’ is the surge in OTT subscriptions – evidence of how citizens are choosing to relax in the new normal.

A key takeaway: Corporations have the opportunity to address unconventional markets (outside conventional cities), backed by a thoughtful reimagination of their customer segmentation and communication strategies. 

Ubiquitous digital tech: As we move through the adapt and sustain phases of the pandemic, more sectors will accept digital technologies. In fact, healthcare’s adoption of emerging tech empowers citizens to take charge of their health. 

From obtaining digitized longitudinal health records for themselves as enshrined in the NDHM blueprint to utilizing data from wearable devices for a wellness oriented society, digitalization will bring rapid disruption to the healthcare fields.

Increasingly, we expect corporations to cater to a new breed of customers who will embrace tech like AR and VR for a myriad of experiences. These could include a ‘sit-in go-out’ experience of visiting museums or art and sporting events.

Additionally, exciting developments around 3D printing and 5G adoption are giving corporations an opportunity to provide enhanced services from a distance. 

A key takeaway: Industries will have to abide by an important tenet of Agilence – quickly responding to customer expectations and staying relevant to their inherent aspirations.

The employee

Let’s return to the first two elements of Agilence - personal development and professional life within the context of citizens, and explore their impact on corporations. 

Organizations have ensured employees feel safe during these uncertain times. They have identified ways to make remote working feasible for as many employees as possible. 

Today, leaders are challenging the mindset of ‘out of sight means low on productivity.’ And, many are swiftly embracing the cultural changes that come with employees being productive while working from home.

This opens huge opportunities for employees everywhere, who can now apply for high-impact jobs. Subsequently, neither are organizations limited to talent based on geography. 

But, the change is not consistently all good. This Mckinsey survey shows the pandemic has accelerated digitalization and automation at the workplace, bringing in significant implications that are affecting some job prospects adversely. Left unchecked, this will exacerbate inequality even further.

A key takeaway: Corporations have to ensure a fine balance between being resilient and supporting their employees – yet being agile and automating activities to continue operations in the absence of employees. At a global scale, the acceleration and adoption of automation as a theme will prevail.

The industry

Platform ecosystems: As consumers adopt digital mediums for their purchase and consumption, small and medium enterprises may suffer from not having the financial resources to build much needed digital platforms. 

We believe this will open the market up for platforms that could act as a bridge between customers and their ‘nearby’ enterprises. For instance, a platform that helps multiple small manufacturers collaborate and service one large order.

This could lead to disruptions in the healthcare industry where Governments and corporations look for evolved protocols that would allow drugs and vaccines to enter a market much faster than current mandatory periods.

COVID-19 has become an accelerator for policy agility. Corporates would benefit from this momentum to advocate for more policy changes – easing the introduction of new technologies.

Business continuity (pivot) plans: In a previous article on national resilience, we delved into how governments could create an inventory of manufacturers who can quickly ‘retool’ at short notice to build essential items. 

We saw this amongst automobile manufacturers who made ventilators, and perfumeries who made sanitizers. The latest example is steel manufacturers shipping medical grade oxygen to hospitals in India. 

Going forward, countries should smartly codify such ‘backup plans’ and be more deliberate when crisis strikes.

A key takeaway: A platform ecosystem will help connect smaller players and also enable larger players who in preparation for crisis times, might need to make a much needed pivot. Additionally, corporations could benefit from conducting retooling drills, like we have fire drills today, and actively align with governments as part of their resilience programs.

Agility of corporations

Given the disruption and rapid change that the pandemic has brought about, corporations have to do both – overcome unique challenges and ensure continued relevance. This requires repositioning themselves. Here are three key points to consider when doing so:
  • Corporations must DEFEND their existing line and organically reposition based on existing capabilities – all, without putting undue pressure on their prevailing strategic plans
  • Corporations should DIGITALIZE and align themselves with either a short-term or long-term ‘drift’ created by the pandemic – such as remote work, supply chain innovations or tech-led last mile connectivity 
  • Corporations must DISRUPT their present stance and stay market-relevant eventually leading to profitability in a sustainable manner
As organizations come out of the pandemic, they will have gone through a transformation at multiple levels. This transformation has and will continue to be largely technology centered and impact everything from culture to leadership to employees to customer relationships to partners and more.

Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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