Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members


For the first time in the history of mankind, the world has witnessed an unprecedented turbulence in its spread, intensity and reach – be it business, society or even individuals. The epochal year has clearly demonstrated the highest level of interconnectedness between business and society, and its degree of impact on both. While no one can predict how long the turbulence will last, the other side is clear – it will never come back to ‘old normal’.

The environment in 2021 and beyond will be very different, but no less rich in possibilities for those who are resilient and ready to shift their mindsets to ride along this “Ocean Change” – much beyond just “Sea Change”.

There are five major changes which will define the shape of ‘Next Normal’:

  1. Elevation of Consumerism
  • On Demand Services: Customers would prefer the flexibility to use services when needed and pay only for utilization – ‘pay as you go’. OTT platforms or cloud services are two examples in recent times.
  • Consumer Convenience & Confidence: Simplicity and ease to buy will have a significant role in consumers decisions, linked with options and price points. Quality of delivery will build the confidence of trust and create repeat customers. E-commerce platforms are great examples of this shift.
  • Weakening Loyalty: Stickiness to any particular brand, retailer or online portal will weaken significantly. With severe competition for scarce customer attention, customers will be easily willing to shift loyalties for the minutest of benefit.
  1. Anywhere Operations
  • Operating Model: Service partners will need to work on an operating model designed to support customers everywhere, enable employees everywhere and manage the deployment of business services across distributed infrastructure. The model of anywhere operations is the “interwoven twin engine of digital and remote”. However, it is not as simple as just operating remotely. Providing a seamless and scalable digital experience requires changes in technology infrastructure, management practices, security and governance policies, and employee and customer engagement models.
  • ‘Homeshoring’: This will become a major trend. In past, organizations would perform impact-based service offshoring assessments. The new-look organizations will conduct major impact-based job classifications for deciding roles that can be carried out from peoples’ homes i.e., homeshoring. This will become a significant part of their offshoring or ‘carve out’ strategies.
  • Vocal for Local: Voices for protection of local jobs would become more vocal, while intensifying the focus on cost optimization. Supply chain will demand a fine balance between import and local supply. Organizations would avoid over-dependency on cross border supplies which impact the assembly line.
  1. Tectonic shift in Technology
  • Simple with Faster Returns: During the pandemic, our reliance on digital solutions has never been greater; and it is not likely to reduce when this turbulence is over. The digital adoption will continue to grow. Organizations will embrace simpler tech initiatives with shorter paybacks, preferably during the year itself.
  • Ecosystem will Become Integral to Tech Strategy: Organizations would combine their ‘own’ investments with the larger ecosystem to create collaborative partnerships and to optimally balance ‘strong value proposition’ towards clients, ‘asset light’ approach, and the need to bring in new-age technologies.
  • Integrated Technologies: No more will technologies be thought of as ‘supporting’ the businesses. All future business will ‘be’ the technologies! Unique and innovative technology trends will become the core business propositions, using ultra intelligent techniques, such as block-chain and AR/VR. 
  1. Future of Talent
  • Skill Anywhere/ Work From Home (WFH): Remote working possibility will further define the operating norms by breaking myths of physical proximity of people, processes and tools for operating and optimizing the same. WFH initiated as a BCP is most likely to become the BAU option as well. At the same time, WFH raises a new set of challenges in data security and privacy. Either extremes will be dangerous, a fine balance of flexi-working with office connect will be imperative for success.
  • Gig Economy: The gig economy is by no means a new concept, but this past decade has seen it expand greatly and this would become more and more real in times to come – ensuring right skill at right cost, with flexibility of no fixed cost, supported by structured tech platform.
  • Work Environment: Organization will step back and reset the future people-related policies for fostering culture, values, etc. with a blend of team working remotely and from office. Leadership styles, competency mapping, team engagement, performance measurement, feedback mechanism all would require to go through a significant shift to support the next normal.
  1. Embracing ‘DAU’ (Disruption as Usual)
  • Beyond ‘BAU’: Survival requires businesses and their enterprise services to be leaner, meaner and agile. There is a stronger-than-ever need for enterprises to drive transformation across front office, mid office and back office processes, and hence, periodic and even wide-spread disruption is going to become BAU.
  • Outcome Based Expenses: Organizations will embark upon strategies that makes expense relatively more variable and outcome based, with saves on discretionary and fixed costs. Many business generation and client acquisition actions too would be performed remotely.
  • Financial Models – Organizations will proactively embrace and move from Capex to Opex model of transformation. Cost take-out and cash conservation have become the overriding mantras for the CXOs. Restructuring of operations across countries will increase.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

3 Comment

  1. Very insightful & thought provoking article – can describe it in just one line – “Very valuable information crammed in very few words”…

    • Tanay Sharma -

    • January 16, 2021 at 15:20 pm

    Very apt and relevant in today’s scenario!

    • Pallavi -

    • January 22, 2021 at 20:10 pm

    Food for thought for the leaders and strategists.

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