For years, we have heard the story that tech investments drive productivity. But when we further explored this topic, we found that the productivity of tech investments has been steadily falling for the past 20 years thanks to disconnected digital investments and stakeholders, rising technical debt, and pervasive digital sameness. Now, as we start to emerge from the pandemic, we are faced with a new decade of accelerating digital and tech needs and the promise of even more change to and demands for technology. Factors driving these needs include buyer behaviors shifting to a prioritization of values, privacy, and experimentation; the redistribution of the future of work; and shifting marketing dynamics redefining operating models.
The Future Fit Path to Customer Obsession
With massive shifts like these taking place, technology leaders must reimagine their approach to technology to keep up and, ideally, lead. Customer obsession — putting the customer at the center of your business leadership, strategy, and operations — should provide the North Star needed for leaders. To achieve customer obsession, we recommend that companies embrace what is called a future fit technology strategy. This approach is tuned to specific future-success characteristics uncovered from quantitative analysis of more than 10,000 consumer and employee survey responses, plus qualitative analysis of numerous interviews with successful tech leaders. At Forrester, we define a future fit technology strategy as: A customer-obsessed approach to technology that enables a company to quickly reconfigure business structures and capabilities to meet future customer and employee needs with adaptivity, creativity, and resilience.
Why is a future fit technology strategy so critical? It empowers organizations to boldly pursue customer obsession amid ongoing uncertainty and changing business needs. Technology will accelerate the ability to quickly adapt to new customer, market, and competitive realities as they arise. Simply put, a future fit technology strategy enables firms to embody the following characteristics in order to outpace the competition and drive growth:
1. Adaptive: Being able to reconfigure core business concepts. To address future needs, firms will harvest emerging customer and market insights and develop the capacity to reconfigure core business concepts. Firms that have a flexible technology foundation and a business operating model that can change quickly will see strong growth by moving beyond agility with adaptive talent management and an open culture. For example, Mastercard’s adaptive culture pushed it to pursue emerging adjacent markets such as cutting-edge fraud solutions, B2B payments, and business optimization services. And when Uber’s ride share business took a hit, it doubled down on its delivery business and workforce.
2. Creative: Bringing emotion and engagement into digital customer experiences. Too many firms solve the same customer problems with the same technology solutions. To differentiate, firms will need to use the human power of creativity to organize experiences, digitally expressing the values of the brand to customers and employees by meeting their emotional needs at relevant points of engagement. For example, Domino’s Pizza’s creative agency Crispin Porter Bogusky focused on the entire pizza experience, from ordering to delivery and carry-out, including a campaign built around Domino’s filling potholes to protect carry-out pizza on the drive home.
3. Resilient: Delivering on product vision and brand promise, regardless of crisis.
The COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a prime test for resilient companies identifying and mitigating risk, investing in business continuity planning, building flexible crisis and incident response capabilities, and designing business and technology systems and processes for dependability and flexibility. For example, one of the largest public healthcare groups in Asia Pacific attributes its growth to preparedness, launching an “e-COVID system” within 72 hours, deploying an IT system for a 500-bed quarantine center in 24 hours, and proceeding with more than 120 IT initiatives in the span of six months.
Get Started on The Road To Future Fit
To get started on the road to future fit, we recommend that you invest in three key P’s: Platforms, Practices, and Partners. The standard mantra for IT is People, Process, and Technology. While these are important, we believe that there are core drivers that can accelerate your time-to-value in becoming adaptive, creative, and resilient. Platforms, bundled with capabilities focused on delivering for customers and employees, should be the core focus of your technology strategy to speed time-to-value, reduce complexity, and cut technical debt. Practices, meanwhile, embody cross-functional teams with shared accountabilities and trust across the company to move faster toward and deliver on shared goals. Lastly, partners enable you to co-innovate and ensure greater transparency with vendors in order to stay one step ahead of the competition.
The core elements of a future fit technology strategy aren’t just theoretical; they provide the blueprint needed to re-envision operating models, spark new digital experiences, and optimize tech stacks. Our research has found that firms that utilize adaptivity, creativity, and resilience to become future fit and address customers’ most pressing needs grow 2.7 times faster than their peers. With this blueprint in place, it’s clear that leaders are more equipped to face unprecedented changes, demands, and behaviors in a new technological era.
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