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Can iterative digital change help businesses mitigate risk?

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This article was originally published by Top Business Tech

Clare Gledhill, operations and strategic development director here at CDS, recently explored this topic with Top Business Tech.

Risk mitigation has always formed a key part of businesses’ success strategies, and that’s because all companies are faced with risk. Yet while no one can always foresee the issues that will arise, having mechanisms in place to help mitigate, evaluate, manage, and resolve them can help an organisation keep running smoothly, should a few bumps in the road occur.

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Across the globe, the risk landscape arguably became even more unpredictable and turbulent with the onset of the pandemic – in many cases, highlighting the vulnerability of many organisations.

As a result, firms worldwide have needed to demonstrate high levels of resilience and the ability to adapt – to help cope with the challenges thrown up by the virus – or, alternatively, run the risk of having to permanently close their doors.

But when it comes to planning for risk, there are many categories for business owners to be aware of – each of which comes with its own challenges. From operational and financial to compliance and reputational, companies need to proactively plan for these scenarios, not to eliminate risk but help preserve the trust and loyalty they’ve built up with their customers if the worst happens.

Accelerated digital transformation
It is no secret that to help navigate the unchartered waters of the pandemic, many companies looked to bolster their digital infrastructure to help them improve and streamline their processes and meet demand.

For firms that had advanced technology in place, this simply meant investing in unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) software – such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom – to keep staff connected while working from home, while for others it meant a complete overhaul of their legacy systems and practices.

The wake-up call that came in the form of the pandemic caused many business owners to realise that their existing tech stacks and internal systems were no longer fit for purpose – especially with the shift to hybrid working models – or they didn’t meet the high expectations of both their staff and customers.

Therefore, businesses looked to transform digitally to not only help weather the immediate storm, but to futureproof their systems and enhance their resilience.

Iterative digital change and risk mitigation
In today’s increasingly competitive marketplace, private sector firms are striving to deliver more value and revenue, and public sector organisations are trying to offer better services. But both share the common goal of wanting increased flexibility, leaner processes, and an optimised user experience.

But legacy systems can sometimes be a bottleneck in achieving these goals. In fact, a survey recently revealed that 70% of global CXOs see mainframe and legacy modernisation as a top business priority, while another study also found that replacing legacy systems was one of the top 10 IT investments for companies in 2020.

But organisations don’t have to worry necessarily about re-platforming immediately – changing all of their systems and infrastructure at once – as in the current economic climate, this may feel like a gargantuan task. Instead, choosing the right tech or understanding where their existing solution lets them down is the logical first step – and this can feel less daunting and more achievable than a complete re-platforming project.

By following a more iterative approach to digital change, this allows organisations to implement newer, quicker, and futureproofed technology – which supports, not hinders – at a rate that’s comfortable for the business. As a result, this ensures effective scalability, efficiency, and sustainability, without pressure to adapt and change everything all at the same time.

Ageing legacy technologies that no longer support developments, content personalisation, or updates can leave companies vulnerable to a wide variety of risks – whether a security breach, downtime, inefficient back-end processes, or user frustration – and this is often at loggerheads with society’s ‘inflated expectations’.

Savvy, intuitive technologies are being used by many people daily – in both their personal and professional lives – and those which truly delight in terms of their experience are the successful and used time and time again.

Seamless, integrated, positive experiences are what people expect as standard from modern-day organisations, and when executed with empathic experience and communications at its heart, this is what helps to build authentic trust between brands and their audiences.

Looking at this from a financial and efficiency angle too, if legacy systems are left in place and an organisation builds upon these platforms without considering their constraints and risks, then this inevitably leads to experiencing limitations and accruing technical debt. Ignoring legacy technologies can therefore be a costly and complex exercise if addressed at a later stage.

Automation goes hand in hand with iterative digital change, too. By automating the more manual and operational tasks, this also helps to free up strategic resource, which can be dedicated to other areas of the firm.

Prioritising behavioural insights
While many organisations think that investing the latest, most advanced technology will solve all their problems, this really is not the case.

The cornerstone of any successful digital transformation journey – whether or not it involves iterative technical change – is a user-centered approach from the word go. Knowing exactly who the target audience is, and how a firm’s technology needs to operate to offer the best possible user experience, is vital.

In order to achieve this, research needs to be carried out into users’ needs, priorities, and expectations, as this will shape the solution bespoke to the business – ensuring its truly inclusive and accessible to all those who use it.

Depending on the systems, this does not only refer to external customers but internal employees too. While a poor digital experience can switch consumers or service users off and impact the outward perception of a company, this can also prevent growth. For instance, if team members feel restricted by inefficient workflows or customers feel frustrated by a lack of empathetic communications, they will be more likely to take their skills and loyalty elsewhere.

Ultimately, iterative technical change is one potential cog in the digital transformation machine, and while it may not always be necessary, it’s pivotal to carry out the behavioural insight research to determine this – removing any assumptions or guesswork.

The research phase will always provide interesting findings, some of which can contradict with a business’s views of what they thought they knew about their users.

But with ‘inflated expectations’ only heading in one direction, as the technology continues to advance at pace as we look ahead to 2022 and beyond, meeting the true needs of end users will arguably matter more than ever before, as both private and public sector organisations strive for a sustainable growth and success strategy, with as minimal risk as possible.