Now’s the perfect time to embrace business innovation

Shopify was considered one of the more innovative companies in 2020 for the way it emerged at a go-to ecommerce brand during the pandemic. Today’s columnist, Alex Moiseev of Kaspersky, says companies need to focus on innovation to survive and thrive in the year ahead. (Credit: CC 0 1.0)

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies were forced to urgently implement new technologies or rebuild their business model to survive an unprecedented working environment. Now, many countries are experiencing a second wave of the virus and are implementing social distancing restrictions again, posing a challenging and prolonged question for business leaders. Should companies invest in long-term innovations during an uncertain and difficult period? Or, do they focus on the core business and save capital on costly investments until more stable times return?

Over the summer, the Kaspersky team spoke with heads of innovation in enterprises to gauge their sentiments on how they will prioritize innovation during the pandemic. Here are the three main tactics they’ve used to improve their companies during this time:

  • Enhanced customer support.

The pandemic outbreak meant that everyone, both businesses and individuals, found themselves in completely new circumstances that they could not predict or prepare for. Companies had to suspend, or at least seriously revise their development strategies around opening new offices or promoting their business at live events. And, as one innovation leader noted, both B2B and B2C customers are expecting brands to share their knowledge and expertise to help them navigate through these tough times. As such, introducing new initiatives to solve customer problems will help to increase trust.

Such expectations also create fertile ground for exploring new business opportunities. First, customers are now more open to sharing their needs and pain points. These insights increase the chance that the demand for the future project will continue. Second, enterprises that work with corporate clients noticed a certain mind shift. Previously, customers believed that their usual way of working was quite effective and they were reluctant to try something new. In the new environment, they are now more eager to test innovations, such as those that promise to reduce costs or make work more convenient. This means that businesses can quickly check to see if an idea meets customer needs and then fine- tune it when necessary.

  • Faster decision-making.

Heads of innovation departments also noted that the business processes within their companies had been modified. Despite significant human and financial resources, it’s more difficult to innovate at enterprise organizations because there are many more administrative processes and approval procedures. As a result, enterprise companies are often late introducing a new product to the market. The survey findings confirm this: 40 percent agree that enterprises are less innovative because it takes too long to make a decision.

Enterprises cannot afford to operate in this manner, and the pandemic forced them to make decisions more effectively. For example, one innovation leader told us about a project that was initially estimated to take two years, but was considered essential and ultimately completed in two months. The lesson learned: don’t miss an opportunity to speed things up and cut through the red tape.

  • Embrace new ways to work amid budget restrictions.

According to a Gartner survey, 51 percent of CFOs are expecting a 30 percent cut in revenue this year. This has the potential to change what companies will invest in and spend money on. Knowing this, we asked innovation leaders how investments in their department would change in challenging times. The majority of respondents (67 percent) said that they would protect their  company’s innovation budget while still facing financial difficulties. They also believe that innovation has become even more important during the pandemic because they mostly see it not as another way to spend money, but as a solution to financial difficulties. An unusual approach to operations can actually help to save money.   

For example, our department responsible for industrial cybersecurity now cannot visit their customers to conduct a pilot project and identify all their requirements and issues, such as vulnerabilities or non-compliance cases. In return, the department developed a hardware device that customers can easily deploy themselves. The tool collects all the telemetry required for an audit report. As it turned out, it was cheaper to create and send this tool to the customer compared to a business trip for one employee.

Experts suggest that some industries may change forever when the pandemic ends, and there are even lists of industry verticals that may collapse. This means that the affected organizations cannot wait and operate as they did before, so while a “safe” strategy looks like it will pay off in the short term, it may result in more severe consequences later.

Now’s the right moment for a company to take an avant-garde, innovative approach and support its clients through innovation. Enterprises shouldn’t just consider how to stay afloat, but what they need to do to thrive in the future.

Alex Moiseev, chief business officer, Kaspersky

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