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The need for speed: What if tech could work as fast as your imagination?

25 Jun 2020

Article by InterSystems sales engineer Peter O'Halloran.

The global spread of COVID-19 has had seemingly unimaginable consequences on business. Entire industries have been shut down. Workforces have been sent to work from home. And many businesses are scrambling to shift their operations online.

It’s ironic that as the world slows down and stays indoors, how quickly businesses respond to the impact of the coronavirus is critical.

But speed has always been a competitive advantage in business. It’s just that now the stakes are much higher. Today, speed may be the thing that keeps businesses afloat.

Einstein famously said, ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge’. And businesses sure must be imaginative right now, which leads to the question: what if technology could work as fast as the imagination?

Why is speed important right now?

Even before the coronavirus, organising for speed was important in today’s consumer market. With new technologies, trends and ways of shopping, the landscape was changing rapidly. But how many times has a great idea just taken too long to implement? Many an idea quickly drops in appeal to the Innovator audience, then Fast Follower, and even Laggard. 

Changes are now light speed. Consumer behaviour has rapidly changed, government policies are constantly shifting in reaction to the crisis and there is clearly no such thing as business as usual. Speed is everything in this current market.

But rather than something to fear, organising for speed can be an opportunity.

We need speed to market

Businesses have the opportunity to quickly learn what many start-ups and businesses challenging the status quo already know – embrace disruption. The accelerating pace of technological change is a creative force and opens tremendous opportunities, but only for those that get there first.

For example, traditional bricks-and-mortar banks need to get to market fast because they are competing with neo banks that can build and roll out new service offerings very quickly, with lean technology and responsive customer service. It does not matter what kind of bank they’re working in; when it comes to gaining market share, it’s an even playing field and speed is an advantage.

To compete, businesses need to adapt, and the current climate is the time to do it. One large bank recently launched an important customer-relationship-management (CRM) program in record time, for instance.

During COVID-19, the value of being able to access data and information quickly is being recognised. The demands on technology are high, and those systems need to work exponentially faster.

We need speed to be agile in a volatile world

As this pandemic continues to impact our lives, consumer needs will continue to evolve as we face ongoing volatility and likely a prolonged downturn. Businesses need to act quickly and get the right platforms in place to support these evolving needs.

It all comes down to being agile enough to respond to changing customer circumstances. This can include accelerating time to market, rapidly prototyping and iterating, and releasing innovations in their minimum viable state, rather than waiting to perfect them.

This may mean offering the same products through a new channel. For instance, Chinese cosmetics company Lin Qingxuan launched a large-scale, livestream shopping event after closing 40 per cent of their stores – this led to a staggering 120 per cent increase in February sales this year compared to last year.

Or, as is the case for many start-ups, rapidly innovating a new product to meet a new need. Seoul-based diagnostic company Seegene, developed a diagnostic kit for Covid-19 to get results in a quarter of the time. The company used an AI-powered automated production system to produce tests more quickly and now supplies around 80 per cent of tests in the country.

We need speed to service customers better

In an online world, consumers are increasingly impatient. In fact, a slow response time is the most common complaint among buyers. Customers want it fast, and they want it now. And they want a customer experience that matches their expectations, or they will go to a competitor.

Businesses need to have the systems and processes in place to meet customer expectations – and the faster the better. With online volumes spiking and workforces being disrupted, virtual solutions and AI channels are increasingly critical for maintaining responsive customer service.

We need speed to fail

As businesses pivot, adapt and evolve in an uncertain market, failure is inevitable. Businesses need to be able to fail fast, learn quickly and build better.

Quick, decisive failures save businesses from sinking additional resources into a losing proposition, helps them establish cause and effect, and helps move them towards the end goal goal by ruling out what does not work.

Failure is only helpful when you can learn from it. Data – and the insights it gives – is critical to ‘successful failure’. And data is only useful when it is accurate (there’s no point in being fast if the information isn’t correct or it’s duplicated), compliant (a platform needs to have a compliant back end), secure (in this new market, we need to open the doors a little bit wider, and we need to do it fast. That opens vulnerabilities so there needs to be rigour in the back end) and accessible (fast, ‘always on’ access for anyone who needs it).

If the current pandemic has taught us anything, it is that the future will change quicker than we can even imagine; so, we need technology that works as fast as our imaginations. Imagine then, how different things could be.