Making Digital Investments Work

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the operating environments and marketplaces for many businesses. And, during this time, digital investments have been key to radically altering operations. The motivations are clear, digital technologies can help companies to transform operating models, meet evolving customer needs and remain competitive. However, while digital solutions have the potential to significantly boost productivity and revenue, many get left by the way-side. When that happens, digital becomes an expense rather than an investment. Meanwhile, while some companies have fast-tracked their initiatives, others have held off on investing amidst market disruption and uncertainty. 

When it comes to making digital investments pay off, using the right combination of technologies and solving the right problems is key. This means remaining agile, being able to pivot to problem-solving and ensuring that every solution is customer-focused. 

How Digital Investments Can Boost Business

While the shift to digital was certainly underway before the global pandemic struck, COVID-19 has accelerated the change. This has meant that instead of innovation being a nice-to-have, it has become essential and has changed the playing field for many businesses. However, making significant investments can be challenging, especially in the face of economic uncertainty and rapidly changing market dynamics. In spite of the clear shift to digital products and services, many businesses have cut funding for digital initiatives and paused digital transformation programmes. But, now is the time that these transformation initiatives are needed most, a time when digital technologies are playing a bigger role in our lives than ever. 

Digital investments are essential for any business looking to stay ahead of the competition. There are several ways that they can help businesses not only survive but accelerate long-term growth:

  • Meet expectations – today’s customers, whether internal or external, expect services and products to be available on-demand 24/7. Not only that, but they expect to have the same experience in both their professional and personal lives. By digitally transforming, businesses can offer more agile services and networking capabilities and deliver enhanced usability and customer experiences. 
  • Increase productivity – workforce engagement is critical to success, especially in a new normal where workforces are more dispersed. Digital technologies have the opportunity to make employees more effective in their primary roles. Core business functions can be moved away from manual processes, and automation can enable key employees to focus on wider business opportunities. 
  • Strengthen partnerships – as customer demands and competition increase, the ability to work with others, be it suppliers, contractors or consultants, becomes ever more important. To manage these partnerships, having a way to streamline communication and workflows in a transparent, timely and accurate way is fundamental. 
  • Make decisions – business is all about making decisions. However, if those decisions are based on relatable real-time data and analytics, organisations can gain a significant advantage. With the right set of analytical tools, data can be converted into valuable business insights, and decisions can be made quickly and with confidence. 

User-Centred Design – The Key Driver to Success

When it comes to digital investments, it is vital to ensure that time and money isn’t wasted on solutions that won’t deliver the desired benefits. The key to avoiding this and, in turn, the key driver to success is ensuring investments are customer-focused. User-centred design is all about putting customers, the people who will use the product, at the heart of any new application, system or product. There are many advantages to thinking in this way, including:

  • Making the right investments – if you understand the problems your customers are facing, then you are much more likely to create the right solution. With user-centred design, knowledge and confidence increase during the design process. You can experiment early and fail fast and ensure that your money goes towards the right solutions. 
  • Reducing development costs – if you develop an application or system and don’t get it right, the costs to fix it afterwards are far greater than before development. User-centred design can avoid this by ensuring that users are involved throughout and that any issues are identified early on in the process. 
  • Improving user adoption – user experience is a key driver for adoption. If users have been involved during the design process, then getting them to actually use the product should be far easier. If you have confidence that the product fulfils user needs, uptake is certain to be higher. For internal solutions, there will be reduced training costs and change management programs will be far simpler.  

Gathering and acting on real-time custom insights can help organisations through times of uncertainty and beyond. Sometimes, it may lead to significant business changes. However, this is where rapid prototyping and testing come into play. They can give your business the ability to quickly pivot according to customer needs and market dynamics. 

Will Your Digital Investment Pay Off?

While the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are yet unknown, the rapid digital transformation of our businesses is set to be a lasting legacy. Customers have formed new habits and shifted more areas of their lives online. As expectations and competition soar, the investments your business makes can make all the difference. 

To make digital investments pay off, you need to ensure that you meet customer needs. Solutions need to focus on solving real-life problems, and they need to be adaptable and agile. By using a customer-focused approach, digital investments are much more likely to be a success, creating solutions that work and delivering tangible business benefits.

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About the author

Michael Ridland is the Co-CEO and Founder of Xam Consulting.

Design-led problem solving delivering digital solutions.

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