Key Points to Ponder

In our previous blog, we considered the general topic of change for businesses, with specific reference to the current Covid-19 conditions of trade and the implications this has for your business.

We gave some key recommendations around how businesses might traverse a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) environment. We also established the value of applying Systems Theory as a framework to gain deeper understanding in analysing the specific impact to your own business, with some useful steps to follow in such an analysis process.

In this piece we build on the previous notion, and then go one step further by addressing the direct question

“How do I go about transforming my brick and mortar business into a digital one?”  

By extending the Systems Theory paradigm we introduced in the first piece, we examine the implications of the current question and also provide key points for you to think about in your own business and transformation context.

There are some good examples of businesses that have successfully managed this transition; below, we mention a few:

  • Mary Grant, a fashion designer, had to close her physical stores. Three weeks into lockdown, she had moved 50 percent of her regular combined revenue from the physical retail stores into eCommerce. She has run an online “wardrobe challenge,” which has seen an increase in website traffic of over 1,200 percent.
  • Scott Mansell, an ex-professional racing driver and founder of Driver61, trains racers to be faster on the track. With all racing circuits are closed down, there are no competitions, nor is there anywhere to train. Scott has now taken his methodology online to serve the virtual racing community, which has seen much mainstream attention in the last weeks. His first training workshop ran with 50 virtual drivers. The session sold out and was oversubscribed by 500 percent.
  • Sebastian Bates is the founder of the Warrior Academy, which teaches martial arts and confidence to students in the UK and Dubai. His business was heavily dependent on people showing up to physical locations. He has now taken his classes online and launched an international anti-bullying program. As a result, he has generated significant new-product revenue since the shutdown.
  • Danny Savage is a music-industry podcaster and founder of DJ Growth Lab. As soon as the Spanish lockdown started and flights started cancelling, the business ground to a halt overnight. To keep his team employed and his business afloat, they quickly launched an online music-production platform with daily live workshops and on-demand replays. The newly launched Mixmasters.tv has generated robust revnue in its first two weeks, and monthly subscription revenue is growing as well.
  • Captain Fantastic, one of the UK’s top children’s-party entertainment companies. Their team went from doing 200 physical kids parties a month to absolutely zero. Within a week, the team switched everything online and launched virtual birthday parties, playdates and live shows. The first seven days of launching parties online brought in over 100 bookings (with dozens in new countries). Their online following has grown from 3,000 followers to over 50,000 within a few days of launch, and their online events have already reached over three million people. Their online parties have also been featured on Sky News, BBC radio, The Evening Standard and The Daily Mirror online.
  • Robot Mascot, which creates investment materials for entrepreneurs to convince angel investors to back them. The team at Robot Mascot spotted an opportunity to create all the documents business owners need to apply to lenders for the COVID-19-related loans. They partnered with experienced CFO and award-winning author David B Horne of Add Them Multiply to create a new product, “Take This to The Bank.” In just two weeks, they’ve launched a new product, created an online eligibility scorecard and secured their first clients.
  • Bodyshot Performance works with big businesses to enhance employee well-being in the office. Projects were previously delivered on-site, face-to-face. In under a month, the business has launched a well-being portal, running real-time training to remote working teams. Bodyshot is on track to have its best month in the company’s five-year history.

Upon closer consideration, a few key elements stand out which we believe play a critical part in enabling such a digitisation transformation. These include:

1. Embracing technology as a key enabler to digitise your business offering (online trade)

The power of allowing your business purpose to drive your organisation and its subsequent operations and other divisional functions, right down to the personal level, will lead to an aligned and supportive people / process / technology architecture.

Specifically, allowing your traditional brick-and-mortar processes to both be optimised and digitally managed using online workflow solutions such as our FLOW  platform will allow for many of your current processes to be streamlined and optimised, whilst existing digitally in a bespoke workflow to manage and drive these out.

In addition, this will make reaching online markets much easier and will allow for straight-through processing, from marketing your offerings / products, to customer engagement, purchases, invoicing, and payments. Deliveries can also easily be automated either in-house, or by interfacing with specialised delivery service providers.

In sum, the end-to-end process of your business from stock acquisition, marketing, and all the way through to customer engagement and purchase finalisation can be easily transformed, managed and hosted in a turnkey solution specifically designed to make this a seamless and streamlined process which will cut out waste and eliminate much of the current overheads of traditional models.

Transforming into delivery of your purpose and value of the business in simple, easy-to-use automated workflow business processes is a critical component of any digitisation journey. Here, the value of our flexible and agile FLOW proprietary platform brings an automated and digitised capability to your business to deliver its core value to the market.

This will not only bring obvious benefits such as streamlined and aligned operational and business processes reflecting positively on your bottom line but provide you with a great strategic advantage and differentiator in your business, enabling you to adapt, stay relevant and ultimately thrive in VUCA environments such as the current Covid-19 scenario.

2. The importance of understanding your current processes and operational environments in order to move to a digital solution

Using an automated workflow and CRM capability such as FLOW will enable businesses to redefine and reshape their current operations. Given Systems Theory, disruption or change to one part of a system (i.e. division or function in your business) will have a knock-on effect on all other parts and functions.

However, this can not only be mitigated, but entirely redesigned and integrated with a digital workflow and CRM capability. In this way, traditional change processes (including people change elements) are much easier to engage with and to drive out if the framework is managed and integrated in a well-designed, fit-for-purpose digitally managed workflow solution.

In this way, traditional resistance and slow transformation and adoption to new ways of work, is aided by the integration of your business through the capabilities of a digital CRM and workflow management system.

But here a warning is needed: simply performing a ‘copy and paste’ of your current operational environment into a digitised platform such as a workflow or CRM system will not likely yield a competitive advantage, but instead be an investment in a tool which is aimed at maintaining a system which has drastically changed.

This is a common error committed by countless businesses – both large corporates, right down to one-man businesses. Therefore it is imperative that you gain a thorough grasp of your value add, align your strategy to this, and then digitise the operating model that will best support and achieve the outputs to deliver your value to market.

If this is to be fully actualised, a digital solution that is easy to use, highly configurable and very flexible will best serve such ends, as well as be able to continually support continued improvements and changes to your business and the way in which it operates.

As businesses move online there are few tips for managers and employees working from home – and utilise a solution such as FLOW to enable these critical considerations:

  1. If you are managing others, focus on outcomes rather than activity. Checking up on people can signal a lack of trust. A workflow that can support this requirement will be a non-negotiable tool to enable and manage such a shift;
  2. Accept that productivity can fluctuate as the home and business boundaries are blurred. Research shows that working from home can increase productivity so be patient as people get used to the new normal. For this, technology that can mould and support these people needs will be key;
  3. Get used to working at different time than your co-workers. Employees at home do not have to work the same times unless during collaboration slots and video conferences. Leaders should encourage flexible working times so employees can balancing home responsibilities and work. This can only really be achieved with the correct support and enablement from a sophisticated and purpose-built process management solution, able to accommodate the various needs that emerge from such arrangements whilst still allowing for important management functions and controls to be applied;
  4. Lastly, take time to relax. Try virtual coffee breaks or after hour drinks. To avoid screen fatigue take breaks, naps or walks during the day. Configuring your solution in such a way that remains sensitive and supportive of health and wellbeing of your most important resource – your employees.

In this state of adaptation, your business will be well placed to consider a meaningful and realistic market position for itself in its transformation from bricks and mortar to a digital or online offering – and through the sensible and intelligent incorporation of digital capabilities such as those brought by Blackboard FLOW –  harness the power of a true digital solution to a real business proposition, aligned to brand purpose and market value creation.