Adapting to the new world and its ways of working is always a challenge. Especially for the organization that is still in the old Brick & Mortar ways of working. As a leader when you take up the task of Digital transformation, it is not always easy because you have a group of people & systems who still work in the old ways, on the other side you have technologies of the future and new ways of working.
“A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd, at the same time make sure his team is entertaining them”… Leading digital transformation is almost like this.
You have to lead and implement the new ways of working and system at the same time entertain, encourage, onboard the old systems, People, Processes, and ways of working.
In order to take the people to a new level, you have to first make them realize where they stand. Then you have to teach them how they have to change and why they have to change. So the first step is “Awareness”. Awareness of the current people, systems, and processes. Then we have to make them realize where they are and the changes you will need in people, processes, and systems.
Let’s look at some steps by which we can do this:
Don’t create a vision without knowing where you are. There is saying
“ Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others”,
in order to create a vision you have to first see what others see. That means understanding the strategic gaps, technologies, and processes used by the people.
This will help you in seeing what they see and in creating a clear “Vision”. Even though that vision is invisible to others, it will be easy for you to make them understand and accept.
2. Get the right people involved
Once you have the vision the next step is to start selling it. But the question is to whom?
“ In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence”.
Most of the old organizations will be heavily hierarchical. So get the leaders on board and make them realize the vision. If you are able to align with the leaders the success rate will increase more than 1.5 times.
“People without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots”
Before you start transformation understand the culture. Because as part of the digital transformation you have to create a new culture and that culture has to take inspiration and learning from the past. This way you are aligned with the leaders and you are not stopping there instead, you are touching the roots and slowly transforming the culture.
4. Gather the Right people
“ With the right mindset, with the right people, with the right tools, and with the right support, things happen”.
You have to look for the right qualities in those people. Like willing to learn, willing to adapt, team players, open to challenges and changes. This will help you to evolve continuously.
5. Choose the right Technology
“ Technology has to be invented or adopted”.
There are certain systems and functionalities which you can achieve by adopting the right technology platform. At the same time, every organization needs a certain amount of innovation. For those innovative ideas or exceptions, you have to build something of your own. This adoption will also include embracing legacy systems.
The better way to transform is not just by changing everything which is old. Instead, it is done by embracing legacy. So invent and adopt.
Don’t think with these four-step we are done with digital transformation. It’s just the beginning of a journey in the right direction.
“Digital transformation is a Direction and not a Destination”
Newton’s first law of motion states “ If a body is at rest or moving at a constant speed in a straight line, it will remain at rest or keep moving in a straight line at constant speed unless it is acted upon by a force “
This is the same in psychology also “ If we taste victory then we tend to do the same thing again and again. And for some in rest or in a different path and they will continue in their path unless someone forces them to change”
I have felt this resistance when I engage with companies for their transformation projects.
Let break it down and see why this is happening and how you can overcome this.
As Newton’s first law states the object will continue in its state as long as a force is being applied on it. It’s because we look for comfort zones. Because we all have weaknesses and we don’t want to expose that to the world. So the best way is to find a comfort zone and hide inside that.
But when you look at the people who achieved great heights we will find that they never cared about these comfort zones. They expose themself to new environments and changes. That allowed them to learn and adapt.
Adapting to changes it’s there in our blood but are we are trying to run away from that instinct. The first step is for companies and individuals to come out of their comfort zones.
2. Fear of Failure
When I was talking to one of the senior executives of a company he was asking me “ We are not doing bad now, we know we have issues but somehow we are delivering results. Then why should we change the way we work? And what Guarantee we have that your approach will work.’’
Instead of answering that I asked him a counter-question “ Nokia as a company was doing great and they didn’t want to change the approach based on what is happening in the industry, at the end what happened?”
We always have to look outside and see what is happening and change our course according to that. You are like a captain of your ship, you have to constantly observe and change the course of your journey else the old route which you have taken might not take you to shore.
Do not fear for change embrace it and change according to it.
3. Busy in creating an Image
When we work in projects and teams, you will notice that some will be busy creating an image for themselves. It is needed but when we overdo it then it becomes a problem.
Why people tend to over to it? Because they lack the knowledge in that area and it becomes a necessity for them to create an image that is larger than themselves. This image creating will result in unnecessary politics in the office environment.
Companies and individuals have to identify these big images getting created in the echo system which is going to eventually throw the balance off.
We should also look at why they are getting created:
a. There is a lack of knowledge in the group so that the one with little knowledge will be considered as the champion. This also means that there is no one capable at the leadership level to identify and correct this.
b. Leaders themself creating a picture- I have seen this happening a lot of times, leaders will be busing in portraying and creating a bigger picture of their projects. But when you dig deep into it, you will realize that the leader is not having a good understanding of the project. These leaders will eventually become toxic. One of the common things I have noticed is that this leadership will support favoritism because that is one of the ways for them to protect the bubble they have created. Most of the time this bubble and project will fail together.
4. Force the change
The last one is the force. As Newton said if you have to change the course of movement then you have to apply force. Only a force can make a change.
It’s the same in our case if we want to change we have to force ourselves and companies have to force the change into the organization.
You can bring this change in two ways, for the first approach is to force the change across the organization. This means those who cant change will get frustrated. It is like shaking a fist tank, it will take a little time to settle down. Management has to force the change and appoint the right people to drive the change so the echo system can be rested based on the vision of the company.
The second method is to be a servant leader and force the change along with others. To do this these leaders should have a great understanding of the full echo system and also a clear view of the end goal. In this case, the disturbance is less because everyone will get a view of what they are doing and why they are doing it.
In both the approaches one thing is mandatory “ The vision’’
There are many microelements that result in a successful transformation. Because when you change a moving engine all the parts of that engine have to work together for that change. Else it will be catastrophic and will result in a big failure. So create that vision and let that vision be the force to make that change.
I recently had a session with a CEO of a digital commerce company, with around 300 plus employees. As part of the new initiatives, the company is ready to pump in money for innovation and build new products in the e-commerce space.
He wanted to explore the ways by which he can start the product culture in the company and also he wanted to discuss the failures they had in building some of their products.
That meeting actually triggered me to write about this.
Why innovation hubs of many of the companies fail in spite of having the best talents and unlimited funding?
Innovation is driven by passion and not via Dollars. So what is the trait of passionate people and companies? Being passionate requires hard work, dedication, willingness to fail over and over again, more than everything you have to be empathetic.
Because every innovation is solving some problem of a user. You can’t solve it unless you understand it. We have to be empathetic to find that “Why”.
So for creating empathy you have to put aside your own viewpoints and start seeing and feeling things from another person’s perspective.
Then you will be able to analyze the emotions, pains, and reactions of the other person.
In order to be innovative you have to Empathetic, both the company and every employee in the company have to be empathic to understand the pain of your users.
So you need to build this culture in the company, when you start practicing then you will realize that it is not easy to create an empathy culture. This has to come inside out because you cant call all your employees and declare that “ from today onwards we are an empathetic company, so from today we will be empathetic”. It is not possible.
When I ask the leaders and management team they all will say that they are empathic. But first, the employees should feel that management is empathetic to them and the leadership team should also have empathy and vision towards “why they are building what they are building”.
That empathy and vision should flow to all the employees. This is not an easy process it takes time, patience, and practice.
Once this is done then you have actually laid the foundation for innovation. Because once you feel the pain of the users you will think about innovative ways to solve that.
Till this point, “you are a group of people who are implementing a solution based on customer’s needs”.
This is the same point where you will transform yourself from a service mindset to a product mindset. That mindset is the key driver for innovation. As I said earlier this is only the foundation and then you have to build on top of this.
So, It’s not the dollars and manpower you need to build a product instead you need “Passion and Empathy”.
With the advancement in technology, our life is moving very fast. The human race is capable of predicting the future, treating & preventing diseases, looking for life & the next colonizable place in another planet. With all these advancements we have started predicting the future. We plan things based on these predictions. But the fact is we can’t control what happens in the next moment.
All we know and control is what happens “Now”, rest all are presumptions, predictions, expectations, and beliefs.
We tend to do predict and expect based on what we learned from the past. With this learning, we are planning and dreaming for a better tomorrow. This also means that we live with a burden of presumption which we acquired based on our past.
“Doesn’t matter what happened in the past or what you have planned for the future. All you have is this moment. Don’t let it slip away.”
So engage in, feel what you are doing, and enjoy the process. Keep in mind life is not a racing track with a finite destination instead it’s just a journey and it’s nothing but a sum of “Now’s.”
The journey will end one day. After your death, if the world is looking at the path you have taken then that means you are successful. Else it doesn’t mean you are a failure instead it means you are just another human being who lived with close ones and died in this world. Your path will be looked upon by those close ones.
All we can do is learn from the past and prepare for the future by doing the right things now.
As Albert Einstien once said, “ Life is a preparation for the future, and the best preparation for the future is to live as if there were none.”
Enjoy and indulge in the surroundings and do the right things now. Because all you can do is “do the right now”.
“ Good afternoon everyone!. This is “Albion with you from Survivor News”.
“ Today Sep-13–2070 is going to be a remarkable day in human history. Because today a channel is again broadcasting live across the planet”. This is the story of our Survival, Perseverance, Passion, and Adaptability. After the black 30’s ( nickname for the incident that happened in 2030) we went through many hardships and it took 40 years for us to build and reclaim the technology we had at the start of this millennium. I am excited, blessed, and happy to be part of this big achievement of human history. One Again “ Good Afternoon” to the entire world.
Today as part of this program we look at what happened 40 years back, the period we call “The black 30’s” that wiped out 80 % of land and more than 80 % of animals, plants, and humans in the world. That was the time we had many timezones and our fellow human beings were living on both sides of the globe. From there we have shrunk to only the central part of the globe and we more or less live in the same timezone. What an irony…
Even after all this we humans survived and showed our character. Over a period of time, we collected some of the old video footages from our history. I think we should begin our new face by looking at what we had before 2030. We are also going to meet one of the oldest survivors of the catastrophe which started on Sep-13–2030.
We have read and heard about what happened in 2030, but there is only very few who could explain what happened during that time and only one person who is still chasing behind the key phenomena or incident that played a crucial role in the survival of human civilization.
Please welcome “Siddarth Rajamangalam” the famous Writer, Historian, Oceanographer, and Scientist..from a place once called Kerala. You might be wondering where is this place “Kerala”. This was once the southern tip of the country called India. Like us, he is currently a Global Citizen.
He walks into the studio…
Albion went and hugged him and welcomed him to the seat.
Albion: I am so happy to see and share a seat with you, sir! Your name is going to be written in the history books as the first person to be interviewed in the live channel in version 2.0 of earth.
Siddarth smiled and said “ that’s was a nice interpretation of human history, Version 2.0”
Albion: “ Before we start let’s play a small video from the ruins of a lost world. I know you played a vital role in collecting these pieces together.
The video was about a lost world, a world that got lost in 2030. Currently, all of those parts are underwater, Siddarth played a crucial role in collecting the old footage and many of those are from his personal collections.
The voice from the video:
“What you are seeing right now was once part of the world called Kerala in India. We know India as a country is largely not existing today,
In 2030 this was a big country with a population of nearly 2 Billion, which was the largest populated country at that time of history.
Siddarth couldn’t handle his emotions, that was his birthplace, 40 years back he lived there. He had family, friends, and relatives in that place. Now he doesn’t have anyone and that place is no longer existing in the world. This made his eyes wet.
He took a deep breath and said” the culture and this land is no longer existing right now”, This world is under the sea, you could have shown them the video of what we have found under the sea”.
Albion: “ We have that footage, the footage which your team took when you went below the deep ocean” We are going to show that at the end of this show.
Today I would like to focus on what happened on 13-Sep-2030.
Siddarth laid back on his seat and closed his eyes for some seconds. The memories of that day still drain his energy out.
Then he started saying
“ That day was my wife’s birthday, “We were in the middle of a long journey to the north of the world”
In the early August of 2030, there was a warning from the global scientific forum that huge hurricanes were forming in different parts of the world. The scientists were worried that this could be the end of the world. Because they predicted that it’s going to hit different parts of the world at the same time and could result in losing 70 percent of the land of entire world. Because with this rising temperature and hurricanes almost all the ice in the world will melt which will eventually make the world sink.
They started mapping out the places which are safe and could potentially survive this hit. One of the places was “Ismoil Somoni” in Tajikistan.
We set out on the journey to Tajikistan, Our first stop was at the north part of Delhi and then from there to Tajikistan and eventually to Ismoil Somoni. We were hoping the situation will ease up the border rules however we managed to get the permit because I was part of the driving clubs during that time.
We started the journey in our SUV from Kerala on Sep9th 2030…
The studio was silent everyone was patiently waiting for the story, Siddarth was lost in his thoughts.
Albion: Sir, Sir, What happened, you seem like you got lost in your thoughts.
Sorry, I was lost in my sweet memories, When we started the journey we knew that it could turn out to be the last journey together, but we also knew that it was our only chance left to survive. I was with my wife and two kids.
Albion: What exactly happened on Sep-13.
We were on the road towards Delhi, and somewhere near Jaipur, by the way, these places are not existing right now. It’s all underwater now.
It was predicted that the hurricane was set to hit by end of September or early October but all predictions went south and it started on sep13th 2030 in the early morning hours in India and almost at the same time across the world.
That day showed how powerless we were and we still are. We couldn’t do anything other than observe.
In the car, we were listening to see what’s happening around the world. The road was completely packed with vehicles all heading North. All of us were trying to move as north as we can and cover the Himalayas as early as possible. Because it was predicted that the Himalayas will be one of the worst hit places and most of north India will be flooded with the ice and water from the Himalayas.
By around 7 in the morning, the news came that Kerala along with many of the coastal areas was completely gone. At that time we were almost in the middle of India. We planned to cross the Indian border and head towards Kazakistan and eventually to Ismoil Somoni.
I would say we were only halfway through the journey,
By around 3 PM I couldn’t hear anything on the radio, it was all static. Then I knew that we could be hit by the storm at any point in time. We were not able to drive faster because the road was full but the traffic was moving.
By around 4 PM the wind and rain were unbelievable we couldn’t see anything in front. It was pitch black. I haven’t seen rain and storm like that in my entire life. I am sure only the survivors of that day would have seen rain like that.
We could see lightning striking the ground near us and the ground was breaking because of the heavy voltages.
After some time I felt that I am losing control of the steering. At first, I thought it was because of the road getting flooded with water. Then I realized that we were floating in the air, I told my wife that “ Probably we are going to be washed away with this”.. “The kids were all screaming they were terrified by the view… We hugged each other and said I love you …”
After a moment the surroundings went dark and the car started moving up in the air.
I could see lightning strikes inside that huge hurricane… Our car was literally inside that big storm.
I saw something strange in those moments. I saw lightning striking a car and the complete car disappeared…I looked back and hold my wife’s and kids’ hands…That was the moment we were hit by a huge lightning…
Again he went mute and everyone patiently waiting for his next words. Tears were rolling down from his eyes.
Albion: Sir, Sir, Are you ok.
Siddarth woke up suddenly and took the glass of water, his hands were shivering and his face was all red, he couldn’t control his emotions.
After some time he said, “that was the last time I saw them” ….
Albion was silent for some time and then said,
We will take a break now, after the break we will continue with the story of Siddarth and his family.
After the break:
Albion: “Sorry, to push you through those old memories, but what happened after that”.
During that time I heard and read about Teleportation, According to physicists that were completely possible but would require a huge amount of power to do that and no one has ever done that. It’s a method by which we transfer material or a living organism from one place to another in the blink of a second. It’s called Quantum Teleportation and entanglement.
Albion: “ Are you saying you were being teleported.
Siddarth: That is what I am saying for 40 years and trying to prove that it is possible. I am in search of two things…One the power that teleported us and two, my family”
Albion: So that means you lost them and you believe they are still alive?
Siddarth: I lost them, but I strongly believe they are living in some parts of the world now because if I am being teleported from India to northern China. They could also have been ported to some other part of the world and they could have survived. I am sure I will be able to find them because the world is literally very small now.
This is the one belief that keeping me alive. I became a historian because of that, I was traveling to what is left in the world just because of those two reasons.
Primarily to find my family, I still believe they are alive and during one of these explorations, I will find them somewhere. That is one of the reasons why I agreed to come to this show so that I can tell this story to the entire world, I believe they might be hearing this story now. I strongly believe that…
The second question is: “who teleported us, It’s not just me who got teleported on that day. Last four decades I have met several people who went through a similar experience and I have studied about them and I have written about them. But still, I can’t find the answer for how that happened or who did that.
The world and we people are so funny, In 2030 India and the general world were culturally divided, the nationalist movements have ruined India and the whole world. It was almost like the Nazi era coming back in the entire world. But the world was technologically advanced. Our fellow human beings were in space and some were even on Mars.
Speaking about that we still have satellites that are sent in the twenty twenties are still orbiting the earth and many planets. We still receive information from then and we don’t have the technology and power to interpret and communicate back with them. We also believe our fellow humans are surviving on Mars. We believe we will meet them again. During those times we used to say that by 2070 we would have a full colony on Mars and we will be having regular flights from Earth to Mars… What an irony right. We couldn’t imagine a situation like this back then. we only thought and imagined about advancement…
He took a pause and continued:
We as a species didn’t achieve all of them, but I am happy that we survived to see 2070… However, there was someone or something which helped us in surviving that catastrophe and we yet don’t know what that is.
Albion: “ We will take a break with this though and with the belief that before the next episode we will be able to find out Siddarth’s family and will see if Siddarth will be able to find the answer for his second Question. “ Who teleported us?
Before we go I would like to show you a picture of the Siddarth’s family and the lost world of Kerala.”
How do you change something that’s at the heart and soul of an organization? Cultures that took years to shape are certainly not going to change overnight or as a result of a re-written mission statement and an hour-long speech from the CEO. Cultural evolution takes time. Lots of time.
Transformation initiatives surrounded by the wrong organizational culture and DNA results in an unsatisfied workforce, chaos, confusion, and political collusion.
If an organization’s leadership is unable to inspire its people, how can those leaders expect their workforce to bring initiative, imagination, and passion to their work every day?
A strong, shared sense of purpose also removes many obstacles, and this has to be communicated from the top.
I can suggest you to explore ‘The Persuasion Cycle’ from Mark Goulston. It involves taking people through five stages
From resisting to listening
From listening to considering
From considering to willing to do
From willing to do to doing
From doing to, glad they did and continue to do.
“Ironically, the key to gaining ‘buy-in’ and then moving people through the rest of the cycle is not what you tell them, but what you get them to tell you — and what happens in their minds in the process,” says Goulston.
As he rightly said for any organization the transformation is not what to tell your employees but it’s how you listen to them. It also requires hearing what is unspoken yet conveyed through tone of voice, eye contact, and other body languages. This requires you to be curious and using all of your senses to truly tune into the other person.
Many of you might say you are a good listener, but the reality is we are not. If you analyze yourself you will have to admit that “ you were not actively listening instead, distracted of thinking about what to say next”
This becomes a crucial point when you undergo transformation because you will have to talk to your employees and they will have questions and complaints. You would start the conversation in an active listening mode but it will eventually turn into a defensive and justification mode. This is going to shut the other person’s minds and he will never open up. If your employees don’t open-up then you cant successfully do the transformation. Both of these actions are physiological. You are defending yourself because you yours self is not ready to accept the past, which in-turn will shut the doors to your employees minds.
Why is it important to listen to people: Everyone has their own challenges, needs, desire & agendas( Political & Personal). They have secrets they are hiding from you, they are stressed, busy, and often keeping all of these in their heads.
They put up a mental barricade to cover up all these. You can communicate and transform only if you can overcome this barricade. One of the first steps is to identify these barriers. For that you have to be an active listener with a clear vision of what you want to achieve.
The first step for companies and leaders who are trying to transform is to improve your ability to truly listen. Because the more you know them the more you know the problems. Which will help you in communicating the change you want and you will be able to implement the changes more effectively.
Various civilization has evolved throughout human history. We evolved from “State of Nature” to “Savagery” to “Barbarism” to “Civilization”.
These are the stages we passed through before we reached the apex of any civilization. This also means that the civilization is by default linked with hierarchy, which will eventually get linked with power and politics.
We could see this reflection in almost all the companies. Most of the companies will start small ( State of Nature). During this time they will have the fire to do anything and everything, they don’t care about the status quo, they will be brutal ( Savagery).
Slowly these companies will start growing and the fire will slowly go down. This will slowly lead to not knowing what is happening in each division inside the company and unknown friction starts building up ( Barbarism). This is the period where the companies will realize they need to define the process so they will start building hierarchy, roles, and responsibilities ( Civilization).
This is why I said every company is a true reflection of human evolution.
This means like human history hierarchy will be followed by power and politics. When you observe all the companies which moved to the hierarchical model, the immediate thing to happen will be “ Power game and Politics”.
Like what happened to great civilizations this will eventually lead to the collapse of companies.
You might be thinking what I am saying:
Are you saying that “we should not evolve”.
“NO !, Definitely not !” instead we should learn from the mistakes of what others have made and make sure with civilization you are not losing the element of fire called “Innovation “
Instead of defining specific roles and defining hierarchy for approaching people, we should look at building teams who are empowered to take and act on decisions they make.
Similar to human civilization any company is a group of people and we should not forget human values like Freedom, Friendship, Transparency, Trust, Sense of Achievement, etc.
If you look at the above words then you will understand that you cannot buy those. Instead, those have to be created over a period of time. For that, you need consistency, passion, and care.
I like to call the organization chart a “Power Pyramid” the moment it is established the people will start climbing that pyramid by forgetting human values. When you try to scale you must keep these elements in mind. Because your resources are neither machines nor blind followers, instead they are humans of a civilized world.
We all use the word “ Best “ in our daily life. Not once but many times and on many occasions.
But what is the meaning of this word? According to the Cambridge dictionary, it is “ the superlative of GOOD which means excelling all others or something of the highest quality, or being the most suitable, or Pleasing, or effective thing or a person”
Then what is the meaning of the word cheap? It means something low in price. Throughout life somehow the word cheap is also linked with “products with inferior quality”. This brings the notion to the customers that when you pay more you will get the BEST quality product.
If you look at this the word “Best” got linked with quality and high price.
In the new world of Retail where another word that is creating a buzz is called “Compare”.
The meaning of this word is: “ to examine or look for differences or similarities “. This word also means “ to view in relation with “
This means we need a baseline to compare something.
When eCommerce started internet became a place for comparing the prices, and now it became a place for comparing everything.
Initially, the baseline was the price, people got the habit of comparing two products based on price.
You remember the word Price was somehow linked with Quality.
People had this notion that if it is pricey then it has quality.
Globalization, internet, and eCommerce was a main force in bringing a change to this notion.
It threw a wide variety of options in front of the customers who are used to compare a minimal number of products based on price.
This created a behavioral change in the user’s way of comparing because they could see the same type of product in a wide range of prices. Hence they started comparing other things like Features, Services, Warranty, Quality, Reviews, etc etc.
So slowly internet has become a place for comparing anything and everything.
This behavioral change slowly brought a change to the meaning of the word “Best”. A word which was once linked with “ high price and quality” is now slightly getting related to “ Cheap and reliable or Cheap and Quality”
Now if you look at the google search trends for the words “Cheap” and “Best”. Search interest for “Best “ has outpaced the word “cheap”.
But the precise meaning of “Cheap” and “Best” largely varying between individuals. On the other hand, the word “Best” is getting associated with many other things like value, quality, performance, popularity, etc.
The word once Associated with Quality and high price is
now linked with Cheap, value, quality, performance, popularity, etc.
Analysis of this kind of behavioral change is essential for analyzing the trigger for purchase and consumer decision making of “ Why We Buy What We Buy “
With a lot of options in front, people explore and evaluate in the deep sea of the Internet where cognitive bias shapes their shopping behavior.
To succeed in this sea of opportunity the marketers have to understand the shift in consumer behavior and study the customers. We have to constantly evaluate and study the change in behavior of the users and words. Because when you say it is the best product, then that means “it is the best among what we have seen currently ” A new product could come up at any point of time and could redefine the meaning of “Best”.
I started growing up playing and was a big football fan, have never missed any of the games. During my college days like many , I was also a fan of Beckham. We were impressed and fascinated by the impeccable ability of Beckham to bend the ball. I could remember all of those freekicks and still watch many of them on Youtube these days.
Years have passed, that generation has grown up and I also started “Bending.” The only difference is I am not bending a football instead I started “Bending the Requirements” to make sure it is matching up with the platform which we are using.
You might be wondering what I am talking about 🙂
I am working in eCommerce for quite some years and I progressed my career through many positions.Throughout this journey what I have seen is:
All the retailers want to go online and compete ( many a time survive) against the threat of Amazon.
Almost everyone wants to go online and they will eventually choose one of the platforms to make their dreams come true.
In the initial stages of the dream, the SI (Service Integrator) of the platform will promise to develop all the functionalities the client has requested for.
The client will sign the agreement and once they start the project they will start seeing the experts of the platforms. The ones who are specialists in “Bending the Requirements” (Once I was also one among them ).
They will say the all the business requirements can be achieved but, not in the way business wants. Instead, they can achieve those using the out of the box advised method of the platform.
At the end of the day, 90% of the clients will end up comprising the actual business way of doing things. Because that is not possible to achieve in the chosen platform. The clients will give a tough time to the SI’s (Fact is the SI’s will give a tough time to the clients), this is when you will start hearing about the jargons (actually these are the concerns of the SI’s & Platforms) of software updates or threats about security etc.
This is where the skill of the so-called “specialist” will come into play, “Bending the requirement to score the Goal”.
But the question is who is going to win with that Goal?
The SI will definitely win because they will deliver the project on time and within the budget. But what about the client, they have to live with this platform with bended functionalities forever.
Looks like SI is the Villan, What do you think?
If you look into this closely you will realize that it’s not the problem of the SI. Because they can only do things according to what the platform provides ( they can do some customizations but not too much ).
Hmmm….. so the Villan is the platform providers?
It might look like that but, all the platforms have an advised method of doing things and it might not be compatible with all the business requirements.
So we got the Villans its the “Platforms”
hmmm… Maybe not, Just zoom out for a moment
“doesn’t it sound like a “One size fits all” theory? Is that practical.?
It’s not possible to build a platform that can work with all the business requirements under the sun. Hence all platforms are built to works with the basic eCommerce functionalities. Plus they will allow some bit of customization ( keep in mind there are only a few which you can customize in the cloud platforms )
.. hmm so the villains are not the platforms, Then where is the Devil?
I will tell you a story which is related to sports.
In the early 2000s cricket was facing a challenge. The shorter format of the game is one day long and the millennials were not patient enough to sit that long and watch the game. The game started losing its popularity.
Whereas, football is a game of rush of blood and full of energy for 90 minutes.
So in 2008, the cricket world came up with a new format called “T20”. Which is a much shorter version of cricket and the new generation will get the same or equivalent feel of football. It became a success and then this format of leagues started showing up in different parts of the world.
You might be thinking how is this relevant:
The cricket world could have gone ahead and drastically formated the game like football. Instead, they went and looked at the core of their business and kept that intact, and played around with other features like time and overs.
The retail business should do the same, look at what is their core business offering and differentiators. How they are different from their competitors and what is the uniqueness they have in the Brick and motor operations. We should try to offer all of those in the same or even in a better way in eCommerce.
So before finalizing the platform you have to see if your core features can be achieved and not just the core of eCommerce functionality can be achieved.
If platforms are not allowing you to do your core business be bold and take steps to custom build those features. You can do that either as a customization to the platform or as microservices. This way you won’t lose your core differentiators.
So essentially the retailers and SI’s have to avoid bending requirements like the platforms. Instead, “Bend the platform to achieve what the business wants without breaking it and make sure you don’t compromise on your business needs”.
During my last vacation, I wanted to buy a mixer grinder for my Mom, I went online and researched different products and nailed down to a couple of them. Then after discussing with my mom and wife I decided to go to the shop and buy it ( the instant gratification thing).
I went with them to one of the oldest and biggest brick & mortar electronics retailer in our home town. We straight away asked for the product which we were looking for and the front office allocated a saleswoman to us and she took us to the third floor of the shop.
She showed us the product, it was the same but the price in the shop is much higher than what I have seen online. Then I asked her is this the final price, she said ” Yes sir! this is the discounted price”,
I pulled out my phone and started verifying the price online. We saw the price in the online platform is much lesser. I showed her the price online and the discounted price she mentioned was the listing price in the online site. Plus they are now selling on a 30 % discount on top of that. Hence I asked why is this so, You don’t have to give me the same price as online but the difference is so huge.
She got irritated and said “ Then sir please buy from there and she started walking to the ground floor” and she continued “e-Commerce is so simple they just list the product and send it to the customer when someone buys it. We cant do that as we have additional overhead charges”
After hearing that comment I decided to get rid of my instant gratification feeling and buy online.
A year later, Now the same retailer is forcing themselves to be online. Now they are realizing that listing online and selling online is not that simple.
The pandemic has pushed almost every retailer out of there comfort zones and almost everyone is trying things online, many started listing their products in online market places, and others have started working on their websites.
We should consider these groups as “compelled commerce” and not eCommerce. Because they didn’t want to do it earlier or was not ready to covert the brick and mortar concept to a digital-first mentality. Now they are forced to do eCommerce and hence we should call them compelled commerce.
Will they all succeed? What all they should consider doing before jumping into eCommerce?
Small businesses can right away start the eCommerce journey but it’s not that easy for the big brick and mortar only retailers.
You might be wondering why? If the small players can do it then why can’t big players who are already in the market for such a long time with these many networks of stores?
When you decide to move on to (or forced to ) eCommerce don’t start looking at the competition and see how their sites are looking like, what functionalities they have and then try to copy those. Because they might have invested in proper eCom platforms a long time back and they will have proper back end systems to support those.
Almost everyone thinks eCommerce as what you see on the website, but the fact is the devil is in the backend. Which includes backend systems and backend operations, you will realize this only after starting the operations.
So when you are forced to start suddenly you won’t have the backend systems or operations ready. All of these have to be handled manually.
Doing a manual operation of listing products online, updating stock, price, and all operations until last-mile delivery packing is easy for a small business. Because they have a fewer number of products, and less number of locations to manage. But for a brick and mortar retailer, this is exponentially higher plus they will have one or more backend systems already existing. This makes it extremely difficult to manually manage everything.
So what should you do,
Look at your customers and see how can you offer your products to them by keeping the same advantage or edges you have in the physical stores. Give priority to this and start building a decent frontend experience.
Along with this, you need to look at the skeleton of your eCom infrastructure and see what all weapons you have in your arsenal. How can you use them to compete with your competition? Do you have the budget to build that? If not then think about what best can you do with the current systems. Because almost every business will be cautious in spending money right now.
Take a look at the 10 basic things a brick and mortar retailer has to do before they decide to go online
Understand your product
How is your buying pattern?
What is the frequency of replenishment & newness?
How you buy your product
As individual items
Do you have product data saved in your system if Yes, what is the quality of that
How to get items for photoshoot
Do you need multilingual content
How to set up a photoshoot pipeline
Store and warehouse operations
How you store your products ( Physically in the warehouse)
How many warehouses/Stores you have
How are you handling replenishment cycles
Identify the products for eCom
Don’t plan the entire range for eCom, Instead plan to increase the range on an iterative basis
Identify seasonal products
The range you carry online should be in line with what you carry in-store at that time of launch
Platform and Integration for eCom
How to integrate with your eco-system or do you even need integration
What all backend systems do you have
For a quick launch which all systems have to be manually updated
Click & Collect
Fulfill from both ( This is not advised without integrating the systems)
Carrier partner for delivery
Most of the brick and mortar retailers won’t have customer care
Set up a customer care
These are just the basics you need to think of before going live. Along with this exercise you have to do competition analysis, but keep in mind that you cannot outrun them because you are doing “Compelled commerce”.
If you have a long term plan for eCom and compelled commerce being your very initial crude version then it is still ok strategy to start with. If it is not this way, then all Compelled Commerces are going to Rest in Peace.