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Navigating the unknown in the new COVID-19 economy

Paul Smith Profile picture for user Paul Smith September 25, 2020
Paul Smith, EMEA SVP and General Manager at ServiceNow, shares learnings from his conversations with CEOs and CIOs that are trying to navigate digital investment in the new COVID-19 world.

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(Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay )

I am frequently asked about the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on businesses across EMEA. In my first 60 days at ServiceNow, I've spent a great deal of my time speaking to our customers and sharing perspectives on the new "COVID economy" they are operating in.

While the variation across the region is huge in many ways - depending on government policies, economic health, demographics and more - my conversations are surprisingly uniform.

Regardless of whether I'm talking to a Swiss bank, German manufacturer or Italian telco, it's tough. Businesses must cut costs yet do more. Reduce what they are spending today yet set themselves up with the platforms and digital services that will underpin long-term growth.

Many have been materially impacted and are still wrestling with how to walk the tightrope of the COVID economy. Revenues are down, profits are down - and for some we're talking big numbers.

Changing the digital transformation conversation

Have no doubt, businesses across EMEA are acutely aware that they need to digitally transform. If this wasn't at the forefront of the CEO's mind already, then it is now. Business leaders know they need greater business resilience, more direct customer relationships and the agility to navigate 2021.

They're also not looking at quick fixes. The conversations I'm having with CEOs are not only about what next year looks like, but also year two, three, four and beyond. Businesses are looking and planning for the long term.

For the CIOs, they are now finding that all the digital transformation projects they previously had to justify and push through the business are being approved. No questions asked.

Digitally advanced, ready to adapt

The only question the CIO is facing now is why digital transformation is not happening more quickly.

It's a simple but obvious one to ask, because the organisations that are digitally advanced are those who have the resilience and agility to get through - and beyond - 2020. The gap between those organisations that are digitally advanced and those that are not will only grow as the COVID economy continues to take shape.

I can see it even in the smallest businesses. One of my local pub-restaurants has been capturing customer emails and offering online bookings for years - and faring well under the COVID-19 restrictions as the customer experience comes to the fore.

Apply that simple example to some of the largest, most complex organisations in EMEA and you can see the huge potential of enterprise-wide digital transformation.

Many of our customers have already grabbed the opportunity to be ahead of the market too.

The work at the City of Copenhagen is a great example of how digital workflows are driving down costs and improving citizen service, with the authority seeing IT costs reduced by 30% and savings of around €1 million through increased productivity of its 45,000-strong workforce.

I've also discovered how the national rail company of Belgium, SNCB, is using our Now Platform to make sure process flow works across critical passenger touchpoints, like public announcement systems and ticketing machines. A move away from availability monitoring to performance monitoring is making sure the customer experience comes first.

I'm also seeing a focus on the employee experience and was recently introduced to our work with Germany's pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim. Employee engagement through a MyServices portal, built on the Now Platform, is delivering the digital, consumer-grade experiences that workers not only want, but deserve.

Preparing for change

A frequent conversation I am also having with customers and CEOs is a critical one: how to prepare for the return to the workplace.

Across EMEA, government guidelines vary considerably and they are changing rapidly, most recently with a new lockdown in Madrid, Spain and the introduction of new restrictions in the UK.

What we do know, is that this uncertainty and requirement to react to almost constant change will only continue. If 2020 has taught us anything, it's to be prepared for the unknown.

Resilience and agility will drive growth, continuity and employee productivity and this is what organisations need to survive this COVID economy.

The Now Platform Paris launch this month addresses all three of these requirements, enabling businesses to accelerate the delivery of new products and services, change employee experiences and connect with customers in new ways.

ServiceNow workflows are already fuelling digital transformation for hundreds of organisations across EMEA. We're helping people to work smarter and organisations to realise faster time to value from their technology investments.

These are challenging times, but I'm excited about the opportunity that our Paris release brings to our customers and ecosystem in 2020 and beyond.

Register here for ServiceNow’s upcoming global digital event, Now at Work, to hear from customers and ServiceNow executives about how they’re using the Now Platform to drive growth. 

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