29 Apr Necessity is the Mother of Invention
Around 380 BC, in the Republic, Plato famously wrote: “our need will be the real creator” which over time evolved into the proverb “necessity is the mother of invention.” Choices sometimes paralyze us, but we have an incredible ability to adapt when we are in a “sink or swim” situation. I cannot think of a better example than COVID-19. Normal ways of doing business have been upended. Gone are the days when I could walk into a doctor’s office with boxes of lunch from Panera Bread and get some decent amount of time with some health care professionals. I miss in-person meetings with my colleagues. I miss getting up, attempting to look presentable, putting some matching clothes on, and listening to the radio as I drove to work.
The New Reality
That got me thinking. Are these COVID-induced changes temporary or are some things never going to be the same? Would the pandemic be an inflection point where we had one life before the crisis and quite different after the crisis? Which changes are likely to stick? So, I started researching and found a survey conducted by McKinsey & Company of executives in October 2020 which I found insightful. Here are some salient findings with some of my observations and suggestions:
- Executives believe that the workers adapted to new demands more quickly than they thought possible
- Companies that have done well during the crisis were technologically savvy and had a culture of experimenting and innovating
- Responders are now three times more likely to say that more than 80% of their interactions with customers are digital
- Digitization of customer interactions accelerated by three years globally and in North America
- Creation and adoption of digital products accelerated by a remarkable 7 years
- Degree of adoption of digital portfolio depends less on B2B vs. B2C but if a company manufactures physical products or is in service industry. Health care, pharma, and professional services saw greater change than CPG and automobile industries
- Level of digitization accelerated in internal operations as well, such as production or R&D processes, and not just in customer-facing endeavors
- Executives say that their companies responded to COVID-induced changes 20 to 25 times faster than they thought possible. For example, remote working happened 40x faster, use of advanced technologies in decision-making (25x), spending on data security (19x) etc. than expected
- The most critical changes have been shifting customer needs or expectations in terms of products they value and how they want to receive information, dramatic increase in remote working, and demand for online purchasing. These changes and increased migration to the cloud, more spending on data security, and increased use of advanced technology in operations are changes that are expected to stick
- Cost effectiveness, meeting customer needs, and advantages to the business are major drivers of change. Two changes that have reduced costs are remote working and cloud migration
- Companies that invested more capital in digital technologies compared to their peers, were two times more likely to have weathered the crisis well
- Companies used to invest in technology as a cost-saving measure. Now they invest in technology for competitive advantage
What does this all mean for my health care prospects and clients?
I think the first thing is psychological; to embrace change and not to resist it. We may not like change nor be comfortable in adopting it, but fighting it will just cause stress, alienation, and leave us behind. As I think about it, several changes have been positive; traffic has improved, we are saving a great deal of money on business travel, fewer miles on my car, hardly any dry-cleaning expense, 4 hour proposed window by the cable company repairman does not bother me much, office politics is not as biting, more time with the family, and disciplined workers can be more efficient since daily commute has been replaced with a short walk to the office.
If you have not done so already, following steps need to be undertaken swiftly:
- Develop a hybrid onsite/remote work model that would work best for the company and individual employees
- Aggressively enhance presence and capabilities in digital space internally and externally. Digitizing company processes will increase efficiency and offering services to customers, where possible, through online channels will improve bottom line
- Determine what sites and online publications are popular with your customers and enhance your presence and visibility there
- Allocate greater resources and build talent in the digital space
- Foster a culture that encourages experimentation and act early. During COVID-19, successful companies were first to market with innovations and were the first companies in their industries to experiment with new digital technologies
- Have a strong social media presence
- More than ever, your website is the most important marketing tool. It should be visually appealing, uncluttered, easy to navigate, responsive, fast to load, and with content that clearly articulates a value proposition
- Prepare landing pages for flagship products
- Invest in SEO
- Disruptions in access to doctors and other customers by sales forces has imperiled drug launches. Companies need to shift resources to e-detailing, webinars, and virtual trade shows.
Learning how our customers and our businesses are shifting due to the pandemic will position us not only to survive, but perhaps also thrive, in uncertain times. For more than a year, we adapted, learned to be resilient, learned new apps, and hopefully, we will be rewarded for our efforts.
— Brad Saeed, President of BTS Consulting