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Covid-19 as an accelerator for Digital Transformation

 The pandemic has changed how companies operate and deliver their services to their consumers. It is undeniable that companies that had experimentation as part of their “corporate DNA” reported better growth during the pandemic. 

Photo by Chris Peeters from Pexels

 

Let’s face it, the change created by the pandemic is here to stay. Therefore, this need of “relentless improvement” will continue to apply to this present. The combination of the safety measures and the vaccination rollouts has given us the opportunity to regain some normality, or what many are calling the “new normal”. This defines how we are operating now, and will form the base of how we will operate in the coming future. The ones that were quicker to adapt during this era of crisis had a competitive advantage over others that were more conservative in nature.

It is not surprising that a Google survey (Note: we will reference this survey throughout this article) highlights that “organizations at different levels of digital maturity were impacted by the global pandemic. For example, digitally conservative organizations were more likely than their digitally forward peers to have cancelled or delayed three (3) or more IT initiatives (16% vs. 8%)”. Also, no surprise that in the same report it outlines that “32% of respondents said that data analytics and intelligence initiatives were either introduced or accelerated in 2020 because of COVID”. The survey also shares  that “44% of digitally forward organizations are currently using data analytics and AI/ML technologies, while only 24% of digitally conservative companies are doing so.”

There is so much to learn during these times  of crisis. You need to see challenges as opportunities and move at a faster pace. A great example of innovative and creative "solutioning" can be found in the so-called “3rd world countries” that have very  limited resources. You’ll find some of the most creative minds in these countries that when provided with an opportunity to solve a problem, have achieved greatness.

It is worth mentioning that success for companies, especially during a period of “challenging times” will depend on various factors that leadership is responsible for driving forward. Two (2) of those are:

  • Communication
  • Culture

Communication

 Communicating the message with transparency will support the trust factor. The faster the conditions are changing, the more you need to communicate, not only within the company (to your employees), but externally as well.

You can find a good example of that in the interview of Brian Chesky of Airbnb by Mckinsey where he speaks his mind about many things, including the importance of communication. This is well demonstrated in the letter sent by the Airbnb leadership at the time the company had the challenges when they had to let employees go due to the impact of the pandemic on the lodging industry. This was again demonstrated when they put together the “founder’s letter”. (note: If you want to know more, please follow the link to the article which you can find in this paragraph, and in our references at the end of this article.) 

Culture

 There is a dependency between how quickly your business can adapt based on the culture in your company.

Let’s approach this from a customer-centric perspective. From that lens, the need and the pace will be driven by the consumer. Hence, the leadership will set the example for others in the organization to follow, by executing on the culture’s principles with the purpose of embracing change and adapt at the pace dictated by  the consumer in order to satisfy their needs (and provide the value-added). This will allow the organization to re-invent itself, and to innovate. Those organizations that are unwilling to change, staying at the extreme side of conservatism, are at risk of being pushed out of the market.
The Google survey says that in healthcare 37% said “that their internal process and governance structures are impeding additional innovation”. It also indicates that in the Financial Services, 39% “says they want to either create a new strategy or accelerate their existing strategy for disaster recovery and business continuity”.

Just to close this section on the importance of culture, I would like to highlight Forbes’ article  that says “While many business leaders think the starting point to digital transformation is technology – it is actually culture that remains more foundational”. A similar phrase can be seen in the Mckinsey article  which calls it as: “we know that at leading companies, digital and corporate strategies are one and the same”.


Without any doubt the leading companies are aligning their digital and corporate strategies close to each other, and the line between them is becoming really blurry.

Photo by emre keshavarz from Pexels

39% of respondents in Retail said they want either create a new strategy or accelerate their existing strategy for disaster recovery and business continuity” and “33% said security risks and concerns are top pain, while 49% said they want the ability to use cloud services but control any access to data.

Final remarks

There is no doubt about how this pandemic crisis has impacted all industries and how we operate in the new reality. Remote working, and remote learning, two (2) of the biggest manifestations became important enablers during COVID-19  (before they were rarely part of the corporate priorities), allowing  businesses and continuous learning to move forward. Digital transformation has become more relevant, and companies have a mandate to shift to be able to survive the competitive market and its forward-thinking consumers.

With the acceleration of digital transformation, a higher demand (with higher quality) on cloud services, and the security around them to guarantee high tolerance, availability and the security of the data, have become more important than ever during the pandemic. 

The crisis has removed the barriers that before many business leaders used to focus on reducing cost, removing the priorities for experimenting on new technologies and avoiding enhancing their processes for leaner ways and exercising a healthy challenge to the “status quo”.

Finally, let us all agree that there is no transformation if it cannot be sustained. Sustainability is front and center. You can only maintain success if there is a future, and without a place to call home, without resources, without ecosystems (and everything that goes in it), there is nothing to look after or work for. It is encouraging to see the acknowledgement in Google's survey responses that indicates that “two-third of organizations have already put sustainability targets in place and another 29% plan to implement them.
 
But some will argue that this is not enough. If there is one thing we must learn from this COVID-19 pandemic, it is that we do not need to wait in order to transform. There is much we can do in preparation for the crisis. Climate issues are already among us, we have been seeing the effects for many years now. It is imperative for us to act now, avoiding that “point of no return”, it is imperative for the companies to live by the “values” of the “culture” they advertise, and to keep innovating so we can be not only ready, but able to prevent future climate issues and/or future global pandemics. 


Reference


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Agreed