How six companies are using technology and data to transform themselves

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McKinsey Digital | Aug 12, 2020

Harit Talwar - How six companies are using technology and data to transform themselvesA study referenced in the popular magazine Psychology Today concluded that it takes an average of 66 days for a behavior to become automatic. If that’s true, that’s good news for business leaders who have spent the past five months running their companies in ways they never could have imagined. The COVID-19 pandemic is a full-stop on business as usual and a launching pad for organizations to become virtual, digital-centric, and agile—and to do it all at lightning-fast speed.

Now, as leaders look ahead to the next year and beyond, they’re asking: How do we keep this momentum going? How do we take the best of what we’ve learned and put into practice throughout the pandemic, and make sure it’s woven into everything we do going forward?

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“Business leaders are saying that they’ve accomplished in 10 days what used to take them 10 months,” says Kate Smaje, a senior partner and global co-leader of McKinsey Digital.  “That kind of speed is what’s unleashing a wave of innovation unlike anything we’ve ever seen.”

That realization is coming not a moment too soon. Even before the global health crisis hit, 92 percent of company leaders surveyed by McKinsey thought that their business model would not remain viable at the rates of digitization at that time. The pandemic just put that whole scenario on steroids. The companies that are leading the way out of this crisis, the ones that will grab market share and set the tone and tempo for others, are the ones first out of the gate.

“The fundamental reality is that the accelerating speed of digital means that we are increasingly living in a winner-take-all world,” Smaje says. “But simply going faster isn’t the answer. Rather, winning companies are investing in the tech, data, processes, and people to enable speed through better decisions and faster course corrections based on what they learn.”

Large incumbents who are winning the digital transformation battle get lots of things right. But McKinsey research has highlighted a few elements that really stand out:

  • Digital speed. Leading companies just operate faster, from reviewing strategies to allocating resources. For example, they reallocate talent and capital four times more quickly than their peers.
  • Ready to reinvent. While businesses need to maintain the profitable elements of their business, business as usual is a dangerous posture. Leading businesses are investing as much in upgrading the core of their business as they are in innovation, often by harnessing technology.
  • All in. These companies aren’t just making decisions faster; the decisions themselves are bolder. Two of the most important areas where this kind of commitment shines through are major acquisitions (leaders spend three times more than their peers) and capital bets (leaders spend two times what their peers do).
  • Data-driven decisions. “The road to recovery is paved with data,” Smaje says. Data is providing the fuel to power better and faster decisions. High-performing organizations are three times more likely than others to say their data and analytics initiatives have contributed at least 20 percent to EBIT (from 2016–19).
  • Customer followers. Being “customer centric” is well established. But competing pressures and priorities mean that the customer can often be sidelined. Top companies that sustain a comprehensive focus on the customer (in addition to operational and IT improvements) can generate economic gains ranging from 20 to 50 percent of the cost base.

See: 

The Impact of Coronavirus on Funding Innovation

Innovate Finance: Spotlight on Innovation: Canada Fintech Podcast

Bank of Canada partners with the Bank for International Settlements to launch innovation centre

The companies you’re going to meet here are adopting and deploying these digital strategies and approaches at warp speed. Aside from moving thousands of employees from the office, call center, and factory floor to home overnight, they’re using these technologies to rejigger supply chains, stand up entirely new e-commerce channels, and leverage AI and predictive analytics to unearth smarter and more sustainable ways to operate.

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