Forget about Business Continuity, look into Digital Transformation

I was discussing with one of my clients who was extremely worried about how his business can navigate the COVID-19 crisis given that his business is brick and mortar and cannot operate remotely.

As I reflected more on the conversation we had, I began realizing that this is the situation most of our businesses are in particularly those operating in the Construction, Retail and Manufacturing Space, work that is impossible to do remotely.

Navigating this situation can be a bit tricky for businesses operating in any industry. Because even for consultants, though the work can largely be done from home, if other businesses are not performing to par, the impact can be felt industry-wide.

One day, before I had the above conversation, I spent half of my night planning an integrated strategy that I could share with clients in our Portfolio as well as other interested clients for how to navigate this crisis.

For this strategy, I wanted to create something universal that is not industry and sector-specific but can be applied by any business in the interim to help consolidate whatever gains they would have made. 

This strategy is the CIA strategy extracted from the words Communication, Innovation, Adaptation. 

C – Communication

I – Innovation

A – Adaptation

1. Communication

In times of crisis, nothing trumps communication. We are now on day 15 of the #lockdown in Zimbabwe and from what I’ve noticed, many of our businesses have gone into dormant mode. They’ve stopped investing in communication with their clients. Why? Because most people now have this assumption that communicating with their clients is not essential at this moment which might be farther from the truth. 

Think about yourself for a moment during a moment when you faced a personal crisis? If you had friends who were not checking up on you during that period, would you still be friends after the crisis was over? 

Right now is the perfect time for your business to make a lifetime impact in the minds and hearts of your clients. What you do today can impact the perception of your business for the next 10 or even more years to come. 

When everyone in your industry is quiet, choose to be the one who speaks out. Be the leader in your industry by refining your comms strategy and putting out content to speak to your clients. 

2. Adapt

There is a key difference between Innovation and Adaptation and many people often confuse one for the other. For example, if you decide to settle on setting up a website for your company right now due to the COVID-19 Crisis, you are NOT Innovating, rather, you are Adapting.

If you look at the Vietnam War where the Vietnamese gave the Americans the fight of their lives due to the successful use of adaptation. Whilst Americans approached the war armed to the teeth with bombs et al, the Vietmisse, used Guerilla warfare with making use of the terrain they already had. They adapted and in the end frustrated Americans and won in the court of public opinion.

You need to do the same. The first thing is looking at your business factually and objectively asking how you could adapt in certain areas to continue operating. 

A person I spoke to last week shut their entire operation largely because their ERP which includes their Accounting, HR and Procurement Software is enterprise-based and can’t be accessed remotely. My advice to them was that they should have something cloud-based. #adapt.

There is a technological solution to every manualized area of your business. If it’s accounting, you can do with Quickbooks Online, sales you can do with a website. Marketing, shift to Digital Marketing and Facebook which is 90% cheaper. Sales Monitoring, make use of a cloud-based CRM. 

Some of these technologies like Zoom, etc have been in existence for decades now. Implementing them today is not innovation but adapting your business to modern trends. 

3. Innovate

The last part is on innovation and the successful application of it. Innovation is a step above adaptation. With Adaptation, you are using the resources that are available to your advantage whilst with innovation, you are starting from scratch. 

Remember my client from the 2nd paragraph? The advice for him was to innovate. If you are running a construction business where people can’t go into the field to do the physical work, nothing is stopping you from offering consultancy services in the meantime. Package and sell your knowledge in the industry. 

Have a customized program where you offer discounts for clients who sign up during this period, partner with an architect to offer plan drawing services. The possibilities are endless. 

All in all, it’s about getting rid of the box, and thinking about how you can leverage the brand equity you have to find new income-generating avenues for your business. 

Think creatively. 

To conclude, how does all the above fit into Digital Transformation? When this crisis hit, most business leaders activated the ever-famous Business Continuity Plans. I’m not against BCPs but I strongly believe that Digital Transformation Plans are essential more than BCP’s. 

Why? Many businesses are hit, yes, but if you look into other markets you will see that there are businesses that are experiencing rapid growth. Businesses like Zoom, Amazon, All Cloud Storage Companies, Banking Sector Business and in Zim, we have our own Fresh in a Box. 

Why do you think these businesses are growing when others are tumbling? It’s because they are Digital-first businesses. 

Businesses that are using this period to reflect on how they can make use of Digital Platforms or that are focused on communicating via their Digital Platforms will dominate their sectors post COVID-19, there is no doubt about that. 

Make a plan for your business to go Digital. 

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