Resilience in the era of collaboration

How unprecedented challenges bring unprecedented opportunities

We find ourselves at an immense historical inflection point: nothing less than the end of an old era, and the arrival of new ways of living, thinking, and working.

While that brings massive opportunity, it has its challenges, too—and businesses will need to be more resilient than ever to navigate a steady course through these complex waters.

The thing is, many businesses find themselves in a precarious position at present. Challenges like COVID have completely transformed how businesses operate, driving digital transformation at speed in the short term, but revealing underlying weaknesses at the heart of their operations.

To put it simply, old ways of thinking and operating are crushing companies, stopping long-term transformation in its tracks when it’s barely even started.

I dream of a future where people can achieve their full potential. With business leaders going through the biggest ever stress test of organisational resilience, that mission is more relevant than ever before.

As we look to make business fit for the future, we need to consider why businesses are struggling, how they can fortify themselves, and the steps they need to take to get there.

Fragmentation is the source of struggle

Let me give you a clearer idea of the problem.

Recent research from IDC highlights that $3 trillion has been spent in the last three years on digital transformation. Sadly, only 1 in 4 projects deliver positive ROI.

The will is there, and the thinking is sound. The problem is fragmented systems, silos, processes, and teams: data gets lost within organisations, employees’ work becomes detached from one another, and a maze of different processes all end up going nowhere.

[Read new research from ServiceNow and ESI ThoughtLab: Resilience and risk management in the digital age]

Innovation then fails, because businesses look to build homemade, improvised solutions based on what is fundamentally ineffective architecture. The result can be a lack of employee satisfaction, high churn, poor efficiency and limited—if any—growth.

This is only further exacerbated by a linear value chain that can make businesses vulnerable to shocks and leads to supply mismatches.

Companies that can’t get out of this spiral will see their capabilities degrade, eventually becoming a cog in their industry: a reactive commodity, not a leading player.

From linear processes to agile value networks

The only way to fix this problem is through consolidation and collaboration.

Firstly, we must consolidate our processes.

By streamlining operations and cutting out silos, we can improve business performance. By breaking down linear processes, we can allow data and resources to flow naturally across an entire ecosystem of customers, suppliers, partners, and even competitors—protecting businesses from shocks, and making doing business a smoother process, almost organically, in an extensive, agile value network.

This kind of collaboration is just as valuable inside organisations, particularly among employees.

Increasingly, employees’ individual decisions will be the difference between paralysis and agile adaptation when it comes to volatile market conditions. Already, the many CEOs and leaders I get the pleasure of talking to have been amazed by the speed at which their colleagues stepped up to the challenges imposed by the pandemic.

The lesson is clear: If we empower people, they step up. So if we want to see change, one of the quickest and most effective ways to get there is to support and enable our people to make it happen.

Driving change beyond the world of work

This is an important point at which to remember that change today needs to happen not just at work, but everywhere.

The pandemic has been an opportunity to take stock of everything that really matters. Our experiences over the past 18 months have shown it’s not just the top and bottom lines that matter, but the people who sit at the heart of our businesses.

After all, 2020 wasn’t just defined by COVID-19. It was a year of huge social movements that are destined to drive long-term change.

And that shows that what matters to people isn’t just good products and good experience, but a more equitable society, a cleaner environment to live in, and good governance to keep it all going.

Businesses must pay heed to that and replicate those values internally. While we create new systems that make work, work better, we need to make our world work better, too.

That will of course entail the right policies. But we’ll also have to consider how we as leaders—and how our employees—can play a role in creating a better society both inside and outside the workplace.

By redefining these fundamental aspects at the heart of the global economy, we’re creating a world where, not only is it right, but it makes business sense to create a better world. ESG commitments are nothing less than the pillars of future long-term economic growth.

The global issuance of sustainable debt, set to surpass $1 trillion this year according to the Institute of International Finance (quoted by Reuters), is just one example; elsewhere, by closing the global skills gap, the World Economic Forum estimates $11.5 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2028.

The benefits of business being a force for good are clear; it’s just a question of how we get there.

Only the right technology can make it happen

Whether we’re transforming work or driving social change, the answer is simple.

We need the right platform, an anchor upon which all progress depends.

Getting the right platform can help optimise existing technology tools and processes through one simple interface, which equals wins in the short term. It allows you to achieve true business resilience by offering improved experiences to employees and customers. And efficiency gains put you in a position to truly transition your business to a future-facing enterprise with environmental, social, and governance issues at its core.

Unlocking resilience will require a series of fundamental shifts: from linear thought to comprehensive, multifaceted action; from industry-specific focus to one that is industry-agnostic; and from vertical to horizontal, expanding deep into industries, direct to the consumers that need us most.

But with the right choice of technology all this is possible—and more.

Constant reinvention is the new enterprise differentiator, and at ServiceNow, we’re committed to solving the world’s biggest challenges: from vaccine management to environmental, social, and governance issues. In partnership with our customers, we workflow a better world.