The digital future has come into sharp focus for many organizations over the last few months. Concepts that seemed to be nice or novel like ‘work from anywhere’ and ‘Digital Twins’ rapidly became necessities, and are now even becoming sources of advantage for those that rapidly embraced the digital future.
We are only at the onset of an evolutionary change that will bring about productivity increases as the digital future rapidly interleaves into the physical world.
We have been given a full scale demonstration of how the right digital platforms can optimize operations, increase responsiveness to customers, and even enable the reimagination of products in changing environments. We have seen how cloud-based digital platforms can rapidly shape P&Ls against revenue streams. We have seen how IT development platforms have evolved to allow for solutions to be shared, built upon, distributed, and deployed in hours and not months. And, we have seen how the privacy and security of digital solutions play a critical role in maintaining trust with customers.
India’s corporate world was jolted into the deployment of the basic infrastructure and connections needed to enable a scenario that landed so unexpectedly on the world. Almost overnight, homes had to be equipped with hardware, networks had to be set up, corporate IT assets had to be made available in every neighborhood. Speed was of the essence to maintain business continuity, and the response was typical of the commercial sector known for its responsiveness and execution capability.
But as the work began to scale on this rapidly constructed platform, its cracks and gaps began to appear as much as the benefits. The next order of business has become to bridge the seams and develop the rapidly assembled digital capabilities into a strong, differentiated business capability.
Shifting to a location-agnostic world
A great deal of learning and diligence and investment went into building the physical infrastructure for India’s corporate organizations over the last few decades. World-class campuses were built to enable employees to be productive and energized. Strong physical security controls were established to protect data and IP entrusted into the hands of the organizations by customers around the world. Spaces were set up to allow for effective management and coaching of employees, facilities were designed to enable the differently-abled, and even culture was nurtured carefully through the physical symbols and rituals in offices.
While this was done over many years, a significant part of the digital infrastructure for a world where talent could operate from anywhere and everywhere at global benchmark productivity levels has been cobbled together in just weeks.
The priority now is to bring the same amount of care and capability into the development of virtual digital platforms as was done for the physical world at the turn of the century.
The good news is that the technology needed for location-agnostic organizations has been evolving rapidly over the last few years and many organizations have already been working on concepts and testing digital platforms to help improve productivity through more efficient and secure collaboration. A large part of the employee base has become increasingly comfortable connecting and engaging the world digitally.
But, these efforts have been in pockets and not part of a holistic and integrated approach to fundamentally build a core platform that would support the new ways of working, the new products and services that would need to be delivered, the new structures of organizations that could include the best talent regardless of location, or the new competitive landscape that might evolve in the coming months.
Establishing a resilient digital platform
With the core business operations more stable now, business leaders can establish a clear view on what the digitally-powered version of an organization could be, assess gaps against that target state, and then rapidly build out missing capabilities. A holistic view of structure, process, culture and technology needs to be considered, but almost all areas would have to be enabled with the right technology.
This round of transformation won’t be isolated to new divisions or functions chasing a new trend, but will call for every part of the business to be equipped with the digital tools to support a world where physical engagement rapidly blends with the digital.
Integrated digital platforms that can connect employees and ecosystems, engage customers, manage operations, and drive product and service innovation will become as critical as corporate campuses and factories.
The establishment of such a platform, however, need not be a complex and long process. Many have the basics already in place but have not fully adopted the available capabilities (did organizations fully leverage the collaboration tools they already had just three months ago?). The remaining gaps can be assessed rapidly, and core suites of capabilities like productivity, business process management, security, and rapid application development can be deployed into an organization quickly and progressively to build out a strong platform for the emerging business context.
When the crisis happened, corporates moved fast to respond with urgent point solutions. Now is the time to maintain momentum and set up for the recovery and beyond through the creation of a resilient digital platform that can help organizations improve their economics and ability to innovate in the world ahead.
Meetul Patel is executive director, strategic growth, at Microsoft India. The views in this article are his own.