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How vital is a move to digital?

This morning's breaking news from Marks and Spencer announced significant redundancies across the UK due to the impact of COVID-19 on our shopping and spending habits.

marks and spencer

Over the last few months, the way we shop and behave has drastically changed to adapt to the new way of life. This, in turn, has had a detrimental impact on businesses who have previously relied on a more 'traditional' way of shopping. A report by Alvarez & Marsal and Retail Economics estimates that 17.2 million British consumers, about 25% of the country’s total population of 66.6 million, plan to make permanent changes to the way they shop. Social distancing measures as well as the inherent risk people associate with crowds and enclosed spaces, has fundamentally changed the customer experience. People are now avoiding busy shopping centres where they would have previously enjoyed to shop and opted for the safety of their home to browse online and make purchases.

The almost overnight change to online purchasing has left many businesses struggling to adapt. Marks and Spencer’s CEO, Steve Rowe, has stated they will "accelerate [their] transformation and deliver a stronger, more agile business in a world in which some customer habits were changed forever." Working in partnership with Microsoft, M&S have implemented Microsoft 365 to digitise processes and adapt to the current climate. Richard Lim, CEO of Retail Economics, highlights the move to a 'nimbler and more digitally focused' business model which will prove vital if businesses are going to adapt to customers' move to online retailers.

Our Microsoft Expert and Cloud Architect, Mark Allford has given his thoughts:

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With my engagement with all sorts of business, there's clearly a drive to 'do more with less' as part of the Modern Workplace toolsets from Microsoft, which lends itself to simplifying technology solutions and the move to cloud-based, software as a service solution. The initial move to utilise Office/Microsoft 365 has been done by a lot and those who have already made the move are now looking at really driving home their return on investment through using this solution to modernise their processes and streamline workflow to see the efficiencies the Microsoft 365 platform can deliver. Whether that's digitising a paper-based form to gain insights in real-time, or enabling colleagues to collaborate in real-time on the same document, simple things make a massive difference to peoples time.

Outside of Modern Workplace, there's been a significant shift to Microsoft Azure to bring services which were traditionally only accessible to enterprise, to all sorts of customers which has had exciting use cases. From using Azure to replicate a manufacturing plant using a digital twin, automating customer service representatives with chat bots, through to machine learning, AI and computer vision to deliver stock replenishment when it's needed in order to work smarter. It truly is an exciting time to work in this field and what we can help our customers create.

Mark Allford

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