Emerging from COVID
If you haven’t kept up on your digital transformation plan since COVID darkened our days, you’ve probably fallen behind in the marketplace—and more importantly—your customers’ expectations. (Without a doubt, the pandemic definitely accelerated those expectations). Many of your competitors have likely seen in COVID an opportunity to put you out of business. They’ve been busy updating their organizations and investing in new technology because that’s what winners do.
The Yellow Flag of COVID
If you’ve ever watched the Daytona 500, you’ve seen at least one of those massive multi-car pileups during a race. A long line of generally well-behaved cars suddenly becomes a tortured mass of bent metal, torn quarter panels, sparks and flame.
I’ve attended the Daytona 500 in person and these accidents create sudden and total carnage—just like COVID. Everything suddenly slides, rolls or slows as engine roars give way to silence. Metal shards rain down, drivers exit their cars with a wave to indicate they’re unhurt, fires are extinguished. Officials then notify uninvolved cars of a temporary halt to racing by waving yellow caution flags.
What happens post-crash at Daytona is essentially what happened to our world in March and April of 2020 when cancellations of sports and public events, and regional lockdowns began.
Accident and Opportunity
It may sound odd, but every Daytona crash is both an accident and an opportunity. Pit crews, spotters and drivers use yellow flag (slow down and do not pass) and red flag (stop on the track) cautions as a competitive advantage. Assessment and strategy begins as soon as the flag is waved:
- How has the crash affected the team’s chances of winning?
- Is the driver ok?
- Is the car damaged?
- What’s happened to other cars?
- What race elements have changed, and how will they affect our ability to win?
Once gathered, will the answers change the race strategy? How quickly will the team leaders and driver be able to implement the new one? As surviving cars prepare for a restart, teams must balance knowns and unknowns as they settle on a revised strategy to maximize any chance of a high placing.
Reemergence = Renewal
See any parallels with our present situation as business and society emerge from COVID?
The restrictive lockdowns, social restrictions and economic choices of governments of 2020 and earlier this year won’t be repeated due to many reasons including costs. Society is reopening regardless of the Delta Variant. How has your company prepared for a world in which so many areas of society have changed?
The pandemic brought a long halt to old habits and enforced change in so many areas of society. Some areas will return to their previous version but many others, like personal fitness, will likely not. A lot of people discovered in the last 16 months that the benefits of investing in a garage gym exceeded their previous habit of driving to a gym. The way we consume media has changed, too, with streaming becoming common. Millions had to become much more comfortable with and accepting of online banking and financial services delivered through apps. They’ve adapted.
Companies discovered that the pandemic was an opportunity to accelerate their digitization plans, both from necessity as well as opportunity. A McKinsey survey of approx 900 executives published last fall highlighted how COVID had forced large companies to change much faster than planned. Half-hearted plans to enable remote working were suddenly championed and funded because work-from-home mandates forced the issue.
As the constricting effects of COVID have lingered on the economy and society, the past year has shown that humans are much more amenable to change than they would themselves likely admit. They’re more willing to live through their screens and use their phones and laptops for far more applications than gaming, online shopping, web browsing and email.
If your organization has been one that spent the past 15 months somewhat paralyzed due to uncertainty caused by our pandemic, the digital transformation window remains open. The people you need to more easily locate online, communicate better with, service or sell to will now likely be more accepting of and comfortable with any behavioral change your newly deployed digital projects may require of them.
The Wisdom of Buccaneers
This window won’t remain open indefinitely. As the Pirates Code specifies, “Those who fall behind are left behind.” What’s critical is that your company, despite potential ambiguity, decides sooner than later how to use digital to improve areas it has identified for improvement, and then invests in that priority list. Failure to do this will leave you further behind competitors who’ve correctly identified that the shifting ground beneath our feet due to COVID is also a firm foundation on which to expand digitally-driven capabilities.
If you haven’t been actively planning an expansion of your digital capabilities, you’re not unlike a race team that, having dawdled during a yellow, isn’t ready to start racing again the second the green flag drops.
If you need to accelerate your digital roadmap but don’t know how, EX Squared can help.