Fall 2020 Issue

Every industry is undergoing significant disruption today. Life after COVID-19 will not be the same, neither will business. There is no “going back to normal” or “business as usual.” Business leaders, entrepreneurs, and executives must all respond in new ways, particularly in the adoption of digital technologies and more importantly in the evolution of their operating models.

Start-ups, incumbents, even nimble digital-native companies are all vulnerable to the sweeping tide of this pandemic change. Being digital is no longer a comparative differentiator and has become a normalized competency with the number of enterprises scaling their digital journeys increasing at breakneck speed.

What is compelling, however, is the transformational redress of the operating model embracing innovation, agility, and human-centredness. Traditional operating models are inflexible and unable to effectively function in the new world of everything-as-a-service platforms, cross-industry ecosystems, ever changing customer needs and an exponential increase in business complexity.

A new operating model leveraging core capabilities across the enterprise and the evolving capabilities of new technologies is needed. This article highlights five transformative capabilities business leaders need urgently in order to build a sustainable operating model for the future.

These five competencies have been designed to align corporate strategy, drive engagement, disrupt the status quo, generate new opportunities, balance growth with risk, and increase value creation. They are industry agnostic, relevant in today’s ever challenging business environment, and have been proven to work regardless of business vertical.

In the preceding, you will find everything you need to build an operating model that is future ready and future proof.

1. The #1 business imperative
The true purpose of business is to create value for customers. Research shows organizations that are at the top of their industry’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) or satisfaction ratings grow revenue 2.5 times faster than their peers. Value and loyalty go hand in hand and purpose is deeply embedded in how future ready companies engage their customers.

The idea that companies succeed by selling value is not a new concept. What is new, however, is how customers define value and how this has been evolving with digital technologies. In the past, the determination of value was based on a combination of price, convenience, and quality. Today’s customers, by contrast, are less forgiving and have an expanded value concept that primarily includes speed, transparency and simplicity of use.

A fundamental change in the operating model focusing on the customer as the business enabler can generate a 20% — 30% uplift in customer satisfaction, a 10% — 20% improvement in employee satisfaction, and 20% — 50% in financial performance. How do you achieve this?
Simple. Narrow the business focus on delivering remarkable customer value and make this your mission. How? By focusing your operating model on customer experience.

Customer experience is an excellent starting point for digital transformation because it places the emphasis on creating happy customers, solving the inherent problems of efficiency and market superiority. This is one reason why it is more important than simply going digital.

2. How to build and deploy capabilities for the future of business
So, what capabilities do you need for the future of business? Research shows that companies building the most exciting customer journeys master four interdependent capabilities:

1. Streamline and lean the customer journey experience;

2. Personalize and customize the experience by capturing customer insights as they interact, at different stages, with your brand;  

3. Provide instantaneous or real-time sessional interactions with the customer, informed by customer behaviours, preferences, or previous history with the business;  

4. Enable journey orchestration by finding new sources of customer value. This requires openness, transparency, and a modular approach; acknowledging that tangential or complementary services may require external capabilities not delivered by you to achieve customer outcomes. 

The traditional business model is changing from a primarily stable, static machine-like, linear structure to one that is dynamic, fluid, and responsive. This new kind of model requires an agile approach to value delivery. The ability to build agile-responsive operational capabilities that are able to respond to customer outcomes are essential to “future-proof” your operating model.

The set of capabilities should include both existing and new capabilities to address customer requirements. In combination, the capabilities should comprise a capability framework, representing competencies required to execute against your purpose and model.

It is important to align your capabilities with customer expectations and the business reality. Proactively managing customer expectations is one of the simplest, most powerful, and sometimes most cost-effective strategies any business can deploy to improve customer experience. The best way to do this is to continue to build your capabilities around your 1st loyal customer segment. Why? They are a beacon to your core values.

3. The critical importance of a value-driven customer journey
The spectrum of end-to-end customer journeys served by any business presents a puzzle of personas, audience attributes, line of business (LOB) specificity, each with needs that evolve during service interaction journeys. Entrepreneurs and executives increasingly recognize the rationale for improving the customer experience — enhancing ability to achieve business purpose, delight customers, and improve employee engagement. Yet, many lack a clear understanding of what matters most to widely diverse customer groups within their operational sphere.

So, how does your journey begin? Begin by clarifying who your customers are and what they are trying to do. Identify the different segments of your customer base and their journeys to understand what matters to their experience, and thus sharpen your focus. This is the most important exercise you will ever undertake as a business.

End-to-end customer journey experiences, not individual touch-points, are the prime unit to measure when setting priorities for your customer experience investments.

4. How to accurately anticipate customer needs and provide the best experience
Today, data and analytics are the intelligent nerve of every organization, radically reshaping and improving customer experience. To design an operating model that can support disruption, leaders and executives should have a keen appreciation of how data insights fundamentally change their customer value proposition.

All organizations regardless of size, be it a 1-person start-up or 150-year-old re-invention simply have to make data integral to how they work. It is too critical an asset not to exploit especially where we are seeing machine learning (ML) and augmented or artificial intelligence (AI) becoming more and more pervasive.

How is this achieved? The best way is to develop a group of data points by analyzing the Voice of the Customer (VOC) for particular journeys and extend this through data collection activities i.e. surveys, focus groups. Similarly, assemble complimentary Voice of the Employee (VOE) operational data by engaging front line workers to thoroughly construct a view of the journey. Armed with intersecting customer and operational inputs, it should be pretty obvious to read your operational performance in relation to your customer.

5. Staying ahead of the competition
Ever see empty medication boxes on a store shelf, which you then buy behind the counter? This dates back to many years ago when pharmacy shoppers were buying off-the-shelf products on autopilot, and sales of more effective behind-the-counter drugs were declining.

An experimental approach solved the problem. We did multiple experiments in a pilot store, and many ideas failed. Two days in, we took ‘prescription only’ packs, removed their contents, and put them on the shelf. That day, many more packs were sold as shoppers exchanged them at the pharmacy.

Within weeks, the idea spread to stores nationwide, uplifting pharmacy sales. Not bad for 3 days of experimenting. Simple tests can be highly effective.”
- from, What if, Accenture

The above is one example of an organization’s ability to innovate its operating model by being willing to continuously address new challenges and pursue new opportunities.

What is clear here is fair of failure impedes a culture of learning. Companies that pursue “the fail fast” approach to product and/or service leadership are engineered for creativity, speed, and continuously iterate. This is baked into the operating model.

Entrepreneurs, executives, and business leaders today face a very challenging business environment marked by significant change, competition, uncertainty — and opportunity. Although many organizations find it hard to operate through these very uncertain times. There are ways to position your business to drive through the disruption and come out ahead — it starts with an operating model built for the future.

If you do not have a business operating model designed around your customer, no matter how hard you work your strategy or play defense or adopt a “wait-and-see” approach, you will fail. We have used some of the valuable capabilities contained here to help start-ups and Fortune 500 businesses make big moves, transforming their companies for growth.

By focusing on aligning with your customer, mapping their engagement paths, understanding the breadcrumbs of data they leave behind, learning to be better, you can be well on your way to future-proofing your business for continued sustainability and growth.


Abu Maiyaki builds operating models for the future of business; models that enable decision-making, support bold thinking, create space for inventiveness and culture change.

With more than 15+ years of experience leading complex transformation programs, Abu has extensive experience working with senior executives and their management teams to deliver strategic change across a wide range of technologies and industries. Abu has participated in over 10+ enterprise-wide transformations from $36 billion public sector institutions, multi-lateral funding agencies to Fortune 500 clients.

Abu is a member of the Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP) and the Canadian Association of Management Consultants (CMC). He holds Engineering degrees from the University of Kent, Canterbury (B.Eng) and the University of London, King’s College (M.Sc). He is TOGAF, Lean Six Sigma, PROSCI Change Management, and Project Management Certified. Learn more