Friday 24 April 2020

Business as normal, but not as we know it

There will be many legacies from the Coronavirus pandemic, not least the adoption of technologies we have had for some time. Many companies have been using video conferencing successfully for years, but many more were flying their people around the globe for reasons that were plausible at the time. Now grounded, they are using video conferencing and will find that travel budgets are reduced once the health dangers are over.

Cometh the pandemic, cometh the ability to get to grips with Teams.

It is not just video conferencing; it is also cloud adoption. Cloud providers such as Microsoft Azure have been struggling to keep up with the sudden surge in demand. The myriad of reasons why the cloud was bad for business have melted as home workers need the same information as they had in the office.

Do any of us think we will go back to life as it was two month’s ago? No. It is impossible to unlearn a new skill, and it is impossible to become less efficient once we know how to be more efficient. So wider spread use of technology to do business will become the new normal. Which is good news for some, but for others their hearts will sink.

The harsh reality is that we cannot cherry pick. The rapid demise of the high street has demonstrated that all too graphically. If we want to flourish, we must understand how to offer value wherever and however people want to buy. Whether that is on their mobile, at their desk, or in store.

Value is where the internet scores. On the internet we can flick from product to product, compare prices and companies quickly and easily. We may want the cheapest price, or we may want specialist advice; value is not the same for everyone. Nor is it the same at every step in the customer journey.

The difference between online and physical stores is that we can measure perceived value, as well as sales. If I read an article, and return to it, there is an indication I am getting value from it. If the article gets very few readers, it indicates a lack of value for readers. Diligent measurement, analysis, and tests enables us to understand where the value lies for our customers.

The shift to online will bring many benefits, not least a cleaner planet. But after social distancing ends, we may well find it more convenient to get advice online rather than face to face. We may prefer to video call rather than pick up a new infection in the doctor’s surgery (and the doctor may feel the same). We may find it easier to chat to our hairdresser about the best shampoo to use, rather than go into the salon. And there will be many other areas online were value can be found for businesses willing to provide it.

Behind all these opportunities, and very many more, will be measurement. Knowing for sure where people find value, and where they do not. Which is where Microsoft Power BI scores so highly. You do not have to be Amazon or eBay to use analysis and AI technologies, they are available to businesses of all sizes. Measurement, analysis, and better understanding are available to everyone.

Pandemics are not generally the best way to adopt a new technology, but the lesson is that one way or another there is no way to hold back progress.

As always, if there is anything in this blog you found interesting, valuable, or you would like to argue with, then get in touch. We are Microsoft Business Intelligence specialists, and Gold Partners for the Microsoft Data Platform and if you are grappling with a data problem, we might be able to help.

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