NNIT Expectation Barometer

Long-term resilience requires digital investments

Despite a turbulent year of lockdown, global recession and enforced working from home, many companies have built up increased resilience – without compromising on agility. Now, it is about preparing for the future. There is plenty of evidence that the ability to withstand sudden upheavals is more important than ever.

More than half (51%) of those who responded to NNIT's Expectation Barometer 2021 agree that business growth is at the top of management's list of priorities right now. Rightly so – because it has never been more important to create growth on new and previously unknown terms.

The past year has forced us to see the world in a new light, and many companies have found alternative ways to keep their business running under the volatile conditions dictated by COVID-19. Working from home and online meetings have become the new norm, and there is no doubt that increased digitization has become a necessary means for optimal operation and growth.

According to Brian Troelsen, Head of Market Intelligence and Partner Management at NNIT, the companies that invested in digital solutions in a timely manner will make it through the crisis as the big winners:

– Most of us have completely or partially replaced physical channels with digital – both at work and in our spare time. This places increased demands on the companies' digital setup, which should be up-to-date, thoroughly tested and well-functioning, enabling it to support employees' as well as customers' digital behavior. In my opinion, the companies that invested in digital tools to support their business, even before the crisis hit, are the ones that remain competitive and able to take market shares from those with outdated digital setups, who failed to respond in time.

Danish IT infrastructure at its best
This year's Expectation Barometer was carried out during a period when companies were preparing for the future and devising new solutions to keep them on – or bring them back to – the growth track.

However, some were still forced to shut up shop and go out of business. Others have received financial first aid through the government’s aid packages. But fortunately, there are those who succeeded in adjusting to the new reality we all find ourselves in.

In fact, it turns out that the majority of respondents (69%) for this year's Expectation Barometer responded positively when asked if their company has been able to make their digital transition at a satisfactory pace. Only 7% of respondents disagreed with the statement, and 10% believed they did not need to complete a digital transition.

In addition, almost half of the respondents (46%) agreed that they built up resilience without compromising on agility or pace in terms of time to market.

– It's an extremely positive picture we are seeing. There are indications that many companies ensured a stable, digital foundation before the crisis hit. In Denmark, we have a well-functioning IT infrastructure and, as a country, we are at the forefront when it comes to digital readiness, Brian Troelsen believes, adding:

– Undoubtedly, this has reduced the pain for a large number of Danish companies, whereas countries without this well-developed IT infrastructure only implemented many of these technologies after the crisis hit.

Unclear goals can hinder growth
Although a large proportion of NNIT's Expectation Barometer 2021 respondents built up resilience, there is still room for improvement.

Among other things, almost half (45%) believe that unclear goals and deadlines are the biggest barrier to optimal agility and speed. A quarter (25%) indicated that a lack of managerial commitment can hinder the company's development.

– It can hardly come as a surprise that a feeling of trust and certainty are put under pressure when the outside world changes in such a short time as in the past year. Perhaps the business strategy has not sufficiently supported the new digital initiatives. Employees have therefore struggled to assess whether they are working towards the same common goal, Brian Troelsen says.

Therefore, his advice is clear:

– When formulating a strategy, no one can be in any doubt as to what is meant by the various goals. It's not enough to strive to “keep the customer in focus” or “be a digital leader in logistics” if the employees don't know how they can contribute to meeting these goals. Formulate a series of concrete examples that make it clear, so that everyone knows how they can contribute.

Take advantage of digital footprints
Growth and digital tools are not the only things that are top of mind among participants in this year's Expectation Barometer. The results clearly indicate that loyal customers play a crucial role in ensuring the continued growth of companies. In fact, about one-third of respondents (36%) believe that increased customer satisfaction is at the top of the corporate agenda right now.

At the same time, a quarter of respondents (25%) believe that business-challenging initiatives from digitally focused competitors are among the biggest short-term threats.

According to Brian Troelsen, it is crucial to ensure a well-functioning interaction between the company's physical and digital channels in order to keep up with the competition and increase customer satisfaction:

– In recent years, the customer journey has increasingly shifted to digital platforms. This does not mean that the physical channels have become redundant. However, it places greater demands on your ability to create a common thread between the physical and digital shopping experiences. One example of this is click & collect, where customers order the item online and pick it up from the physical store, says Brian Troelsen, who goes on to elaborate:

– It's very much about digital customer loyalty. As a customer, it has become easier than ever to change your supplier with a single click. However, if you give your customers a great cross-channel user experience and create the digital 'glue' that makes it easier for you to keep your customers, you will automatically increase customer loyalty and find it easier to increase your market share.

Brian Troelsen believes that there is great potential in utilizing the digital footprints that customers leave online, and in using them in offline purchasing contexts as well:

– When customers move around your website, they leave important digital footprints that can give you a valuable insight into their behavior. By replacing vague assumptions with concrete data, you get to know your customers better and can make better use of data to tailor the shopping experience to their specific needs. Among other things, you can use data and AI to analyze customer behavior, and use that as a basis for recommending specific solutions and products that they have shown an interest in – both online and offline.

React in time
Finally, Brian Troelsen emphasizes the importance of making digital investments in good time. Especially if you want the company to stay afloat – not just in the here and now, but also in the future:

– The past year has taught us that robust, digital preparedness is crucial if the company wants to cope through turbulent times. This does not only apply when we talk about Covid-19. Climate changes, trade wars and other situations may put your digital infrastructure under pressure. If you stay on top of your digital setup and continuously invest in keeping it up to date, you can steer clear of the biggest waves when the storm rages.

How far have you come in your digital journey towards increased resilience?
You can still participate in NNIT's Expectation Barometer 2021. Taking the test will give you your personal digital resilience score – and the opportunity to benchmark yourself against nine digital leaders from some of Denmark's largest companies. Take the test here.