The Way Forward: Invest with Technology
By MNP Q&A
By MNP Q&A
An interview with Jason Lee, MNP, Technology Solutions
Two COVID Reactions
If you take it up to the 50,000-foot level, you can almost put it into two buckets: the customers that said, “Hey, we’re going to take this opportunity to really innovate and try to leapfrog ahead of our competition by leveraging technology,” and the customers who didn’t change and their business either really suffered or slowed down. The latter were in a defensive mode – they were all about protecting their investments and their assets, so they were using technology to protect what they already had.
Digital transformation means so many different things to different people. For some businesses, digital transformation is about the customer experience, automation or leveraging new technologies. For others, it’s about harnessing their data. We often hear that data is the new oil or the new gold – companies that recognize this begin to know exactly what to do with the data and they move towards a single source of truth that enables them by making data-driven decisions. Once you get a culture of data-driven decision, you can begin to explore other transformation initiatives such as modernizing your digital infrastructure and applications to meet what you want your customer experience to be. Technology companies are always trying to work with customers to meet their end business objectives and goals. There are so many flavour-of-the-month technologies out there that cause executives to invest in technologies like automation or artificial intelligence. They invest in these technologies to stay competitive with their competition, but then when you take a step back to assess and start to peel away the layers of that onion, you may realize that you don’t even have the data to be able to leverage the technology properly and most effectively. Companies need to figure out what technology they should be leveraging for their specific customers, and not just what everyone else is using. Technology alone isn’t going to drive your business outcomes. It takes people with experience, changes to process AND the right technology. It’s different for every solution and company. Some companies have the people and know-how but need to change the way they work before even considering new technology. Ask yourself, “How are you using your data today and how can we use it better to meet your business objectives?”
No Two Markets Are the Same
Retail took a huge hit the last year. We found that many of our retail customers closed their doors for much of the year or were very limited and therefore cautiously planning, so their focus really wasn’t on the customer experience. Instead their focus was on how to keep the distribution centres open, how to maintain supply levels and how to be prepared when things reopen. Then you had banks. Slow-moving giants that a year ago didn’t really have a cloud strategy or hadn’t even considered remote workers an option. However, they manoeuvred pretty quickly to get their entire team working remotely and working on cloud solutions. You can apply the same solution to customers but I don’t necessarily agree that is the best option, especially in a world where how you differentiate from your competition is critical to success. How does my technology investment drive business outcomes?
Automation and AI
While there is this motivation to automate a lot of processes within a company, and it makes a lot of sense to do that, people are hesitant to go all in on it. An example is the move (again) to cloud services. The cloud has tons of benefits but you need to go into it with eyes wide open because there’s a cost implication that needs to be addressed holistically or you’ll be one of those companies that say you invested in the cloud but it didn’t save me any money. Did you get rid of all the on-premise equipment and resources? Did you retrain staff to enable other service offerings or cost savings? You don’t just turn on cloud services and save money. That cost should be offset by the fact that you do not need as many infrastructure resources as you used to support your IT. Automation and AI implementations can help you with workflow as both can leverage predictive analytics and help streamline a business to make it more efficient proactively. The sooner you recognize and address potential impacts, the less costly it should be.
We’re fortunate that we live in a day and age when we have access to such great technology and digital infrastructure. For me, it is about adopting a holistic solution in terms of how companies leverage those technologies more. The bigger the enterprise, the more you should standardize. I see a lot of customers using multiple platforms for communication and multiple platforms for storing data, but it is a lot easier when there is one kind of strategic initiative, and that is standardization. Again, I take my cues from wanting a single source of truth. We can apply that same approach to the way we communicate and leverage technologies by streamlining, simplifying and reducing costs while doing it. It’s not always possible, so take that with a grain of salt. I’d be a hypocrite if I said that’s my case: I’m currently running four different messaging platforms for work.
What Have We Learned?
The pandemic has taught us that things are going to happen. A lot of companies have always talked about disaster recovery and business continuity. The pandemic really tested those plans and strategies and customers who had those elements as part of their work culture really got through this a lot easier. Business continuity and disaster recovery plans were about hardware failures and electrical outages. Now we’re looking at it with additional lenses: What happens if the world shuts down? What happens if we’re on lockdown? What now? Now, you have to adjust all those plans to include these scenarios.
New Tech Adoption
I’ve had so many conversations about new technology adoption, and the one question that I pose to every business is this: Are you a technology company? If you are not, then partner with a technology company to help you execute your vision. There are a lot of amazing products and platforms out there to leverage, but unless you have a solid strategy in place to operationalize the technology, some of these things will collect dust on a shelf. My advice is to focus on what you do well. If that is building a product or offering a service, do that, and then partner with a technology group that can help you enhance what you do by leveraging technology. I said it before, but implementing tech alone will not realize your goals. I see so many customers trying to do it themselves, and they get bogged down in the weeds. Most companies don’t have know-how or the team to execute the technology to fully recognize its value. We tend to work with customers and leverage them as the SME in their market. Why not partner with someone who knows the dark hallways to avoid?
M&A and Technology
When thinking of growing through acquisition, it is important to look at how easily you can transition or amalgamate the different technology platforms being used. From financial reporting to timesheets to project management – all this information has to be transitioned post sale. This is a good reminder that we should always be building and designing and integrating platforms that are scalable and decoupled, so that you can plan for some of those changes to happen. A lot of our big technology partners are recognizing that and starting to build their digital infrastructure in a way that allows them to plug into competitors, partners and other ecosystems.
For more information on MNP and all of its business-related services, visit: mnp.ca