With rising costs and falling profits putting the squeeze on businesses and their ambitions, what does it take to maintain – and encourage – innovation during times of global crisis?
Over the past few years, our world has seemingly faced global crisis after crisis, each testing our resilience and ability to bounce back stronger each time. Despite the overarching feeling of being stuck in a cycle of upheaval, one message is clear: we must innovate to escape unscathed.
This isn’t a revolutionary idea. When reflecting on the pandemic’s impact on businesses, McKinsey & Co. identified that ‘prioritizing innovation today is the key to unlocking postcrisis growth’. In fewer words, crisis means opportunity as well as challenge.
Despite this acknowledgement, McKinsey’s research also revealed a less-than-ideal insight: only 21% of executives surveyed felt equipped to innovate. So, how do we achieve the much-needed innovation that overcomes – and is simultaneously limited by – restrictive circumstances? Let’s start at the beginning.
Why Innovation is (Still) Important
When the order to stay at home came in Spring 2020, it was the likes of Microsoft Teams that allowed us to work remotely; meanwhile, retailers’ delivery box schemes ensured customers continued to engage without their weekly supermarket visit. In such a short amount of time, we were able to see so many examples of how businesses and individuals can innovate through a crisis.
Not only does innovation create solutions to bridge circumstances, embracing and encouraging it can provide alternative options for struggling businesses in survival mode. Whenever a financial crisis looms on the horizon, the usual expectation is for businesses to lay their staff off to relieve economic pressure. Of course, with experience we now know that this course of action can have long-term consequences; recent data shows that the employees left behind feel less engaged at work, leading to higher turnover and higher anxiety. Meanwhile, high performers are likely to ‘jump ship’ in response to layoffs.
Once the crisis passes, businesses who take this and similar routes – freezing budgets, scaling back innovation, and mothballing projects – tend to struggle with recovery versus those who opt to ‘keep calm and carry on’. While they might have weathered the storm, it’s likely the former emerge battered and a little worse for wear.
Keeping Innovation Alive
Yes, a global crisis can feel like someone tossing water all over your ambitions, but don’t let the embers of your innovation go completely cold. Kindling the flames back to life means encouraging employees to think outside of the box, investing in innovative solutions, and pivoting to meet new demands. Re-thinking your approach to a crisis can lead to long-term profits and employee satisfaction. So, where do you get started?
The cloud is, without a doubt, an innovation enabler. With so much of digital transformation hinging on cloud capabilities and infrastructure, it’s earned a place of respect and value among many businesses.
Although utilising cloud-based services such as Microsoft Azure can provide the resources needed to innovate, many organisations enter a crisis without their cloud technology doing the most for them – or they’re simply unsure of the useful resources they have to hand. Optimising the cloud, then, is key.
By optimising existing cloud processes, reviewing costs and resource usage, and engaging with Microsoft Azure benefits, businesses can make a tactical refinement of their cloud experience. Underpinning this approach should be valuable visibility into the cloud, allowing for confident decisions to be made on where money can be saved and what resources can be removed or repurposed. Suddenly, there’s no need to choose between people and technology; you can maximise your Microsoft Azure investment to free up the resources your people need to innovate. Surveil can help you get started with this by providing the deep insights required to make these decisions.
Get to Know Your Customers Better
Although global crises might feel familiar, they could present unique challenges for your customers. As we’ve previously discussed, Microsoft Partners especially are in a strong position to support customers, but any business in any industry can address the unique impact of a crisis on their customers by offering support.
Setting up frequent calls to engage with your customers and gain feedback is a simple yet powerful action to undertake. Not only does it strengthen communication and aid retention, it lets you know if their requirements or preferences have changed in the evolving climate, as well as providing insight into how to successfully meet their expectations. This – alongside your understanding of market trends and how competitors are adapting – will help in identifying opportunities ripe for innovation.
Best of all? The engagement and support offered to customers during a crisis leads to increased trust and collaboration, contributing towards a fruitful long-term relationship that outlasts present struggles and keeps revenue healthy.
Turn Your Gaze Inward
Even with freed-up resources and customer insights, innovation can only really thrive in the right environment – and for that, employees need to feel like their ideas and contributions matter. After all, your people are your best asset – they know the business inside out and they likely have suggestions ready for you to use.
To help this process and encourage further innovation, investing in employee development and training programs to enhance specific skills and knowledge will allow innovative ideas to be better informed and more in line with objectives. Alternatively, if you don’t have the resources available to reinvest in training, encourage teams to learn from one another through developmental sharing sessions to maintain momentum.
Keep Creativity Alive
In the face of daunting economic pressures and looming crises, the idea of standing strong and innovating might seem counter-intuitive – or even impossible. Fear not: by taking one step at a time, it’s more than achievable to cultivate innovation and ride the resulting momentum through the crisis.
If you’ve already embraced cloud technology, make a start by ensuring cloud resources are optimised, identifying resource wastage to reinvest in areas of your business that are struggling. Coupled with customer insights and employee ideas, you have everything you need to innovate through the storm – and to ensure plain sailing once the clouds have parted.
Looking to turn Azure waste into valuable resources ready for reinvestment? Surveil can help, surfacing deep actionable insights from Azure. Contact us today to find out more.