If any phrase sums up the last six months, it would be Plato's paraphrased "Necessity is the mother of all invention".
Someone in the banking sector explained it perfectly last week. "We delivered video collaboration to every colleague around the world in four days. What made it happen? We sliced through the sign-off process. The board said do it, and nobody got in the way."
As COVID-19 hit, organisations quickly realised that, while the technology was up to the job, it was the (admittedly well-intentioned) processes that blocked rapid action. We saw everything click into place incredibly quickly - business cases became "We need this to survive", sign-off became a hurried "Just do it!" and the cloud was finally embraced to support almost overnight implementation. This speed was exhilarating for many in the technology industry who had become used to drawn-out buying cycles and PoVs that lasted months.
But I'm not sure that we should be patting ourselves so hard on the collective back just yet. We work in the most dynamic, fast-paced and disruptive industry in the world. Why did we not do a better job at demonstrating the value of home-working and video collaboration in the first place?
Over the last 12 months, I have been challenging our business to focus not just on demonstrating what technology can do for our customers, but also on what we can do to remove the roadblocks that stand in the way of them realising those outcomes as quickly as possible.
Removing the roadblocks to change drives momentum, and therefore our passion and purpose must be to accelerate those benefits to our customers. We have taken what I think is quite a simple approach to this: we are building greater knowledge and intimacy with our customers. We cannot ask customers to trust us if we do not invest our time in getting under the skin of their business so we can truly understand and help them overcome their barriers to change. It takes time to build intimacy, but the dividends of working with more agility through stronger and more intimate partnerships are worth every second.
Plato, once again, summed it up nicely: "A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers."
We must have greater knowledge of our customer's finances. It sometimes feels inappropriate asking someone up front how they are going to pay for what you do. But with so many new consumption, finance, or rental models available, if a CFO doesn't know they can consolidate and transform their current data centre platform by migrating into cloud using a rental model, transformation projects can be bogged down with opposition from the outset. We have a responsibility to inform and facilitate change without allowing financial constraints to block true progress.
We must go beyond the technology. Of course we know and love the technology that we work with, but we have to go beyond that by helping customers lower the bar to adoption with a minimal viable platform [MVP], and then enhancing change through software, automation, and even development and integration. We don't need to complete a ‘mega project' to deliver immediate value. Instead, we should be delivering best-practice journeys that allow our customers to move forward with confidence that their technology investment will be the right fit for them not only in the short term, but in the years to come.
And of course, we have to build greater knowledge of business outcomes, and then deliver on them. Too many surveys show that CEO's feel their digital investments failed to deliver on the business outcomes promised. We have to put customer success at the heart of our value proposition, because success always accelerates future change. We need to be as invested in the outcomes as our customers are - their business must be our business.
By putting all of those elements together into our ‘Transform-Now' partnership framework, we can help our customers move faster, more confidently, and with greater impact on their business than ever before.
Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was a solid digital transformation project (that one wasn't a Plato quote) but we can and must accelerate digital change at pace. Because if we can't turn change into an advantage for our customers, then we can't sustain the momentum we have all felt in the last six months. And who wants to go back to the ‘old normal'?