How inflation could present an opportunity for your business
- Inflation can be an opportunity to re-evaluate your business processes and equipment. Hervé Duborjal explores how pharmaceutical company Astellas approached this with ServiceNow.
Recessions, financial crashes, and other difficult economic circumstances are nothing new. Businesses have always had to navigate challenging times in order to survive.
More recently, however, the global pandemic, geopolitical tensions and resulting economic crisis have brought inflation to the forefront of our agenda.
Business leaders are facing a multitude of challenges, from staff shortages to supply chain issues and beyond. These inefficiencies drive up prices in everything from commodities to products and services – and that's where inflation comes from.
It’s a tricky time to navigate. However, for businesses willing to think outside the box, tackling inflation might actually present a surprising opportunity. After all, organizations that can survive crises often come out of the other side more resilient.
Changing your perspective on inflation
The first thing we need to do is turn the way we look at inflation on its head.
We’ve been conditioned to think of inflation as overtly negative. And while it’s never going to be an entirely positive thing, it’s also a natural part of our current economic cycle, and it’s to be somewhat expected right now.
Throughout history, whenever we’ve seen pent-up demand – like that during the COVID-19 pandemic – or extensive monetary creation policies, we’ve seen inflation follow.
Costs are rising. However, that doesn’t mean that our businesses should act rashly and stop spending, least of all on innovation. History has shown us that without innovation, businesses often struggle to retain a competitive advantage within their industry.
High inflation also means it’s a bad time to hold onto cash. In fact, in times of high inflation it’s actually a good idea to invest in projects with high ROI with a short payback window.
The fact is, inflation is going to happen around us regardless of what we, as individuals, do. So, we need to change perspective and act on the circumstances we face.
This means that right now, efficiency is essential.
It’s arguably the perfect time to evaluate your working processes, streamline the way you work, invest in tools that allow you to do your very best work, and become more resilient for the future, even in challenging times. And, the key to doing this successfully lies in technology.
How can technology help?
In order to perform best in an inflationary climate, businesses need to be two things: agile and efficient.
Remaining agile allows you to adapt, reroute, and shift your course if and when the need presents itself. Efficiency is also vital in order to ensure you’re not wasting valuable time and resources in your everyday business processes — maximizing your employee base output is the most impactful thing any company can do in high inflation environments.
The way to achieve both of these things is with digitization.
Modern digital platforms allow you to put everything you need to see in one, easily accessible place. The result? You get a clear view of all of your assets, your inventory, operations, supply chain, and more.
Imagine you are a manufacturer. To keep track of what’s going on, you need a full end-to-end view on your own operations, so that you can easily answer questions such as ‘Who am I paying and when? And when will I get paid?’
On top of this, you also need a full view of your supplier’s operations.
By investing in a modern platform that allows you to hold all of this information in one place, you’ll be able to quickly identify (and resolve) problem areas.
This is exactly what pharmaceutical company Astellas did, with the help of ServiceNow. Senior director of digital architecture and solutions, Paul Mukherjee explains:
As a company, we outsource a lot, which means our processes to manage our partners are extraordinarily complex. It used to be that we had to fill out multiple tabs in an Excel sheet and then email it around, get emailed around various parties. And you'd never fully know the status of it.”
To resolve this and avoid unnecessary delays or confusion, Astellas implemented a simple workflow solution using ServiceNow. Mukherjee adds:
It’s taken all the pain out of the process. Now, what we’re trying to do is automate the things that can be automated, allowing our people to focus on the things that only people can do. You can basically say, all this boring stuff, which is just repetitive, you don't need to do that anymore. The interesting stuff where you actually need to apply some genuine intelligence to this and ingenuity, that's what you can focus on.
Not to mention, this level of clarity helps you pinpoint which manual processes in place could or should be automated, freeing up valuable time and resources, which can then be allocated elsewhere.
Digitization can also be a game changer when it comes to customer service.
With prices rising across the board, customer service is going to become a key differentiator for consumers. Those who stand out for offering great service are much more likely to find their customers remain loyal in the face of inflation, meaning that it’s more important than ever to get it right.
With workflow technology, you can digitize all parts of the customer service process, removing unnecessary paper trails, providing more visibility over who your customers are, when they last purchased from you, or even whether they have any feedback on the process. You can also provide a faster and more consistent service overall.
This sort of digital recall ultimately brings you closer to the customer and enables you to improve processes where possible.
Taking the opportunity to re-evaluate your processes
In our current inflationary landscape, you, as a business leader, have two choices.
You can either allow inflation to happen around you and try your best to cope with what you have. Or, you can lean into it, and invest in the tools that can help you turn it into an opportunity to work better, accelerate innovation and overcome your competitors in these challenging times.
With the right equipment, businesses can sail smoothly through 2022 and beyond, become more agile, more prepared for future challenges, and learn to adapt with the natural fluctuations of our economy, rather than struggle against them.