How digital disrupters can scale in any economic environment

Presented by Cognizant

Operational bottlenecks and inefficiencies bog down expansion plans, and negatively impact product success, customer experience and sales growth. In this VB Spotlight, learn how digitally native businesses can identify opportunities to scale operations efficiently and accelerate growth.

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Digital disruptors are the businesses that offer a whole new level of ground-breaking service or brand-new products, harnessing the power of important new technologies. They’re the up-and-coming companies that have scored a great deal of funding, and could even be poised to become the next unicorn. What’s keeping them back?

“These digital disruptors can’t reach the next level because of the bottlenecks that come from operational inefficiencies,” says Michael Chittaro, fintech practice head, business process services, at Cognizant. “Many realize that they are not sophisticated in their operations capabilities. They’ve done a good job in establishing scale, but when operations issues start to balloon, they don’t have the capacity to manage those challenges, and more importantly, remove the roadblocks to growth.”

These operational challenges hit companies of every size at some point in their evolution, especially as they reach a stride in their customer growth, says Praveen Raja, head of digital health, business processes services at Cognizant.

 “Assessing your operations, identifying potential bottlenecks and building the necessary capabilities is a critical step to ensure that your company is ready to scale and delight customers.”

Knowing when it’s time to grow

There are four indications that a company is ready to grow. The first is product maturity, or having a viable product that’s ready to enter the market to satisfy a customer base that’s ready and willing to pay for it.

The second indication is that market interest stays strong, the core customer base is loyal and the audience continues to grow. It’s the time when a company must determine if it has the capability to meet that demand and build more revenue.

Market expansion is the third indication. Not only is the product in demand in the company’s local market, but there are potential customers waiting outside that scope. That applies whether the company is looking to grow outside its home state to the rest of the U.S., or if it’s time to go global.

Finally, steady revenue is a strong indicator of demand, in terms of customer pipeline, and a key indicator that there’s a scaling opportunity, which means a need for growth coupled with a need for the operational infrastructure and partnerships to support that growth.

The bottlenecks that impede growth

To capture full market potential, companies need the operational agility to move fast and outperform the competition, as well as the internal support structure to manage growth. But major barriers exist, like hiring bottlenecks, training effectiveness, lack of tools and automation to drive operational efficiencies, geographical and regulatory complexities and arriving at a truly sustainable cost model. Often the problems are baked in from the start, Raja says.

“We often see companies that have already made some key decisions in how they build their operations without fully anticipating their needs at scale when the company may have 100x or 1000x customers globally,” he explains. “They’ve invested in certain platforms. They’ve made decisions about people and locations. They’ve developed some operational processes as well. And the more baked in those people, processes and technology platforms become, the harder it becomes to pivot them for growth.”

Best practices for breaking down barriers

The best way to shake the inability to scale is to think about the longer term — what scale do you need to achieve over the next three to five years, and what does that scale looks like: should operations expand into new markets? How many people will you need to hire and at what pace? Where will that talent come from, how will onboarding and training work? What operational processes will need to be created?  What types of tools and technologies will be needed?

Customer experience needs to be kept front and center as well, so that company growth only improves the customer relationship and customer service, through clear policies, procedures and technology.

For instance, a health technology company that is in a regulated space must deal with the regulatory guidelines associated with their products as well as a host of other concerns. Its customers need to be supported with sensitivity to their health needs, a tremendous amount of data needs to be kept private and secure as it is captured and processed, they need to hire and train people who have an understanding of health and operations will have to be designed with all of this in mind.

“There are a lot of intricate processes involved in a journey toward scaling, and it’s far easier to map all those moving pieces out at the start of the journey, to ensure that they’re built for scale, rather than having to course correct,” Raja says. “Early engagement, early partnerships, longer term time horizon in terms of planning, are all helpful.”

Automation and AI are a key component and an enabler for helping companies scale, Chittaro says, significantly improving the way processes work, and making it far easier to build new processes and scale effectively.

For instance, hiring at scale is a whole new ballgame. Automated candidate screening can significantly streamline the process of hiring thousands of new employees, especially when specialized skills and backgrounds are necessary and you can screen for specific domain experience.

Weathering the recession

In light of the current economic environment, business leaders have needed to adjust growth strategies and pivot to face unexpected challenges. That need is of course behind the layoffs in the fintech and tech space in general, Chittaro says, and companies are also pulling back on international growth, in areas where operations can face complexities because of regulations and other issues.

“Businesses are relying on their bread and butter, and growth in less complex markets,” he says. “And outsourcing necessary capabilities after layoffs actually leads to better overall efficiency for their business.”

In the current economic environment, the question comes down to how a business can do more with its budget, Raja adds. By creating operational efficiency and saving cost, companies are finding that they can reinvest these savings in product innovation and areas that drive customer growth and experience.

“It’s about the same pressures. How do you reduce the cost of operations, but also, how do you continue to innovate in spite of that?” he says. “You can’t just contract. If you’re a growing digital native company, you can’t just shut down enough so that you change your growth trajectory. Therefore, people will think about smarter ways of reducing costs. And when you lower operational costs, you can invest in innovation.”

To learn more about scaling operations in any economic environment, maintaining your momentum while you evolve your product and business model, and getting insights into the people, processes, and technology that can accelerate your growth, don’t miss this VB Spotlight.

Watch on-demand, free!


  • Avoiding operational bottlenecks that derail growth
  • Scaling operations without scaling your unit cost
  • Building talent that matches your customer growth
  • Identify tools, technologies, and automation that enhance quality and efficiency
  • Operational insights that translate to product innovation


  • Michael Chittaro, Fintech Practice Head, Business Process Services, Cognizant
  • Praveen Raja, Head of Digital Health, Business Processes Services, Cognizant
  • Art Cole, Moderator, VentureBeat
Originally appeared on: TheSpuzz