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Agility and resilience - solving the UK’s productivity problem

Jordi Ferrer Profile picture for user Jordi Ferrer September 16, 2020
Jordi Ferrer, Vice President and General Manager UK&I at ServiceNow, outlines how organisations in the UK need to think differently about the nature of work in order to boost productivity.

Man scanning boxes while holding tablet © ServiceNow
(© ServiceNow)

The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is in the spotlight. The UK is not only in its first recession since 2009, but its worst recession on record.

Yet to put all the focus on the pandemic means we risk not seeing the bigger picture. The challenges facing private and public sector organisations are more deep-rooted. 

Against a backdrop of Brexit uncertainty, the UK economy was already facing its weakest year out of recession by the end of 2019.

The nation entered 2020 with a big problem, and one that collided head-on with a massive, global healthcare crisis: productivity had suffered its worst drop in five years.

Survival of the fittest

From my conversations with technology leaders across the public and private sector, adapting to the implications of the COVID-19 crisis has, understandably, been the big priority since March 2020.

 The race was on to adapt supply chains, rethink citizen services, support millions of home workers and more to handle the increased complexity of this new "business as usual". 

We've seen some great examples of true agility in action too, including the NHS Scotland contract tracing app, built in four weeks with ServiceNow. The Now Platform has also enabled Buckinghamshire Council to streamline the delivery of new services to help its most vulnerable residents.

The sense of urgency around COVID-19 in 2020 has initiated greater agility in how we approach technology-led projects. Yet the contrast between this fast-paced change and the UK's response to its ongoing - and deepening - productivity problem is stark.

 Weaving agility into the fabric of your business 

If 2020 has taught us anything it's the importance of moving quickly in the face of adversity. But if this agility isn't woven into the very fabric of your business yet, it should be.

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, we'd be unwise - reckless even - not to assume that 2021 will bring significant challenges.

UK unemployment is predicted to rise significantly after October when the UK's furlough scheme winds up. The end of the Brexit transition period is looming, yet negotiations between the UK and the EU remain unresolved.

At the same time, UK ministers are in talks with other nations in moves to strengthen our position globally.

The impact on business processes and operational models could be huge, with the potential to add billions in cost to UK businesses.

Every time the UK government signs a new agreement (and expect a multitude), new services will need to be delivered, new requirements met, and new agreements adhered to.

Technology-enabled agility to accelerate outcomes

Now more than ever we're seeing how critical digital transformation is to business.

The days of large, ultra-complex IT programmes are over. The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of being able to pivot in months, even weeks, to new ways of working and operating.

New challenges will continue to hit the UK thick and fast and the organisations that are digitally transformed will be better enabled to adapt quickly and effectively.

Through technology we can change the nature of the work that we do to fuel productivity. While digital workflows bridge internal silos and manage complex processes, our workforces can be freed up or redeployed, whether that's relieving the NHS frontline from paperwork or appointing more drivers to handle increased demand for home supermarket deliveries.

The organisations that survive the pandemic and thrive in the next normal will be technology-enabled and digitally transformed. They will be the companies that are driving innovation to secure the future of their workforce, and keeping their business, in business.

If you'd like to hear more you can register for our now at work event on 6th October here.

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