person in silhouette standing in front  of  a  circular neon light
PHOTO: Fábio Lucas

“The future ain’t what it used to be.” – Yogi Berra

The last year has been a remarkable time in our society, filled with disruption. The changes in the economy have created challenges for many, but also positive impacts, such as closer connections with customers, enhanced models for direct selling, and growth of online sharing and capturing of data. We see change everywhere: in the people, the processes and the technology with which we operate. Change is as present as it is pervasive. It is good to recognize, acknowledge and accept that change is happening in business, and to learn not only what that means for you and your team, but to be ready for those new opportunities. So, why do we change?

  • We change to advance forward.
  • We change to make ourselves stronger.
  • We change to adapt to new situations.

Without change, there would be no improvements. If business is about growing, expanding and making things better for your customers, then what changes are you making? As many of us begin to see future recovery, I too look to the horizon and know that better days are ahead for us all. It may be today, or it may be tomorrow, but recovery is happening. I have learned much about business during these challenging times, below are  some of those lessons.  

1. Our Teams and Co-Workers Matter More Than We Realized

More than ever we realize that there is no “I” in teamwork. Collaboration will always be better than separation, and preparation will always be better than hesitancy or reluctance to change. New research shows that leaders need to support key aspects of teamwork such as the coordination of expertise and communication. Leaders can use inclusive behavior to foster psychological safety and participation from all professions and levels of the hierarchy. These mechanisms can have powerful impacts on teamwork. Now, as ever, that teamwork is critical.

It’s good to be flexible in our business strategy and recognize the well-being of the individual as well as our team dynamics. Be thankful for what you have and develop trust in your people, your information, and the technology which supports it. Teamwork may well be the best medicine of all.

Related Article: How Your Digital Workplace Design Can Support Psychological Safety

2. Improvement Is Not Indulgence

Whether you're undertaking an improvement, an upgrade or modernization, whatever you call it, any such effort is holistic by design, encompassing all aspects of business. Many businesses have taken this time to focus on improving all aspects of their business that affect people, process, and technology. As people left the office buildings to work in remote settings, technology and access to key systems became mission critical. This moves beyond the ubiquitous daily online meetings which have become invasive. This is about good and positive access to information from many systems so as to not hinder but enable our work. Watch for signs and respond well. Improvement for all is a good thing.

And, on a personal level, cut yourself some slack. Working from home in pajamas is OK. Wearing a shirt and jacket on Zoom meetings with shorts or jeans unseen to the lens, is not just OK, but is a good thing if it makes you comfortable. Self-care has positive outcomes for you, and improvement and optimization efforts are a benefit to everyone … just always remember to wear pants.

3. Be Prepared for the Next Crisis

In business, we always aspire for stability but need to be prepared for the opposite. This is about both insurance, and investment. Anyone who's familiar with the financial services industry knows the idea of having a “good offense is the best defense,’ is aimed at the avoidance of mistakes or losses with protective measures in challenging times. This is all about governance and having the framework to ensure that program goals are met both during the present and for the future. Governance is the only way to manage and mitigate risk by developing the practices for interaction and decision-making, and establishing policies, procedures and training across all levels of the organization. Effective preparedness demand response plans to be flexible and scalable.

Consider the opportunity in effective metadata governance: do you have documented workflows for metadata maintenance? Are you future-proofing your evergreen content and data? Remember to listen to your users, to keep up to date and aware of your digital assets, and leverage good documentation, reporting, and analytics to help you learn, grow and be prepared. If you are not learning, you are not growing. If you are not measuring, then you are not questioning, and then you are truly not learning.

Related Article: Has Digital Transformation Left Your Business Continuity Plans Behind?

4. We Rediscovered the Value of Technology, and There's No Going Back

We have been doing “digital” long before the pandemic started, but the last year has really proven how resilient and adaptable we can be when necessary. We rose to the challenge. We adapted and became the stronger for it. Our digital tool-box has grown, with more creative and collaborative tools than before. Those who have discovered the value of online collaborative tools such as Miro will continue to use it. It doesn’t mean they won’t go also hold facilitated workshops in boardrooms, but they may do so with a different purpose.

For many of us, we were forced to use new technologies because we had no other choice. This pandemic has debunked the old myth that, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” We can, we have and we will continue to learn new tricks. As a response to the adversity, we made technology decisions for the good. It is interesting to note that in the financial sector, PayPal reported that its fastest-growing user group was people over 50. Chase also said about half of its new online users were over 50. In telehealth, more doctors conducted routine exams via webcam than ever before — and, in response, insurance coverage expanded for these remote appointments. Technology gave us the way to operate, allowed us all to change, and in some situations, be better and more effective than we were before. Technology is for us all, and our adoption rates are on the increase. There’s no going back now.

5. Work Is Anywhere Now — Remote Is Here to Stay

One of the major impacts of the last year is that more jobs are becoming non-location specific. Flexibility is the key. And as we now know what can be done remotely, we must continue to push for more access to content via technology. New research from Wharton University shows that productivity has not only remained stable during the pandemic, but it has also often increased in many companies. Remote works.

It is best to take a holistic approach to remote work with attention to action and active learning. There needs to be consistent interaction with everyone in business from leaders to their teams, even more so in an online environment in which communication becomes paramount. It is the responsibility of not just leadership but the entire team to provide and foster an environment in which good and positive communication may take place and ongoing discourse is encouraged and respected. And as we have become more online than in person, let us not lose the discipline to be effective in our work.

Related Article: Are We Going Back to the Office or Not?

6. Our Business Will Never Be the Same

The pandemic upset our very notions of stability and security at their most fundamental level. Our job as leaders is to get ahead of it by being prepared. We also must remove the fear of the unknown, and embrace a new commitment to plans that allow for change when needed, and prevent, detect, and respond to disruption. Data discovered in our reporting and analytics will help foster our decision making.

Never forget to take the opportunity and be creative and innovative even during these times. Remember what a joy it was when whiskey distilleries raised the bar (pun fully intended) and started making hand sanitizer from their alcohol? This was a great thing. There will be long-lasting changes in how our businesses operates, how we work and our ability to access content. The question to you is … are you ready, willing and prepared to change?

7. There Will Always Be Recovery

(Invest in DAM) The demand to deliver successful and sustainable business outcomes with our DAM systems often collides with transitioning business models within marketing operations, creative services, IT, or the enterprise as a whole. You need to take a hard look at the marketing and business operations and technology consumption with an eye toward optimizing processes, reducing time to market for marketing materials, and improving consumer engagement and personalization with better data capture and analysis.

(Time to Transform) In order to respond quickly to these expectations, we need DAM to work within an effective transformational business strategy that involves the enterprise. Whether you view digital transformation as technology, customer engagement, or marketing and sales, intelligent operations coordinate these efforts towards a unified goal. DAM is strengthened when working as part of an enterprise digital transformation strategy, which considers content management from multiple perspectives, including knowledge, rights and data. Using DAM effectively can deliver knowledge and measurable cost savings, deliver time to market gains, and deliver greater brand voice consistency — valuable and meaningful effects for your digital strategy foundation.

(People) Technology is decidedly human. In the face of rapid workforce change, learn how to unlock value from your greatest asset: your people. Think about the digital experience for users and ensuring they identify, discover, and experience the brand the way in which it was intended. Make certain you are delivering value to your people, your employees and customers, otherwise your transformational and technological change and improvements are for nothing.

(Process) You, and no one more than you, know your assets and what they can do for you. Defining a strong digital strategy demands that you collaborate with those who best know the systems and other resources needed to release your assets’ potential. Digital assets are varied and needed for many different reasons in your transformative strategy. As long as change exists in your business, your strategy will change …. Process is never really finished.

Conclusion

As the great New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.” It is difficult to predict the future accurately and what disruption might lie ahead, but you certainly can shape it, if you’re willing to think and act differently and be part of the change. DAM will accelerate the conversation between business and consumer. In order to remain competitive and responsive to future disruption, your company’s marketing, communications and operations teams need to deliver content when, where, and how it’s needed.

As we look to a brighter future with recovery on the horizon, remember that collaboration will always be better than separation, and preparation will always be better than confusion.

What have you learned, and what future are you working towards?