View source: Nagendra Bandaru

2021 is the year of hope. With the first quarter behind us, the global economy is already looking up. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), which had projected a growth rate of 5.5% in January, is now suggesting that stronger recovery is on the horizon. This can be attributed to the combined effect of an aggressive vaccine rollout and the additional fiscal stimulus announced by various governments, most significantly by the U.S.

The journey out of despair triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic has been an arduous one, but it hasn’t been without critical learnings. It has emphasized the need to abandon incrementalism and to embrace digital uncompromisingly. Someday, when the present spills into history books, it will most definitely recount stories of human ingenuity, inventiveness and incredible fortitude in the face of unprecedented adversity.

For now, the key task before business leaders is to consolidate their core pillars of finance, risk, strategy, operations and people while driving their business toward a more resilient future. The impact on cash flows is forcing organizations to fight back by lowering their fixed costs. The disruptions to factories, transport, logistics and distributions have underscored the need for more resilient supply chains, even if it means sacrificing short-term profitability. That, coupled with the extraordinary dependence on remote and distributed workforces, is driving a paradigm shift in how resources — whether human or otherwise — are deployed in the design and working of the future of the enterprise.

Four Pillars Of Resilience

While the pandemic upended business and life, it also shed light on what enterprises can do better. It catalyzed new business models. Grocery stores began to offer curbside pickups, imaging specialists began making point-of-care ultrasound scanners and restaurants offered meal kits that allowed customers to prepare meals that were similar to the meals they had while dining in. In short, the world turned a new leaf. However, it became evident that the difference between enterprises that survive and the ones that thrive was going to be the ability to adopt four important pillars of business transformation — people, preparedness, proactivity and pivoting.

  1. People: Adapting to new ways of working. Stay-at-home orders and social distancing norms forced organizations to adopt the “work from anywhere” (WFx) model. A 2013 Stanford study found that WFx can boost productivity levels by as much as 20%. Virtual and remote working are here to stay.

The new ways of working are introducing new challenges around employee health, wellness and even organizational aspects of culture and social interactions. The drastic change in routines combined with a sense of isolation and a lack of physical activity can be a recipe for mental health difficulties in employees. Enterprises need to address this, combining purpose with profit.

There is also a positive side to the remote working model, such as the prospect of improving talent diversity and inclusivity, as recruitment is no longer limited by the location and proximity of talent. The model enables access to the unlimited and vast potential that the global talent pool now presents. The key to a WFx program will be one that enables attracting, developing and retaining the talent base, thereby securing its future.

  1. Preparedness: The road to recovery will be paved with digital transformation. Companies that operated from physical servers and office environments were instantly at a disadvantage during stay-at-home orders. However, those with a dynamic business operations environment displayed tremendous resilience. The increasing demand for a dynamic digital business operation is, therefore, natural.

However, enterprises that concurrently invest in a scalable infrastructure — coupled with business process transformation through automation, data sciences, analytics and AI capabilities — are the ones that should emerge as true winners. They should be able to withstand sudden and unpredictable disruptions. The next logical step for them will be to improve security and governance around their digital processes to reduce risk from rising cyberattacks. This is because tomorrow’s world will compete for user trust — and data privacy/security will play a major role here.

  1. Proactivity: Staying one step ahead of the customer. The value of better — and timely — intelligence cannot be emphasized enough. Today’s markets are no longer static but are dynamic and ever-changing. Enterprises that are able to sit on the “edge” of this change and be intelligent are the ones that should be able to shape demand rather than follow it.

Technologies like IoT, 5G, edge and AIOps are moving toward a world of changing ecosystems and convergence. Enterprises will need to build the ability to use real-time analytics for fast and confident decision-making. At the intersection of these technologies is the holy grail of business: a better understanding of customers, stakeholders and market needs. This can allow enterprises to decode customer journeys from their data and create unmatched user experiences.

The impact of real-time intelligence on enterprise functions will be dramatic. From the practice of CI/CD to the idea of business SLAs, from inventory management to an understanding of user behavior, everything will undergo several magnitudes of improvement, putting enterprises one step ahead of their customers.

  1. Pivoting: To boldly go and explore unchartered territories. We are at a moment in history that demands a rethinking of the enterprise. Fortunately, the technologies to deliver the enterprise of the future exist. Users, especially Millennials and Centennials, are keen to embrace businesses that make intelligent use of technology to deliver convenience and unparalleled experience.

Enterprises’ strategies need to create markets and opportunities rather than just compete. In the past, doing this was fraught with danger. Today’s enterprises don’t need large budgets to invest in technology. What they need are partners who have tools, IPs, platforms and investments in industry-specific innovation studios, startups and crowdsourcing capabilities. These can be used for quick, low-cost and risk-free product and service innovation.

The future has never been more accessible. All it takes is ingenuity and imaginationand technology, which is the building block for the enterprise of tomorrow.