I’m not going to lie...during the last few weeks I have often thought back to the halcyon summer of 2018. It was warm, it was glorious and England was in a World Cup semi-final! Ever since Kieran Tripper’s goal at 7:05pm on 7 July, the world has become a very different place! 

For those of you who don’t follow English football, you have most likely now switched off.

However, now we all have one thing in common: the troubles and uncertainty that everyone is presently facing the world over. 

Not even in times of war, do countries across the world stand united against a single common foe. Yet, amidst all of this uncertainty, confusion and disruption, those that are leveraging technology to drive their businesses forward and navigate pretty treacherous seas, will be in a better position when those seas calm. 

Cloud Based Technology Is Establishing a New Normal

Across the globe, Contino is helping our customers scale BCP interventions that they never thought conceivable in the on-premise landscape. Cloud-based collaboration tooling, SaaS-based commodity services and higher level solutions from cloud service providers are being deployed at scale, to implement “tactical” solutions to support customer engagement, increasing interaction and their speed of response to customer queries. 

That’s right…. Despite many organisations experiencing significant disruption to their customer contact centres, a vast array of our clients are answering more queries now, during the COVID-19 Pandemic, than they were prior to COVID-19.

“Ah Ha!”, I hear you say….. “More problems = More Customer Queries to Answer”. No?”...

No, it does not.

I should stress, it is not the volume of customer queries that are being answered but the speed at which they are being resolved. One financial services customer has seen a 180% increase in customer queries through their Chatbot solution, yet customer queries are being solved 33% faster. 

Likewise, another of our customers has got the vast majority of their contact centre agents productive again, with cloud-hosted virtual desktop infrastructure and telephony solutions. They are handling customer queries 28% faster than ever and have actually seen a 15% uptick in their customer satisfaction surveys and service ratings, whilst running on cloud enabled solutions…. I wonder if they’ll ever revert back to their legacy stack post COVID-19? 

Again, these solutions might be seen by some in their organisation as tactical interventions. But they will serve as the catalyst for transformation beyond this uncharted period and will set the tone for how these organisations interact with their customers across multiple channels in the future. Mark my words….

Eliminate the Fear Factor and Release Great Innovation

I believe it was Georg Cantor who said “Great innovation only happens when people aren't afraid to do things differently”. That quote seems pretty relevant in the current climate. Markets are tumultuous, businesses are putting their staff on furlough and there is a huge degree of uncertainty across global enterprise. 

However, I truly believe that now is the time to reflect on the current situation before us and consider:

  • How can we innovate? 
  • How can we differentiate ourselves from the rest?
  • How do we acquire the skills and talent to remain relevant?
  • How do we engage our customers? 
  • How do we deliver great customer experiences, so they come back?
  • How do we do this at speed? 

Reflection is key. However, this shouldn’t be a period for procrastination. Now is the time to act. To try something different. To pivot approaches of delivering change across your business. To break down silos. Form cross functional teams, deploy new tooling, remove the bureaucracy and put your customers back at the heart of everything you do. 

Now is not the time to go into hibernation. 

Yes, social distancing is disrupting our everyday lives in ways we never thought possible. However, with public cloud, event driven architectures, machine learning, automation and the business intelligence solutions, we all have the constituent parts to build products and services faster than ever… at a fraction of the cost. 

By way of example, Contino is supporting many customers to launch new products and services as off-shoots to their existing propositions, with the aim of not cannibalising active revenue streams. We are helping our customers do this successfully, whilst lowering their total cost of ownership with serverless architectures and the adoption of higher level solutions from the cloud service providers. 

Not only are we launching net new utility platforms in under 90 days, delivering cloud based insurance propositions in under 60 days or establishing new regulatory driven Banking services ahead of schedule but… we are building scalable technology solutions that traverse #N000,000’s of customer interactions hourly, for as little as $260.00 p/d. 

Cost shouldn’t be a barrier to innovate during these uncertain times. Especially if your organisation fully understands “Why” you are embarking on the investment and have a sound business case. Feel free to check out this White Paper on Building Winning Business Cases for more insights.

That said, innovation isn’t easy. Particularly at a time when the fear of risk and failure are at the forefront of everyone's minds. As Georg Cantor says, to truly innovate we all need to eliminate the fear factor. 

Take this example; I was speaking with a customer the other day who is saying that they are now cramming five years of technology change into two weeks to support coping mechanisms in response to COVID-19. If you can innovate during times of struggle and hardship, then why can’t you innovate and accelerate the speed of change for the other 1821 days?

So why do attempts to innovate fail and what can your organisation do to generate success?

Why Do Attempts to Innovate Fail, More Often Than Not?

“Hi. My name is Ben, and I have failed to deliver a transformation”.... 

For every successful delivery I’ve been a part of, there are probably three transformations that haven’t hit the same notes in terms of value. I’m not ashamed to admit it. 

I’ve compiled a list below of reasons why efforts to innovate and introduce a step change across enterprises fail, more often than not, and what you can do about it:

Failure #1: The attempt to innovate is not tied to a business outcome or compelling event, that can instigate action at all levels across the business. 

Treatment: Find your “Why?”. Build a solid business case and build a cross functional team of business stakeholders and technologists. Make your business case transparent and inform people of progress frequently. 

Failure #2: The mandate for change does not exist or nobody is prepared to put themselves on the-line. 

Treatment: Don’t bother starting if you don’t have C-Level support or someone from the business is happy to take bullets for you and the team. Pay £200 and go back to Jail. 

Failure #3: Organisations lift and shift all their procedures and controls from the last 50 years into their innovation project. “It’s the way we’ve always done it” is not the right response when innovating. 

Treatment: Don’t fight the processes and controls. Accept that they exist for a good reason and automate your check points and compliance validation, and illustrate this with dashboards and visualisation. 

Failure #4: Processes, control boards, review checkpoints and a fear of the unknown suffocates progress.

Treatment: Apply Treatment 3 and and move your service management experts and compliance experts into your cross functional teams. Have them consult with your engineering divisions and explore how you can increase the transparency and knowledge of change across your landscape. This blog on ITIL and Cloud Operations might be of help.

Failure #5: The targets and goals that are aspired towards are stratospheric and don’t deliver business value quick enough. Nobody will wait two years for their ROI. 

Treatment: Don’t boil the ocean. Make sure your innovation efforts can demonstrate business value in 3-months. Apply design sprint thinking, cross functional teams and minimum viable products to test your hypotheses with real customers. 

Failure #6: People forget about their customers and focus on technology first. Your customer is not going to give two hoots about how you configure service mesh. They want beautiful products that are stable, reliable and remove friction from their lives. 

Treatment: Aim to deliver working increments of software to customers every sprint. And make sure your “show and tells” have real customers in them and use their feedback to inform your next sprint goals. 

Yes, technical scalability is also a key requirement but if the initial scale of your customer base doesn’t dictate a multi-cloud strategy, don’t waste time designing or building a complex architecture. Any good architecture must be modular in nature, so that if you do need to move the sink or add on an extension... you can do so with ease. 

Failure #7: Organisations fail to acquire the skills and talent to build sustainable solutions in a cloud-native fashion. 

Treatment: Work with a partner who can help you re-skill your team through delivery. Invest in your people’s skills and development. Yes, they might leave. But they also won’t get the job done if they don’t have the right tools to succeed in the first place. Talk openly at industry events about what you're trying to achieve and the engineering culture you are breeding. (Now it is okay to talk about Service Mesh…!)

Failure #8: Organisations spin up the innovation project, taking the “organ out of the body” and then try to put it back in at a later date. The body's tissue rejects the organ because they’ve not been involved in the innovation effort. Either bring everyone along for the ride or accept that you're going to build a breakaway business model and disrupt yourself. 

Treatment: If you don’t have to put the organ back into the body, then don’t. Either accept you’re going to have to breakaway different propositions, or work with the mothership and bring them with you on the journey. Just don’t get caught in purgatory by trying to do both. You’ll achieve nothing. 

Failure #9: People are not empowered to make decisions as part of the innovation. Experimentation is seen as a sure fire success to failure and the learnings from the innovation effort are not harvested and reused across the business. 

Treatment: Experimentation and entrepreneurship needs to be encouraged and rewarded across the business. Establish environments in the cloud that allow your teams to be creative without breaking compliance. Use cloud native security patterns and DevSecOps approaches to embed proactive measures at each stage of your software development lifecycle. 

If an initiative fails make sure you harvest all of the IP, make it easily accessible to those across the business and look to identify how components of your approach could be applied to address different business needs. However, experimentation needs to be tied to a business outcome and not a pet science project. 

Failure #10: The innovation effort is not time boxed and drifts aimlessly, being led by technologists who have no real affinity or alignment with the business. 

Treatment: Break your effort into 3-month planning increments with outcomes and key results clearly defined, captured and agreed with your engineering teams. Don’t dictate these OKRs to them or else you’re destined to fail. 

Closing Thoughts 

We’ve covered a lot of ground in under twelve minutes of reading. Though, I wanted to close on this thought...

I’m often the first to cringe when a sales rep opens up about digital disruption and how the likes of Uber, Facebook, Alibaba, AirBnB and other digital unicorns are transforming the consumer landscape…. “Hello, 2010 called, it wants its pitch deck back!”

That said…

If we trace back to the global financial crisis, the genesis of such innovative firms can be found during this period. Netflix began streaming video content in 2007 before an all out migration to the public cloud in 2008. AirBnB broke onto the scene in 2008. Uber went Live in 2009. All three are multi-billion dollar businesses, all three took bold steps to innovate during uncertain times and all three run on the public cloud.

Now is the time to innovate. The cost of entry to build new solutions and products on the public cloud is lower than ever. With financial markets hitting a point similar to the global financial crisis, the only way is up! And when the chips are down, we can all eliminate the fear factor and get going! 

If you can time box your investment and build these new services with a small number of highly skilled SMEs, operating as a cross functional team, then I truly believe you won’t go far wrong. 

Stay safe, stay healthy and thanks for reading as ever.

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Ben Saunders

VP, Consulting EMEA

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