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How to win the race in a virtual world

Joleen van der Zwan
April 09, 2020

After a very exciting race, Greg van Avermaet won the Tour of Flanders 2020 past Sunday. From his living room. For the first time in 100 years, the Tour of Flanders did not take place on the road. It was ridden in a virtual world, with the riders connected through their bikes in their living rooms. Most organisations have to cope with sudden changes at the moment. Amazon hires 100.000 people to cope with the demand in online retail. Restaurants massively shift to home delivery, either as their own service or through existing platforms like UberEats. But is that enough to last until we can all safely go out again? And what if you are a hairdresser, or a movie theater operator? Or own a chain of fitness centers? How to win the race? Often the answer lies in becoming digital fast. But there may not be an answer as easy as “just ride in a virtual world”, digitalize it all and move on. Digital transformation is more.

Becoming digital fast: The Tour of Flanders 2020 was ridden virtually, because of the Corona crisis
Virtual Tour of Flanders 2020

Digital Transformation

We argued before, digital transformation needs an agile approach, starting small. A “big bang” implementation is never a good idea, trying to tackle a complete set of IT Governance processes, roles, and responsibilities simultaneously with a full set of Enterprise Architecture guidelines, principles and standards. At best, it will take a very long time to take effect. At worst, you will fail. And, the first step should be to envision the digital version of your company, with customer obsession at the core. Now that the way companies and people operate suddenly moved to full digital and distributed mode – envisioning your digital version may overnight have become urgent. There are three main topics to consider; customer centricity, moving to cloud and considering your business model.

Customer obsession

Much is already written about quick fixes – you and your employees should be able to work from anywhere. Implement O365, Teams, Skype… However, digital transformation is also about customer obsession – how do you reach them digitally? Either through your own webshop (if in retail) or an existing platform – online restaurant orders are up to speed much faster when connecting to an already existing platform with an existing customer base. And at the moment, clients are even more willing to help than usual, provide feedback and collaborate. That is a chance to accelerate your customer obsession and stengthen your customer intimacy.

Move to cloud

The move to cloud is almost a given here – working from anywhere means you need different resources at a different scale than before. And using cloud means you can make this a reality much faster because your environments will be flexible and scalable. The economic Application Portfolio Management (eAPM) approach provides a way to determine what applications should be moved to the cloud in order to reach your goals.

Business model

The nature of some businesses is either almost purely based on physical presence (fitness clubs, hairdressers) or in a large part (restaurants). To adapt to a situation where we are not allowed to meet physically these businesses must change. This requires not only technology, but also a new way of thinking – creativity, new business models. And when we have usually considered user adoption – the demand side – of new business models to have a slow uptake and a long tail, this might not be the case in a crisis like the current.

You don’t have the luxury of time to think carefully. You need to act!  What are your core capabilities on a more abstract level? What knowledge and skills are present in your company that you could monetize in new ways? For example, could your sommelier offer online advice through Skype or Teams? Could your personal trainers set up personalized home training schedules for your clients so you can keep their subscriptions valuable until after the crisis? These are just a few of the questions you should ask yourself when designing a new business model. We have previously described one way of designing business models and implementing them. The link is to a step-by-step guide, so just get started immediately – no need to wait and waste time, and remember to ask your clients – right now they are more willing to collaborate more than usual.

We are in a situation most of us did not see coming, that changes the way most of us work in a more or less radical way. This means we have to rethink everything – how we provide our services to our clients, how we collaborate, and even who we are. In the space of digital transformation there are 3 first steps to take: quickly fix what needs fixing and then engage more with your customers soon as possible, move to cloud in order to become and stay flexible, and research what your business model should be.

Authors: Erik Haahr & Joleen van der Zwan

About the author

Innovation Consultant | Netherlands
Joleen van der Zwan is an energetic consultant with broad experience in multiple industries and a variety of roles. With her passion for innovation, she provide customers with insights and advice on their strategy related to innovation and new technologies. Joleen is head of organisation for the SogetiLabs meetup events, held twice a year somewhere in Europe.


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