It was just a few years and a pandemic ago when we first shared our advice for companies that wanted to modernize IT platforms to drive growth. The dilemma for executive leaders is how best to strategically update systems while minimizing business disruptions.
The urgency and questions swirling around the build or buy continuum* in 2021 and 2022 have greatly increased as companies recover from the pandemic’s impact on global supply chains and markets. As reported by Gartner in its 2021 CEO survey, “many companies will spend the next few years recovering revenue and growth to pre-pandemic levels.” At the same time, customer adoption of digital experiences has soared, creating pressure for business leaders to innovate to stay competitive.
But the good news, says Gartner, is that 60% of surveyed CEOs anticipate an economic boom. Consequently, senior leaders are busy developing new business strategies to recapture what they have lost in growth and market share since 2020. CEOs continue to invest in technology, particularly the digitalization of customer experiences and e-commerce efforts.
Overall, these ideas can help you consider how to strategically leverage your existing digital systems and to determine where to invest further, saving time and resources while delivering value to your customers.
Many businesses have already experienced workforce disruption as the pandemic also brought a seismic shift among millions of workers called the “Great Resignation.” Fortune reported, “Nearly two-thirds of workers are on the hunt for a new job — and they’re getting them.” As these workers, including new leaders, change positions, they may want to make a significant impact right away. These new decision makers are more likely to spot potential digital or operational inefficiencies and will want to tackle those challenges immediately. But how can you and your organization address these new growth opportunities without negatively impacting business?
As new leaders in your business begin to carve out new initiatives to drive growth, solve inefficiencies, and innovate the digital customer experience, your platform build-or-buy decisions should be made by balancing wants and needs for both the business and your end-users.
In this delicate balance, a need is a critical component or feature that enables the experience that is core to your business today. Are you providing an experience that is functional? Compliant? Secure?
Wants could include introducing new digital features to enhance the customer experience but are not crucial to product functionality. It may be tempting to delay proposed initiatives labeled as wants, especially when there are budget pressures or other challenging barriers. But if these wants always get bogged down on the to-do list, it can be hard for your business to maintain a proactive approach.
It is possible, however, to leverage the systems in place today and pilot new ideas to determine if the wants of your business today will also be the needs of tomorrow.
When working with Nerdery partners, we focus on not only identifying needs but also establishing a stronger case for pursuing wants through in-market pilots or prototypes to test in a controlled setting. Once we’ve prioritized what to pilot, we design a set of experiments – sometimes including a lightweight technical build, to mimic an experience for the end-user.
When piloting, we help you think strategically about what business workarounds or process tweaks may need to occur in order to generate the desired end-user experience. Taking time to test, measure and analyze findings will help determine if your ideas, or wants, will drive value for your business and your customers.
It also is possible to deploy incremental product changes even during testing. For example, you can make incremental website accessibility changes before making more extensive updates.
Additionally, it’s always a good idea to trial and pilot software with a limited test audience, even if you’re experimenting with a single feature. This limited test audience could include new team members or leaders as they may be more able to catch any inefficiencies within the prototype as you test it.
All these strategies can help keep you from having to backtrack as you update your systems, increasing the likelihood that any issues will be caught earlier on.
Purina, known for its trusted pet care products, had business goals that included both digital needs and wants. The company partnered with Nerdery to help streamline its global portfolio of brands represented by more than 70 websites built on different technologies. Their immediate need was to centralize these sites onto one easy-to-use CMS to reduce costs and create a better experience for their customers.
Nerdery partnered with Purina to strategically modernize its web platforms with a single technology that provided customers with a consistent experience. This necessary update allowed Purina to quickly launch new brands to remain innovative, meet market demand, enhance search rankings, reduce management costs, and improve site security.
Once Purina simplified its technology needs, they could shift to focus on wants. Here, Purina elevated and reimagined their digital experience for customers 一 delivering everything from chatbots that can recommend products, to augmented reality experiences.
Once you’ve determined your needs and tested each potential solution, it’s time to invest in updates. As stated in Gartner’s 2021 C-suite survey, whether your solutions revolve around AI, data analytics or e-commerce, “advances in technology are so powerful today that this becomes a framing factor for what business strategies will be — not just a tool to help enact them.”
If there’s one certainty executive leaders have learned in the past two years, it’s that digital technology will continue to influence the strategic direction for most companies. A survey McKinsey conducted last year found that company responses to COVID-19 have accelerated the adoption of digital technology by several years—and many of these changes could be here for the long haul. “To stay competitive in this new business and economic environment,” said McKinsey & Company, “will require new strategies and practices.”
Throughout the pandemic, according to McKinsey, “consumers have moved dramatically toward online channels, and companies and industries have responded in turn.” That is the final piece of how to strategically update your systems—align your customers’ needs with your technology.
Remember to check with your team to ensure today’s business wants are in fact tomorrow’s business needs. Then, leverage the systems you have today and pilot new ideas before adopting new resources. This will help instill more confidence about the direction for the future.