2020. What a strange year. The economy, influenced by multiple national and global forces, has kept everyone guessing. With new vaccines and better treatments and testing, we can hopefully put this chapter behind us and personally, professionally, and economically rise like a phoenix from the ashes. In this article, Valorem Senior Consultant, Sheryl Hampton, shares recommendations from Valorem’s Digital Transformation experts on high-value digital initiatives business leaders should consider as we all look to recover and rebuild in the new year.

1. Double-Down on Unified Customer DataCUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
2020 has been the year of “doing everything from home” – working, video-call-socializing, eating, and shopping. Food delivery services and online shopping platforms have surged this year, with skyrocketing revenue from YoY sales. Meanwhile, brick-and-mortar stores and restaurants are shutting their doors in record numbers. The digital marketplace trend has been growing for a long time however, few could argue this year hasn’t accelerated it to warp speed.

The implication here is that the relationship between your customers and your business is more digital than ever and likely will only continue to flourish and evolve in that way. This digital relationship, in turn produces and provides you with access to more data on your customers and business than you likely ever have. The market leaders of today and tomorrow are capitalizing on that. To offer consistent customer experiences across marketing, sales, and service, you need to focus on harnessing and unifying that data. After over a decade of helping clients turn their business data into a strategic asset, the two biggest problems we see in the market when it comes to customer data are:

  1. Fractured data – multiple data silos across marketing, sales, loyalty programs, business lines, customer service, etc.
  2. Data integrity and cleanliness


Our Advice: Centralize your data and create a data-focused strategy for identifying gaps, failures and inconsistencies in the customer experience that may be restricting cross-selling/up-selling, loyalty, and advocacy to grow your customer lifetime value.

Find out more about Customer Experience at Valorem Reply.

2. Drive to Value: Do More with LessMODERN WORKPLACE
Of course, 2020’s most pressing IT imperative across the board was ensuring the organization’s entire workforce could work from home, while being secure and compliant. As we close out “the year that was 2020,” we’ve started seeing IT organizations focus on getting more value out of their existing investments and the tools they already have with hybrid and staged modernization initiatives.

Business process automation is an area of huge opportunity for realizing value in existing investments and increasing profit margin through operational efficiencies. We have seen great examples of “Citizen Developers” using low-code applications to automate analog, multi-step tasks like approval processes, customer communication, new location openings, and even new employee onboarding processes. And we see that the employees responsible for these tasks thoroughly welcome efforts to automate.

We have also noticed a trend of “best of breed” IT portfolios shifting towards more integrated ecosystems as contracts come up for renewal or cancellation. We’re a Microsoft partner and see 3rd party takeout happening more and more frequently – folks are consolidating vendors and realizing that they already have access to powerful, integrated applications within their Microsoft platform that offers the same or improved functionality, like security, chat, or calling.

Our Advice: Do more with less by optimizing your existing investments to realize cost savings, as well as an uptick in employee engagement.

Find out more about Digital Workplace at Valorem Reply.

3. Innovate to Gain Market Share as the Economy ReboundsPRODUCT TRANSFORMATION

As companies evolve their business models to embrace digital products two concepts are clear:

  • Digital platforms are essential in building “sticky” and long-term relationships with customers and partners.
  • Physical products (consumer products, industrial machinery, medical equipment, etc) increasingly rely on digital backbones to keep them up-to-date, secured and properly maintained.

While the economy is in recovery mode, companies have a huge opportunity to get a head-start in digitally transforming their products and services. With a focus on new or re-imagined products, these companies are designing and building revenue-generating, cloud-based platforms with the agility to capitalize on new markets, geographies, ecosystems and business models.

We’re currently seeing great examples of this product transformation in verticals like discrete product manufacturing, distribution, and professional services. These first-to-market products—by nature of being digital—set the foundation to attract, engage, and retain customers, all at scale.

Our Advice: Get ahead of your competitors and better prepare for the next unexpected market shift or world event, by acting now to evolve and transform your products.

Find out more about Product Transformation at Valorem Reply.

4. Put Your Data in ActionDATA-DRIVEN ENTERPRISE

Combine an increasingly digital world with plummeting costs of cloud storage, and you’ve got the perfect conditions for capturing and storing more business data than ever before. That’s what a lot of companies have been doing over the past few years, and it’s a great first step toward becoming a data-driven organization. Most of these companies have also started manipulating the data to some extent to report on historical performance and trending.

A lot of times, we see this being the extent of data usage at the majority of organizations. They capture, store, and minimally report on the data, but don’t know how to approach it to realize its full potential. The next stage in the journey around data maturity is what we call “Data in Action.” Putting your Data in Action as a strategic asset, enables you to have a more direct and effective business impact, such as:

  1. Layering on additional data sources and applying Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning to shift from reactive, historical reporting to predictive and prescriptive future-looking insights to manage your business.
      Example: Dynamic pricing in the hospitality vertical, influenced by current and projected occupancy rates.
  2. Shifting your organizational approach to data and exploring potential opportunities to monetize your unique insights as an incremental revenue stream.
      Example: Productizing of anonymized customer data in B2C professional services to provide an additional revenue stream.
      Example: Usage data from hand sanitizer dispensers in fast food restaurants combined with Department of Health ratings. After normalizing data coming from the different states, its now being sold to the restaurants to assist in inventory management and store layouts.

Our Advice: Consider your data as a strategic asset and put your Data in Action in 2021.

Find out more about Data-Driven Enterprise at Valorem Reply.

5. Shift Your Thinking: IT as an Innovation DriverIT MODERNIZATION

In the not so distant past (and sometimes still current), IT was viewed a cost center thanks to the dependency on legacy applications for core business functions to “keep the lights on.” But that approach is no longer acceptable for businesses who wish to compete and thrive in the increasingly digital world. Business leaders must make a plan and plot their own unique journey to completely modernize IT that derives the fastest and highest value for their organization. Over time, legacy apps lose value as the business changes and the market evolves. We commonly see traditional client/server apps in retail stores, warehouses, factories, and healthcare facilities, and they’re struggling. They are riddled with exorbitant maintenance, update, and security/compliance effort and costs.

We need to shift our thinking about the role of IT. We need to consider how IT can enable business innovation and agility, driving business value and competitive advantages. This can only happen in the cloud. Once the time and resources formerly spent managing and maintaining hardware can be repurposed to optimization and innovation in the cloud, your IT teams can devote more time to value-adding services. Modern DevOps engineering practices and agile development methodologies offer the opportunity to rapidly iterate and make incremental improvements for faster returns on investments and optimization of existing technologies.

Our Advice: Be the change that you want to see in the IT world; start thinking about ways a modernized IT can drive innovation to better serve your customers and employees, increase revenue, and reduce costs.

Find out more about IT Modernization at Valorem Reply.

Technology Aside, Let’s All Maintain Empathy

You’re on a video call. Your cat jumps up on your desk. Your toddler MUST have your attention NOW. Your dog won’t stop barking at the Amazon delivery driver. Your teenager’s school laptop is lagging and he needs help before the teacher counts him absent.

This year, it’s safe to say with 100% certainty that we’ve all been there… likely many times. How amazing that we’ve had the technology to continue moving forward this year, even with a couple bumps in the road. What 2020 has taught us is to show grace; to acknowledge that we’re all humans, and not just a suit in a job. We’ve all had no choice but to expose parts of our personal lives we hadn’t before. Even when offices open back up, it won’t be the same as 2019. Things have changed for good and working remotely will not go away.

No matter where we are working and what the specific conditions, let’s continue having and showing empathy for our colleagues, clients, and partners as human beings.