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Thought Leadership
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July 03, 2020
Putting The Zing Back Into Strategy With Execution
Nitin Rakesh
Chief Executive Officer And Executive Director

As I write this piece, a dozen [1] or so countries across Europe are cautiously lifting stringent lockdowns that have been in place since March. We must still see how long it takes for the world to return to some semblance of normality. But rest assured, given human nature’s resilient spirit, it will.

Yet, know that we will be returning to a new abnormal. In such a setting, what can businesses do to step up and stand out?

Before I share a couple of strategies that I think enterprises would do well to adopt, let us look back at how things used to be. Until a few years ago, legacy was the "king." A handful of companies dominated the marketplace with complete monopoly of their customer base and with products that had little or no competition.

Fast forward to tomorrow, and everything will be different.

Not only will there be a high churn in who stays at the top, but there will also be constant disruption. Businesses will have to operate in a market dominated by the continual emergence of innovative companies, products, services and solutions.

In this new normal where companies compete for the attention of the highly selective and, perhaps in light of the pandemic, even more mindful millennial, corporate strategy will be the norm. We will also mirror changing customer demand by shifting from long-term plans to minute-to-minute execution.

But how will enterprises so accustomed to an old way of perceiving strategy pivot to this new imperative? In my opinion, by focusing on three primary engines: data, hyper-personalization and agility.


Data as core: The be-all and end-all of strategic execution

The reason I mention data as the first of these engines is because it will continue to serve as the bedrock for enterprise relevance and exponentiality. IDC, for example, predicts [2] that worldwide data creation will reach 175 zettabytes (ZB) by 2025.

Created continuously every moment, every day in the form of millions of clicks, likes, swipes, rides, streams and transactions, it is this mass of data that never sleeps that will provide businesses the vital key to deduce customer preferences in real time. With data at the core, enterprises will not only predict, but also create end users’ needs before they're aware of them.

But it will be crucial to remember that placing data at the heart of strategic execution involves knowing what to focus on and to what end. Take, for example, how global appliance manufacturer Whirlpool [3] tackled its waste problem. When three of the company’s Ohio plants were at a loss on how to deal with 20 million pounds of corrugated cardboard boxes used to package components, Whirlpool decided to deploy big data to gain insights into what could be done.

Armed with a software dashboard that provided the company with comprehensive information around energy usage and waste metrics, Whirlpool relooked at the cardboard boxes as a resource for recycling companies, helping the appliance giant turn a problem into a source of savings.


The necessity to hyper-personalize

The second engine that companies can use to power strategic execution is hyper-personalization. After all, simply being aware of data’s irreplaceable value doesn’t produce results. Mining it to derive valuable insights into the purchase patterns and typical inclinations of customers is what provides enterprises with the edge to offer end users an experience that keeps them coming back for more.

This is something companies like Amazon [4] and Starbucks [5] do demonstrably well. While Amazon uses an algorithm to unobtrusively shadow a customer’s online shopping experience by discreetly suggesting additional items for purchase based on the customer’s browsing history, Starbucks deploys its loyalty app to pull in vital information about its customers’ habits and needs.


The need for speed: Keeping up with the whirlwind of digital transformation

This brings me to the third and final engine that I believe will help enterprises adopt the right approach to corporate strategy in tomorrow's post-pandemic world: the need for an agile strategy and its equally agile execution.

Consider video streaming company Netflix [6]. The American media services provider saw a record jump [7] in paid subscriptions as millions of people impacted by lockdowns decided to join its streaming shows. Having started out more than two decades ago, Netflix transformed itself into one of the world’s most popular video streaming service companies while remaining nimble throughout its journey. By structuring its organization with minimal silos, Netflix has demonstrated an uncanny ability to keep to its macro business objectives while adjusting at a micro level to meet diverse market trends and needs.

Netflix’s success through the pandemic also demonstrates the importance of instilling a corporate culture of trust that engenders confidence among employees to make strategic decisions quickly, especially during times of crisis. Having a stake in ensuring that Netflix remains a fast-moving company means that all employees -- even when working from home -- strive to do their best to keep the business agile, quick on its feet and ahead of the pack.

As the wheels of disruption move enterprises to become as nimble as their end users require, businesses will have to pay attention to how they execute their corporate strategy. Laborious blueprints are a thing of the past. What will be needed more than ever is a series of interlinked, iterative ideas that can be replaced whenever the ground shifts with a stream of continually emerging alternatives. Because, as Yogi Berra once said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”


This point of view article originally published on and has been shared by Nitin Rakesh, CEO and Executive Director, Mphasis. Forbes, the No. 1 business news source in the world, is among the most trusted resources for senior business executives, providing them the real-time reporting, uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and community they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning. Forbes reaches an audience of 931,0558 for their print edition, and 3,600,000 for their online edition.


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