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When Constraints Spur Innovation

COVID-19 has placed constraints on almost every aspect of how organizations operate.

Fortunately, history has shown limitations can actually drive innovation.

In 1987, Lillian Disney donated $50M to establish a concert hall dedicated to her late husband, Walt. The project was also meant to jumpstart the redevelopment of downtown Los Angeles and the re-establishment of the area as a cultural destination.

Frank Gehry, architect of the Guggenheim Museum in Spain and the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago, was chosen to design and build the project. His proposal was initially focused on the exterior and the community, featuring open gardens and an intricate mosaic fountain. However, Gehry’s true challenge would lie in the interior: The concert hall had to have flawless acoustics.

This mandate forced Gehry to land on the distinctive design that is today’s Disney Concert Hall. The hall is designed to eliminate any social hierarchy among the audience in terms of sound or sight. The organ stretches to the ceiling, which acts as part of the acoustical system while mirroring the curved metallic surfaces of the exterior. It has since received wide acclaim for its impeccable acoustics, making this hall one of the best in the world, integrating the local community with the music.



Magda Stefanski

Harvard Business Review examined 145 studies on the effects of constraints on creativity and innovation and found that individuals, teams and organizations are not successful despite them, but because of them.

Harvard Business Review examined 145 studies on the effects of constraints on creativity and innovation and found that individuals, teams and organizations are not successful despite them, but because of them. Individuals were found to be motivated by a challenge and more focused given a narrower path, which also prompted them to search for and connect information from different sources to generate new ideas.

Gehry’s effort is an example of superior innovation in engineering. In today’s digital environment, organizations must also adopt an engineering mindset to modernize legacy systems and build platforms and methods that enable them to adapt with speed and quality.

At Publicis Sapient, we’re no stranger to constraints — from budget and time to antiquated systems and fractured processes. Not to mention evolving customer demands, the most critical requirement our clients face. As the COVID-19 crisis and stay-at-home measures have hit individuals, organizations and economies hard, we’re prepared to lay the groundwork for growth. The road will be long, but we’re moving quickly to help our clients face these unprecedented challenges and spur creativity and innovation within their businesses.

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How we’ve helped our clients respond quickly and creatively under various constraints

Section title : AGTB: The world’s first digital-trade bank built in months

Many trade banks rely on the common, but problematic, operating models of traditional corporate banks, with laborious and costly manual processes, outdated systems and siloed information. To become the world’s first fully digital trade finance bank, AGTB needed to look past everything that had come before.

To prepare the bank for launch and enable it to adapt to consumer and market shifts, the technology architecture needed to be responsive and evolutionary. It also needed to be agile to release all future engineering offerings quickly in order to meet evolving business and customer needs. AGTB's vision has come to life thanks to a multi-industry collaborative ecosystem uniting fintech expertise and the creative foresight to disrupt the status quo.

AGTB was built from the ground up at half the expected cost and brought to market incredibly quickly, in half the time of any other player in the market.

Section header: Direct-to-consumer capability in
four weeks for consumer products

The COVID-19 crisis has increased demand for certain consumer products as people are preparing for extended stays at home. Forty-seven percent of consumers have said they are struggling to get household essentials, and many are looking to go direct-to-brand in hopes of bypassing retailers and third-parties. But as consumers seek brands, they’ve experienced a lack of availability and have settled on non-preferred brands instead.

This presented a huge missed opportunity for brands without direct-to-consumer (DTC) e-commerce capabilities. And for brands that are new to DTC, pivoting quickly comes with its own challenges from setup and fulfillment to operations and customer service. In response, Publicis Sapient has built an out-of-the-box capability to stand up a DTC business in four weeks via differing platform options.

This capability not only allows consumer products companies to pivot to serve their customers quickly, it also enables the collection of consumer data in order to personalize the customer experience, build brand loyalty and improve products and brand image over time.

Section header: From concept to code in
four weeks for a major home improvement retailer

Publicis Sapient implemented a rapid response team for a major home improvement retailer with the goal of introducing a new product from concept to code in four weeks. They chose to address the professional customer segment because of the outsize market opportunity that lied in recovering market share from the leading competitor and seizing on a market that is growing two times faster than the consumer market.

The proposed new digital experience for the professional customer segment included job management between contractors and sub-contractors, up-to-date building code referrals, product recommendations, empowered store associates, personalized content and expedited fulfillment.

Working as a distributed team with blended skillsets, the team developed and de-risked a go-to-market strategy and product resulting in a data-driven, fully functional experience across five touchpoints that engages with the retailer’s customers in an entirely new way.

In response to COVID-19, the experience can also mobilize store associates to address new priorities including same-day delivery and buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) optimization. Because the team works in real code with a tangible outcome, response to situational shifts is swift and immediate.

Section header: Biotech’s content engine helps
fight global COVID-19 outbreak

In 2018, the world’s largest biotechnology trade association knew their outdated content management system put them at a disadvantage, hindering their ability to create and deliver messaging during health crises. The biotech also struggled with discoverability and ensuring the right audiences could find the information they needed through the right channels at the right time.

The biotech partnered with Publicis Sapient to empower the organization with a self-service publishing platform, to connect with customers and strengthen relationships through personalization and compelling experiences, and to unify key web properties under one content platform in order to deliver messaging across web, mobile, email and social channels in a way that allowed them to rapidly change, evolve and respond.

When the COVID-19 pandemic posed new threats to the industry, the biotech wanted to ensure companies had access to vital R&D materials that could help fuel initiatives to fight the outbreak. They knew they had to move quickly. Using a content management system built by Publicis Sapient, the biotech was able to build content and get messaging out in just days, providing information on COVID-19 testing and development to the public through the digital channels that mattered most.

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues, the biotech can continue to publish information quickly and effectively, establishing the company as a trusted and reliable resource for the biotech industry during a crisis.

Section Header: Crisis management communication platform in response to COVID-19

“We put our heads together right at the beginning of this. That first week we were ordered to stay at home, we asked what can we do with our practice to help?” said Lynn Lannin, state and local industry lead for Publicis Sapient.

Lannin’s team noticed that local governments were not getting information to the public quickly enough because they weren’t using the best communication channels. In response, Publicis Sapient built the Crisis Management Communication Platform (CMCP), which empowers state and local authorities to proactively engage with the public where they are, rather than expecting people to visit the Department of Health website. Powered by Salesforce, CMCP delivers three crucial abilities: two-way communication between public officials and citizens (in-depth incident reporting, social listening, email alerts), active monitoring (from inception to resolution) and seamless coordination (management and distribution of resources).

CMCP will help local governments respond to all sorts of crises but has applications for commercial enterprises as well. For instance, human resources departments could use CMCP to track which employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are in self-isolation.

Section Header:  A new revenue stream for a global energy supply company

A global energy supply company recently made sustainability a priority, shifting focus to renewable energy and moving away from fossil fuel usage and CO2 emissions. The company realized that in order to manage this transition, they would have to move from an asset-driven business to a services-driven business.

To achieve this goal, the company partnered with Publicis Sapient to help them digitize and monetize their internal assets and workforce in order to scale their business — creating a new revenue stream at a lower cost. We helped the company modernize their legacy applications of condition monitoring, performance monitoring, risk and health checklists, incident management and management of field workers among other information sources and feed them into an analytics platform that could optimize power plant performance with the help of a real-time dashboard. The company then took this platform to market, providing other power plants with subscription access to their own dashboard for performance optimization.

The team continues to make agile updates to the platform to improve the product and meet customer needs. A client of this global energy supply company said, “This new platform has been integral to our business model. With operations spanning across the globe, using [the platform] enabled us to track operations easily and ensure we were maximizing the energy opportunities available for a broader global audience. The energy industry needs to transform, and platforms [like this] help us as we move to invest in alternative and effective ways of generating power.”

Section Header: In person to online:
the next generation virtual
conference platform

As COVID-19 forces conferences online, a leading technology company decided to forego their annual in-person conference and pivot to a virtual experience fit for a global audience. However, existing out-of-the-box solutions don’t allow integration with an organization’s existing marketing technology stack, customer relationship management (CRM) ecosystem or infrastructure. 

In response, Publicis Sapient proposed an experience that is more than just a digital version of a physical conference. The Publicis Sapient Virtual Conferencing Experience (ViCEx) is a platform designed to fully integrate with the company’s existing tech stack and provides a richer, measurable and more personalized experience for virtual conference attendees and a greater ability to target and build customer profiles. The platform’s online registration and attendee profile feature integrates with the company’s 360-view of their customers and existing customer relationship management (CRM) system. Additional features include enhanced calendar planning, video streaming, AI-generated note taking during events, AI-assisted networking groups, one-on-one virtual product demos and a library of previous keynote presentations for post-event interactions.

“While an out-of-the-box virtual conference product may be the fastest way to help a client set up a virtual conference, we believe the real opportunity here is much bigger. With ViCEx, virtual conferences can be an integrated part of a client’s overall strategy for creating detailed profiles of customers, understanding exactly what customers like and don’t about new products and services, and following up with them in a hyper-individualized way”, says Barry Fiske, experience lead for Publicis Sapient’s telecommunications, media and technology vertical.

Get in Touch

Get in Touch


How can your business transform for now 

and next?


Speak to our industry experts about your

specific challenges and opportunities.

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