Driving sustainability through digital acceleration

2020 threw a host of challenges at the world economy; businesses had to fundamentally rethink operations to meet the demands of an entirely digital customer interaction model. This presented challenges for businesses that had fallen behind on digital infrastructure. While, by and large, short-term challenges were able to be addressed to alleviate the strain placed on IT systems, as we continue to move into the brave new, post-pandemic world, businesses are paying closer attention to the next challenge: climate change, sustainability, and how they can drive more responsible technology without accruing added cost or resource. The solution to these challenges is often touted as ‘digital transformation’, but I’d challenge that and instead put forward a more nuanced approach: digital acceleration.

Acceleration, not transformation

The need for businesses to change tack almost overnight in 2020 meant that such monumental, multi-year digital transformation approaches were unrealistic. Instead, businesses had to begin breaking down their challenges into evolutionary, bite-sized steps in order to better implement technology and processes quickly and more nimbly than ever before, enabling them to drive action and business impact quickly. We call this digital acceleration.

Digital acceleration promotes the creation of responsible technology through a series of very focused, rapid, iterative releases, allowing for a measured and considered approach. This ability to focus on smaller, quickly evolving decisions gives stakeholders the opportunity to also consider the societal, economic, and environmental impacts of their everyday decisions. In essence, focusing on incremental change helps to minimise the risk of irreversible, large scale negative implications. And as people begin to focus more acutely on the climate challenges ahead, sustainability will become a non-negotiable as employees, partners, and consumers look to work with or buy from brands that make efforts to give back.

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Efficiency drives sustainability

Considering this natural crossover between digital acceleration and sustainability, companies looking to stand out in today’s economy need to focus more intently on how this looks for their business. We are now on the precipice of one of the biggest shifts in consumer behaviour, as people have increasingly opted for digital services when given the chance. E-commerce trends are the perfect example here – despite shops in the UK reopening their doors, online sales continue to dominate because of convenience. As businesses continue to move online, digital acceleration can improve sustainability, not just for reputational gain, but to maximise business outputs and outcomes for those businesses at the forefront.

In this rapidly evolving world, organisations have the chance to position themselves to capitalise on new opportunities as they unfold. One such example is OX, creators of the OX truck, who required a digital platform to run a mobility service to improve efficiencies for farmers transporting goods to market, or clean fuel companies transporting fuel to rural areas. By refining its vision and focusing on its core value proposition, OX was able to create a service blueprint that included the business processes, systems, and assets required to deliver the mobility service whilst providing an efficient customer journey.

Leading responsibly

As with the OX example, the approach to digital acceleration should be to drive responsible, sustainable practices across business wherever possible. Technology in itself is not the be-all-end-all, but rather should be seen as an enabler of very human motivations. How it’s used is ultimately down to decision makers and technologists. As an industry, I feel that we have a responsibility to give back, and own the outcome our technology precipitates, Every week we’re seeing investments into sustainable projects not only boost cost savings and drive efficiencies, but also minimise environmental impacts and reduce wastage through digitalisation. It’s a win-win for all.

While sustainability initiatives may seem daunting to take on, we’re seeing them start to improve business outcomes at a pace that can’t be ignored. Ensuring that businesses are leading with digital acceleration, and focusing on small, evolutionary, and rapid improvement will ultimately mean that they’re also being more sustainable as result. Technology can provide solutions to most problems, but when it comes to implementing responsible, long-term, sustainable practices, it comes down to decision makers and technologists to take the reins and implement a thoughtful approach that not only drives positive business outcomes, but finds long-term, responsible solutions.

Written by Justin Marcucci, chief digital officer at Endava

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