Balancing priorities: The efficiency-experience dilemma

· 08 December 2020 · 4 minute read

The coronavirus pandemic’s economic fallout has seen projects paused and budgets tightened. Unprecedented shocks have compounded rather than supplanted enterprises’ fear of disruption.

But it’s also underscored what many already knew – that organisations investing in digital solutions are inherently more resilient. Despite ongoing global uncertainty, they’re better equipped to scale up or down rapidly, make data-informed decisions and craft personalised experiences.

Even as other investments are pared back, ICT investments remain a priority. What’s different now is that leaders are under more pressure than ever to define the value of each investment and balance competing priorities across the business. Enterprises are walking a tightrope as they try to reconcile cost and operational efficiencies with the need for increasingly personalised experiences and engagement.

In a recent white paper by Telstra and Omdia, Prioritising Diversity, Digital and Intelligence in a Post-Pandemic World, digital leaders revealed the tight competition between their medium- and long-term priorities – along with glimpses into how they’re balancing resources to solve the efficiency-experience dilemma. 

Understanding priorities that overlap or compete

Most multi-national companies see a digital agenda as the cornerstone for safeguarding their competitive edge and expanding into new markets. But a closer look at their top five business priorities reveals little daylight between each.

Top five business priorities, 2020-2021

19% 18% 17% 17% 17%
Company-wide cost savings Expansion into new markets and customer segments Driving revenue growth Customer experience and engagement Digitisation of operations and processes

Source: Telstra Global Insights Survey, 2020, n=1,800

Many of these priorities are interrelated in some ways and conflicting in others. Cost optimisation, which Omdia also defines as extracting more value out of ICT investments, squeaks by as the top priority. It will likely remain a short-term priority due to the pandemic. But it’s also influenced by long-term strategies to expand into new markets and customer segments, requiring cost optimisation and the ability to deliver more with less.

This complexity filters into specific digital priorities like automating business processes and adapting digital technologies around e-commerce. While many overlap and even work together, they also create problems where one priority is dependent on the completion of another.

For instance, how can enterprises build the organisational culture necessary for innovation and digitisation – a top challenge that pre-dates the pandemic – without first improving employee experience or automating processes? And how should resources be divided when trying to improve both the employee and customer experience, especially when revenue growth is a key priority?

These are the sorts of balancing acts that will determine how enterprises emerge from the pandemic. And they demand a closer look at how digital leaders are approaching their technological investments. 

Balancing efficiency and experience

For now, many multi-national companies are focusing their digital investment on efficiency rather than value creation. But the latter will be an important differentiator – neither can be sacrificed for the other, requiring enterprises to strike a balance.

This will be especially critical for companies in the B2C space, where customer experience is easily one of the most significant competitive differentiators. Customers expect a wide range of digital options, personalisation and engagement at the right time in the right channel. The pinpoint precision involved in this sort of tailored engagement relies on smart use of data, and increasingly it means using AI-powered platforms and advanced analytics to adapt customer experiences in a scalable way.

Experience will be critical regardless of vertical, though. Employee experience is fast becoming necessary for operational efficiency, innovation, and the ability to attract and retain talent amid a global skills shortage.

Rather than competing, these differentiators share some common challenges. Multi-national companies identify data insights as one of their top challenges, with many struggling to extract and apply meaningful intelligence. Agile architecture ranks as the third biggest challenge, impacting everything from business continuity to market resilience to customer engagement.

Balancing efficiency versus experience will be tricky, but these challenges offer a look into how digital leaders plan to find equilibrium and invest strategically.

Honing in on the right digital investments

Digital leaders are focusing resources in the areas that bolster both efficiency and experience differentiators, with an eye for immediate ROI but also the basic foundations that can support future growth and emerging technology applications.

That’s why open, agile architecture – the kind that facilitates greater mobility – is near the top of the investment list. Stand-out customer experience also depends on highly intelligent infrastructure. As digital leaders double down on edge computing and 5G-enabled solutions, the right infrastructure and architecture will form the bedrock for a huge portion of the technology applications and innovation necessary for advancing major business priorities.

As a result, enterprises are embracing open architectures and working with developers to integrate their applications into their infrastructure. Substantial investments are concentrated in mobile tools and applications, securing developer talent and combining network and cloud services. These are the efforts happening today that will enable the autonomous, agile ICT architectures of tomorrow, laying the groundwork for a broad range of technology-enabled solutions.

Of course, no single solution will work for every industry and each enterprise will face its own unique challenges. However, investments and priorities that focus on cultivating long-term agility and resilience will help enterprises come out on top.

For deeper insights into how digital leaders are balancing priorities and positioning themselves for long-term growth, check out Accelerating Value Creation: Prioritising Diversity, Digital and Intelligence in a Post-Pandemic World.

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