Assumptions – Making an Ass out of you and your BCP

Eloisa Tovee 6th April 2021

It’s been 372 days and counting.

That’s over one year of travel bans, lockdowns and the closure of shops and entertainment. Well, they did let us keep Netflix so there was that.

Over this time, companies attempted to counteract the situation with new service solutions that secured business, even if just at the minimum level. The majority that continued to operate during the pandemic adapted their business and operating models – such as the digitalisation of sales and customer services – whilst others moved into entirely new remits – take grounded airlines turning into pop-up restaurants.

Navigating the unknown

Not only did businesses have the challenge of executing ingenious technology solutions in a matter of days, they were expected to navigate the complete unknown. One of these unknowns was the how long the pandemic was going to last. This meant that tactical solutions which were only intended to serve as a stopgap were stretched, scaled at ludicrous prices or had new functionality tacked on to the end.

When your solution has the flexibility to interchange features in line with changing business and consumer needs, this approach to business continuity planning can work. This is because when you pair principles of agile with long-term strategic thinking, you are giving your business the ability to thrive and not just survive. Business modularity is a strategic strength. It is also a good case for open-source technologies and how some are being enforced by industry regulators e.g. open banking.

If you need more convincing on modularity, look no further than Trigger’s broom.

When you rely solely on building tactical solutions one on top of the other, you put your business in a position capable only of rolling with the punches. The challenge is, you have a potentially viable solution for the short term – when urgent action is required – but it falls short when you want to transition from disrupted to disruptor.

Another unknown was changes in consumer behaviour:

According to Statista (2020), 13 percent of people who normally buy medicine offline shopped online for their medicine instead.

PwC noted a 35 percent increase in buying groceries online / by the phone and a 59 percent increase in the use of video chat apps since the outbreak began a year ago.

Exercise equipment sales spiked, with exercise bikes sales in the United Kingdom growing by over 2,000 percent (Statista).

Sales of SPF and cosmetics both took a hit, with the beauty market taking a fall of 13-14 percent in the first half of 2020 (L’Oréal).

Commuting rates also stooped to an all-time low, with 57 percent of respondents perceiving access to a car as more vital than ever before the pandemic (RAC).

Londoners are flocking to the countryside, leaving the once buzzing capital empty. This shift could see London’s population fall for the first time in more than 30 years (PwC) – but how sustainable is this trend?

And last but not least are the huge leaps towards 100 percent remote working “forever”. Since the likes of Twitter, Upwork and Shopify announced permanent “remote-first” models, an assumption has crept in that all organisations adopting a digital-first approach must move to 100 percent remote workforces too. The assumption being that a distributed workforce is the best thing for the business, and the individual.

I know parents of toddlers, single professionals and social butterflies that would strongly dispute this last point…

Validate your assumptions

There has been much talk on data-driven approaches to business strategy – and here at ECS we are strong advocates for this approach to design, strategy and customer experience solutions. The problem is, when you take data at face value, you risk making an assumption. An assumption that could lead you down the garden path for six months before posting you an excessive bill for the privilege of the adventure and your return journey to ground zero.

Take the above trends.

It could be argued that mascaras out, swinging overpriced kettlebells to zoom classes is the new gym session and nobody wants to work in an office with their colleagues anymore.

I would argue that some of these behavioural changes are not changes at all, but rather a short-lived reaction to guidelines imposed on a society.

The UK retail industry may have experienced a 74 percent year-on-year growth on online retail sales (IMRG Capgemini), but when consumers are given orders not to head to their local high-street, where else are they to shop?

If you’d rather continue supporting local businesses or eco-minded brands, surely we’d expect to see uplifts in traffic on your local butchers’ DIY ecommerce site rather than in person traffic at your closest superstore.

If you’ve been told to isolate, where can you shop other than online?

Whilst I believe COVID removed lingering doubts about the necessity of digital transformation and its correlation to business longevity, I believe it introduced a misconception that any transformation was good transformation. It also introduced the idea that once your business had transformed to accommodate ways of working and changes in consumer behaviour that arose during the last year, it was safe to sit back because you’d ‘caught up’ with current consumer and colleague needs.

To be clear, businesses that developed propositions that responded to these alleged changes in consumer behaviour did the right thing. Yet, transforming for one moment in time can greatly impeded business continuity plans. This is because it removes agility, presents data at face value which future business decisions might be based on and can see solutions implemented without the flexibility to scale or evolve.

It’s important to analysis and synthesis data to understand the context, drawing out insights rather than taking the raw data points and establishing strategy on what they show you. In other words, avoid making assumptions or validate the assumptions you and the industry make, and your consumers evoke.

Closing thoughts

Finding the right answers to the right questions is essential to building a sustainable business model. With that in mind, I will finish this blog by leaving you with some questions to ask at your next strategy meeting:

  • Which trends are changing consumer behaviour for the long term, and which ones are simply a temporary shift?
  • Is your current solution capable of servicing the omni-customer? If not, where does it fall short?
  • Does your CX solution factor in your agents’ experience as much as your customers’?
  • Have you considered investing in UX and UI capabilities so you can begin to look beyond the digital footprint – which is often only half the picture?
  • If you’re still operating from an on-prem infrastructure, what’s stopping you from migrating to the cloud?
  • What have you learnt from the impact of COVID? How does your supply chain need to adapt for the new normal and potential resurgence of COVID?
  • What new partnerships and alliances do you need to seek and build for the new normal? What does that mean for your existing relationships?
  • What is your resumption strategy for reengaging and reenergising the workforce and the desired culture?

 

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More about the author:

Eloisa Tovee is the Content and Marketing Manager at ECS, overseeing content strategy, GTM campaigns and the promotion of thought leadership at ECS. When Eloisa is not sketching scamps or scribbling new content ideas, you can find her on LinkedIn here, or every Friday on YouTube for the Friday Tech Round Up.

 

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