2020 was a tough year, but we’ve moved on. Within a matter of weeks in 2020, the world has changed dramatically. Many businesses died overnight. But again, we live in an extremely competitive world; when one dies, others fill its niche instantly.
Despite all disasters, the population is growing, but we still stick to our lovely blue globe. Situations like the one we’ve witnessed the previous year became a new normal. Further, we move in time, the harder it will be to compete and survive as a business without a digital ecosystem.
How to Mitigate Risks in the Post-COVID Era?
The key point is the speed; every business must be fast despite any slowing factors – think fast, predict fast, adapt fast. It is hard to do that without innovations. The more automated the business processes, the faster to perform operations.
In the current world, the speed of operations, systematic approach in your business is everything.
Make sure you are digital. Any business without the digital presence and digital operations are already dead or soon will be dead. Your clients must be able to interact with you online as much as possible. They must understand your services without salesmen; they must be able to order any service without a single phone call.
But make sure your intranet is ready for it. Not all businesses use CRMs, not all have shared file storages, not all have knowledge bases. If you are one of those, be ready for big troubles. Your competitors have a great chance to overcome you.
Example of Striving Business
A good example here is the furniture factory that produces and distributes its own products. Without a good website, without an online furniture configurator, or any other digital product, what can it do when reseller stores are closed? Nothing, this type of business can silently wait until lockdown will be lifted and customers will come back again.
Let us open a secret; they won’t. Because of a financial crisis, they will seek cheaper solutions, and more automated businesses can offer them such an opportunity. Those businesses don’t spend money for sales representatives. They spend money toward digital solutions and highly effective personnel who do not spend working hours but are result-oriented and connected to real key indicators.
Fire all the ballast, it may sound a bit aggressive, but it is not. If you want to be fast, you cannot do this with a stone chained to your leg. Cut it as soon as possible, increase the speed, introduce KPIs and OKRs, and everything that cannot fit into those will self-destruct.
It may be a sleepy employee; it may be a service provider that feels confident in your partnership just because you’ve worked for 10 years together and doesn’t bring the required value at all.
There are so many opportunities around, you just need to open your mind for it. The crisis is a great test for every business, and you should completely understand how your business can strive in a crisis. Any decision may lead to instant death; there is no time to support laziness and unproductive behaviors.
Check the supply chain. We don’t do everything in-house; even companies like Apple partner with Samsung to provide the best possible services and experiences for their own customers. Make sure the whole chain is stable enough to sustain lockdowns and economic challenges.
Try to prepare plans B and better C in advance, but if it is too complicated or impossible, support those in need.
If you have a great supplier, but it is a small business, make sure it can make it through. It can deliver great products and services for you, but if it dies, you can have a hole in your processes. Help it, support it, as much as you can. This will reinforce the partnership and will definitely solve near and far future problems.
What to Do?
In general, let’s highlight that speed is everything in our world. If something slows you down, it is a good time to say goodbye. Get rid of the unimportant things in your business operations. Instead, implement faster proceedings via digital solutions.
Eventually, you will see how your business not only survives but starts growing. It is relevant to any company, be it a startup, small business, medium-sized business, or huge enterprise corporation.
The more innovations each company implements, the better service we all will get, and the more productive we will be competing in each market.
After all, COVID-19 quarantine showed the necessity of digital solutions in any company. Whether it is huge enterprises or small businesses/start-ups, now every entity requires external and internal digital collaboration processes to be established.
What Is a Software Gap and How It Ruins Businesses?
Many companies already have pretty big infrastructures, others have very little software footprint, but they all unite one thing. It is the digital gap in many aspects of any business’s life.
Example of Software Gap
For example, a big car dealership may have many automation software, databases, accounting solutions, and so on. However, it is still not possible to make a full cycle totally remote or human-free operating.
The crisis showed that most automated companies dominate less automated and digitized companies.
So that very same car dealership business has a CRM and probably great salesmen ready to use any automation or remote software to sell even when we have distancing and stay-at-home orders.
But their website is quite old. It doesn’t have any configurators or any kind of interactivity (visartech dot com). So a user won’t even call them. Especially when there are competitors on the market with an online configurator, where clients can configure a car of their own dreams, buy it, and conduct the necessary proceedings through the website.
The well-known Volkswagen automaker company has created a People’s Car Project. It was meant to let any person design their “perfect car.” Guess how popular the website became? There were 33 million website hits and 119,000 ideas designed. Amazing, isn’t it?
What’s the Outcome?
When a website becomes one place for ordering, clarification, and paying, most definitely, the “old-style” dealership is gonna lose the battle. Their great salesmen will sit straight without phone calls and will never meet a plan.
This is what I call the software gap. They have a gap between clients and a car review process. Their potential clients are not able to simply see what they will get, and they will just swipe for the next dealership that has it.
As you can see, any company must avoid those gaps as much as they can. Even the smallest crack can ruin the business in matters of a month.
The Ecosystem Saves Business
It sounds terrifying, but only if you’re not doing anything. Many companies are already on their way to a digital transformation – they work on covering and re-thinking those gaps.
Logically, the only way to avoid any gaps is to build the Ecosystem.
It is natural because its main purpose is to glue all company’s processes and goods together.
Any ecosystem is consistent and self-sustainable. Even deadly wounded, it tries to find a way out by any available means.
Well-known Examples of Ecosystems
We all know that any well-implemented ecosystem sells. Usually, it includes more services and better integration between them than others. The most ostentatious examples are Apple and Google.
Both built amazing products, software, and hardware. Both of them have created amazing ecosystems that the rest of the world uses.
We all saw how Nokia lost its smartphone leader position when Apple presented its ecosystem. For users, it was amazing as all applications are in one place, no need to surf the web, download a calculator, etc.
What Are Your Next Steps?
The same rule applies to any other business. The already mentioned dealership desperately needs to build at least a simple digital ecosystem to sustain future problems and win the competition.
They should add a configurator, integrate it with the CRM, implement synchronization with the car manufacturer. It all helps to check the availability of the goods and order things automatically. As you can see, it looks like a small but lifesaving ecosystem.
Let’s go deeper into details. Usually, any business has a web page. Pretty rarely, there is a mobile app, and some kind of CRM to track sales and marketing activities.
At some point, business managers come to realize that all customer-business interactions must be automated and available online to prevent a possible gap. What do they do? Correct, they implement the digital ecosystem.
What Lies Behind the Digital Ecosystem?
The core of any digital ecosystem is a backend that holds the business logic. It is the brain of the whole infrastructure. Usually, the backend process allows us to input information and make some decisions.
For example, calculate your Credit Score based on the data received from third-party services like credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Those organizations have their own servers and are able to respond with it.
Once you have a backend, you need some sort of a client, a web page, an application, or usually both. This is a kind of gateway for your customers and employees. It helps them to interact with your backend and other nodes of the digital ecosystem.
You may have numerous services or products with a bunch of backends and clients, but they must be connected to each other to avoid gaps.
Ecosystems for Small Businesses
Let’s try to model an ecosystem for a small business company.
For instance, the company sells ice cream. It has 2 shops and a delivery service.
Develop a Website for Your Ecosystem
In order to create an ecosystem for this business, we need to start with a website. It should have essential information about the product, contacts, and provide an ability to order takeaway or delivery directly on the web page. It is truly significant for your business.
But the website is just a client, so it cannot store any data persistently. All the information is available only during the session. In order to store all the data and process payments, a back-end solution is required. Besides that, we also need integration with delivery services. It helps to synchronize the data through web requests with a third-party service provider and return to the client with waiting time and a delivery price.
There are many third-party service providers that any business interacts with. Imagine how convenient it is to have a comprehensive connection with all of them. Just think about it; based on your sales data, a system can automatically order new ice cream from manufacturers. Or even build forecasts on which ice cream will be popular in the next few weeks according to weather conditions and tv-shows releases.
Build a Mobile App for Your Ecosystem
Even such a small ecosystem gives businesses some real advantages over their competitors. The system may be indefinitely upgraded with more services that meet the customers changing moods.
For example, mobile users prefer to use applications instead of mobile-friendly websites. It requires businesses to create mobile applications for iOS and Android and connect them to the backend. It leads to an increased presence and improved service for the customers.
Take Care Of Wearables
In certain cases, there is a need to create an application for smartwatches, so customers can see the delivery status and alerts right on their hands.
In collaboration, a new value is born. Having an idea to deliver ice cream together with flowers, and integration with a flower salon is essential. Here businesses can implement as many integrations as they need to fulfill the greatest demands of their customers.
All of these interactions are nearly impossible to achieve manually. Everything must be connected with each other and communicate clearly. This is the only way when customers can see the crucial information about their orders on their screens in a matter of seconds.
That’s exactly what lays the foundation for further growth. Such a business can scale up to satisfy the increasing demands of the highly competitive market.
Every business needs some sort of an ecosystem, simply to connect all business nodes together. The better ecosystem, the more effective the business itself.
With the right tools in your hands that you are easy to use, you’re stable and mistakes-free. This way, your business can stand out on the market and satisfy your most demanding customers’ needs.
Image Credit: ketut subiyanto; pexels; thank you!