Like so many things, it can be too easy to put stuff off for another day. Every business will have a list of wants and needs, particularly when it comes to their need to digitally transform, that for whatever reason, have been put aside as other requirements take priority. This year, businesses in the Middle East and around the globe found out, whether they wanted to or not, exactly what the most important things are to continuous operation. According to Gartner, business continuity plans often prepare for disruption to resources and processes, but less so the resilience of their business model.
While KPMG found that UAE banks that already leverage technology and data have responded well to disruptions, I think it’s fair to say a number of businesses were caught out. For many, the needs of customers in relation to their value proposition, and their capability to deliver them changed significantly, and rapidly. This has forced organisations to transform quickly, and with new-found clarity. Those that have been dragging their heels waiting for the right time have very suddenly found that the time is now.
As many of us will have experienced, the most immediate of these issues is being able to cater for a remote workforce. At a practical level, this has meant the need for IT hardware. But also the need for collaboration and communication software, and being able to train the workforce to work in these new ways, and at an unprecedented scale. This, at the same time, has highlighted the need to improve data access and visibility, the importance of unified data, and the necessity to enhance security policies, particularly ID management and endpoint security.
One thing I believe has not changed, even if purchasing trends have, is the need to reach with customers quickly. With physical interactions paused, this has forced businesses to find new ways to engage with them. An article from Harvard Business Review reinforces the need to maintain and build customer relationships during times of crisis, as well as continue them once things return to what we hope is business as usual. The article describes a framework called HEART:
- Humanise your company
Demonstrating and understanding of, and empathy with, unusual circumstances over the simple need for profit
- Educate about change
Inform customers about any changes to your business, and how these changes are motivated by their best interest
- Assure stability
Informing customers that your usual values are being upheld
- Revolutionise offerings
Explaining how times of uncertainty have seen the introduction of ways to provide new products or services
- Tackle the future
How the revisions to the business model now will improve the company for the better going forward
The last two points are particularly important. Preparation for recovery can mean taking advantage of and developing opportunities that may have been introduced as a matter of necessity into longer-term or permanent change. For example, using automation and AI to cope with a higher volume of certain tasks, filling in gaps where resource is not available, or helping to augment workforces. Businesses might even find that a need to streamline customer journeys are adopted and preferred going forward.
Essentially, our current situation has crystallised the most important things businesses in the MENA region need to do now, and yes, much of it I have been suggesting for years, but also shown the importance of being able to quickly adapt your business strategy. In such an uncertain world, being able to diversify your customer base or offerings, and seeking opportunities with alternative markets and supply chains is equally valuable for business resilience.
- Business continuity plans often prepare for disruption to resources and processes, but less so the resilience of their business model.
- UAE banks that already leverage technology and data have responded well to disruptions, but a number of businesses were caught out.
- One thing that has not changed, even if purchasing trends have, is the need to reach with customers quickly.
- Humanise your company, educate about change, assure stability, revolutionise offerings, and tackle the future.
By Abdul Rahman Al Thehaiban, Senior Vice President, Technology, MEA and CEE, Oracle.