Why embracing uncertainty is key to business resilience

The rush to slow rapid change could harm more than it helps

After 18 months of rapid transformation, our businesses are in flux.

The pandemic has become far more than just a healthcare crisis. It’s a real inflection point for our societies and our businesses—a crucial juncture between what we did before and what we’ll do in the future.

The problem is, at present, we’re in a phase of “What should we do right now?” We’re in the middle of a complex process with no fixed end point, and that’s an uncomfortable place to be.

It’s understandable to be unsettled by the experience. After all, people want certainty and predictability, both in their personal and professional lives. But, in my opinion, rushing to end this phase of uncertainty would be a huge mistake.

The reason is that resilient businesses aren’t created by staying the same and hunkering down, come what may. On the contrary, businesses that want to stand the test of time need to equip for constant change and ensure that, whatever happens, they are agile and flexible enough to roll with the punches.

The more we can embrace change now, the more we can learn, the greater the benefits we can unlock, and the more prepared we’ll be for further change in the future.

In fact, recent research from ServiceNow and ESI ThoughtLab found that businesses who lead the pack in implementing resilience initiatives are already seeing far greater benefits than those who are just starting out: 67% are seeing higher customer satisfaction, compared with 49% of other businesses, for example.

But we need to start somewhere. So, what kinds of change exactly should we be embracing?

1. Change in operations

One of the biggest trends I’ve noticed among the businesses I work with on a daily basis is a fundamental shift in their operations, from what we might call a linea’ model to something that is far more holistic.

I’ll explain why. In a world that’s becoming ever more bespoke and personalised, it’s not enough to offer your customers—or employees—a cookie-cutter journey from A to Z that completely ignores their individual wants and needs.

Firstly, very few of your customers will look alike. They might not even be in the same industry.

Secondly, it’s rare that employees or customers will follow the exact ‘perfect’ pathway your business sets out in its systems infrastructure.

And thirdly, by funnelling everyone in the same direction and treating end users as a collective, you’re missing out on opportunities to add value to every individual interaction.

Let’s be honest. Businesses can no longer afford to move in straight lines and miss blind spots.

The answer is to break down single, prescriptive journeys and create a non-linear ecosystem where customers and employees are the ones who decide what they want, when they need it, and how to get it.

In doing so, not only can we learn from what customers and employees want and need, we can also create more agile businesses that are more able to adapt, whether it’s to new customers, new industries, or new areas of growth.

2. Change in experience

In today’s world, experience is everything, separating good products and services from the very best.

But what exactly makes a good experience?

Every individual is different. But one thing every good experience has in common, whether it’s employees or customers, is simplicity.

Inefficient, compartmentalised processes and interactions that go round in circles cause massive frustration for end users, and it is by no means a victimless crime. Unhappy employees will quit jobs that hold them back from performing, and disgruntled customers will go elsewhere.

The answer is to make it as easy as possible for customers and employees to do what they need, whether it’s day-to-day work, a complaint, onboarding, or something else.

I’ll give you an example. One leading French grocery brand found that store management was unnecessarily complex. A simple malfunctioning air conditioning unit or burnt-out lightbulb meant countless phone calls to different care teams, and endless tickets raised before anything happened.

A new system based on our Now Platform® has turned a complex set of steps into a quick and easy process. Now, store managers need only make one phone call and the right specialists can be dispatched to fix whatever needs fixing, quickly and easily, with a workflow taking care of all the necessary steps in between.

I’ll give you another example—my own experience, this time.

I joined ServiceNow eight months ago. But some weeks before my start date, I was granted access to an onboarding platform which allowed me to fill in all the necessary forms, order all the equipment I needed—including my choice of laptop and mobile phone—and accomplish a whole host of other minor logistical tasks.

That meant when my first day came around, I could just start working. No admin, no lost passwords, no papers lost down the back of the filing cabinet.

It sounds simple, but the onboarding process makes all the difference to employee retention. And when you consider the number of different processes and systems like this we all have to deal with every day, the potential benefits of making each one just a bit better are massive.

On the flip side however, if we’re not willing to change unnecessarily complex processes, we can’t be surprised if employees vote with their feet—and customers go elsewhere.

3. Change in technology

One thing both these stories have in common is the right technology.

To perform at their best, businesses need agile platforms that can help them accelerate and reposition themselves to adapt—systems that move with change, not ones that get stuck in silos.

Workflows are just one example of technology that can help, but businesses should make use of all the tech at their disposal to identify efficiencies, stay up to date, and remain flexible and resilient for the future.

That doesn’t mean throwing out and starting from scratch, however. Your existing tech and infrastructure are, more often than not, enough to take you where you need to go—it’s just a case of working out how to use them best.

It may be something you do yourself, or something you do with a trusted tech partner. But however you choose to go about it, the most important thing is that you seize change, rather than resisting it.

If you can change your mindset and take those first steps, you’re well on the path to resilience.

For more information on how businesses are using workflow tools to streamline operations, transform experience, and stay resilient for the future, see the case studies in this guide.