Pivot is now officially a buzzword. But to be fair, it’s also been an imperative. Not just because more ventilators, masks, home deliveries and sanitisers are required but, because the commercial ground upon which all our businesses stand has shifted. We must literally “pivot” or fall over. It’s binary and, to an extent brutal but, the truth often is.
Here’s something else that’s true, but it comes with a caution: an online digital presence with a forward-thinking, world-class user experience (UX) is more important to businesses than ever before. In fact, it’s literally a sink or swim scenario. If you’re online you’ll swim, if not you’ll sink. Now for that cautionary. If your pivot is ill-conceived and thrown together (to online or anything else that relates to your business), well, here’s an equation to explain;
highly reactive + poorly planned + hastily executed = temporarily buoyant + but ultimately doomed*
* by doomed we mean anonymous and misaligned
The opposite is also true;
strategic planning + flawless execution = sustained excellence + customer satisfaction
....but there is a trade-off and that trade-off centres around the planning.
Okay, one of the most contentious issues being considered during this time of flux in the business world is the fate of medium to long term projects – be they digital, personal, mechanical, architectural in nature – it doesn’t matter. But let’s take digital because it’s an area I’m comfortable discussing. There’s a temptation to put large projects on hold, possibly replacing them in the interim with quick-fix, stop-gap solutions. Yes, this will preserve the look and feel of the balance sheet – today. But what about those tomorrows?
These medium to longer term projects and associated timelines were scoped and approved prior to this new world we find ourselves in for a reason - because of the long-term benefits in the form of:
Now if you are moving forward with these plans and projects that yield those kind of results while competitors opt out or prefer to wait out the storm, you will literally have your cake and eat it. You’ll reap your projected project benefits as well as creating distance between you and your competitors.
Now this seems like common sense so why isn’t everyone staying on course and investing in their longer-term project delivery, particularly in the digital space? Great question and for the answer we’ll need some science to find our towards an answer.
As far back as the “good old days” of 2019 when things were normal, we (including me) have fallen prey to one of the most prevalent of 100-odd human biases, "Hyperbolic Discounting". It’s fair to say that almost everyone has this bias bouncing around front and centre right now. And that’s understandable. Let’s try to define it:
"The tendency for people to choose perceived smaller, immediate rewards rather than larger, later rewards, with a preference for ones that arrives sooner... discounting the value of the later reward, by a factor that increases with the length of the delay."
In short, I would rather make 10c now instead of $1 later because that extra 90c maybe isn’t worth 90c if I have to wait and… do you see where this is going? I feel sure this has come from the “bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” saying but that doesn’t apply to well-thought-out strategies, executed in the form of planned milestones, testing, due diligence and so on.
Perhaps you sell something for now, but mostly you sell something for tomorrow, for the future. So when the world is more chaotic than usual it's harder for you, for your customers to plan ahead, stick to schedule, habits and goals. After all, you're only human.
So, it takes courage and stamina to lean in and maintain a long-term vision, keeping various projects with significant budget allocations alive. It may go against our instinct. It is likely to feel uncomfortable and counter-intuitive. Now more than ever, those that see this period as an opportunity to stay the course and focus on the resulting rewards for when the economy inevitably recovers and expands, will likely benefit significantly on the other side. I've been encouraged to see both new and existing clients of ours demonstrate exactly this.
…and they will! No one is saying, “this is the end of the world.” Yes, some are saying this is the end of their business or this is the end of the way we do business and many of them will be half right. My position, my belief, is that this seismic shift isn’t akin to an elastic band snapping back into shape – far from it. No, instead we are approaching a new normal.
Remember how we used to send telegrams and count the letters due to the terrifyingly high cost of characters? (no neither do I!) What about when we’d ask an operator to connect calls to the business across town? No? I’m a little hazy on that one too. Oh, remember when VHS finally transitioned to DVDs? Yep, that I do. Interestingly, I vividly remember just 8 weeks ago making phone calls (feels so old school!) but now peoples resistance to video-conferencing has shifted to comfortably delivering strategy workshops to clients or project updates with internal teams on a video call, on that same phone before using it to stream the latest episode of a favourite show.
This is progress based on a willingness to push forward, to stay the course, adapt to the new normal and remember why this project passed muster in the first place. In context, this has reinforced the importance of that genuine need for a strong digital presence and technological capability on “the other side”, which is not far away.
Some will point out that there is a difference between simply advancing technology for the betterment of all and taking commercial advantage of forced shifts due to say, a pandemic or some other disruption.
To that I would say, by all means “pivot”. But pivot with a hardy robust project plan – just like the one you were thinking of putting on hold. If you don’t then someone else will.
All the best.
by Ben McIntyre