Companies that have Gone Digital are Adapting to the Crisis Better than Others
Business leaders today are rightly focused on the huge business continuity challenges posed by COVID-19. First and foremost they must ensure that employees are as safe as possible, securing financial sustainability, assessing the resilience of supply chains and reinforcing crucial systems to support unprecedented levels of remote working and online trading – while withstanding an upsurge in cyber attacks.
Unsurprisingly, the organizations that were furthest down the digital transformation journey before COVID-19 struck are tending to adapt to the crisis better than their peers. Their business models and working processes meant that they were able to pivot more rapidly or accelerate changes already underway. The businesses that lack a robust digital backbone such as an ERP system or an online presence have struggled, as have those exposed to street retail, transportation, energy and tourism sectors. Meanwhile, software companies providing collaboration tools, software-as-a-service and cloud capacity are seeing high levels of demand to meet rapidly changing customer and business behavior.
However, businesses, no matter how digitalized, need to try and look beyond the immediate business continuity or liquidity issues caused by the pandemic. As more focus turns to the loosening of restrictions in place by the government, we should all be thinking about what the future may look like. What lessons should we take from this pandemic to prepare for the “new normal” following COVID-19? How can we enable our organizations to thrive in a post-crisis world?
Aside from devising a lock-down exit strategy, perhaps we can start by thinking about these two things:
1. Use technology to augment, not replace, people
Technology has enabled us to rethink the ways in which we perform fundamental activities during this crisis. Stock exchanges are still operating even though their physical trading floors are closed. Our country has established a virtual Senate. BPOs are switching to remote ways of working, with some making use of artificial intelligence to maintain expected levels of customer service. While we have had a strong culture of flexibility and remote working at Clover, we’re continuously finding ways to work in top performance with our customers while working from home.
Many of the technologies and tools we use such as Webex Meet or Zoom have the ability to enable us to do far more. Many businesses’ default positions are to use technology to replace, rather than to integrate with the workforce. This period is an opportunity for business leaders to explore how we can make greater use of technology to augment people so that we achieve productivity gains, improve the working lives of our employees, deliver better products and services to our customers and help drive higher economic growth.
2. Embrace the behavioral and cultural shifts that COVID-19 introduced
For many, the global pandemic exposed weaknesses and rendered many traditional strengths irrelevant. Technology has been the common denominator for most organizations’ resilience amid the crisis. It has also helped drive significant cultural shifts – such as people working from home and connecting with colleagues via video-conferencing platforms and collaboration tools.
While online sales and services were already growing rapidly in many countries, the pandemic has catapulted online retail into overdrive. More than just food and home remedies, demand for services, ranging from training courses and entertainment have all increased. Organizations have a valuable opportunity to capitalize on the significant behavioral and cultural shifts of the past few weeks so that they carry across into a non-COVID world. This might mean developing omni-channel business models that combine digital and face-to-face offerings.
The move to shift infrastructure from traditional data centers to the cloud, or a mix of on-premises and cloud computing, is already showing signs of acceleration. Many businesses are already rethinking how to introduce greater virtualization into many aspects of the business, such as learning, while also planning for far higher levels of remote working than before, with the knock-on impact on the real estate and carbon footprint of the business.
Although majority of businesses are still very much in the crisis management phase of COVID-19, some are already exploring how they can set themselves up on the right trajectory for growth as they come out the other side. While prioritizing the well-being of staff and business continuity, they are reviewing whether their strategies remain fit for purpose. This entails considering which course corrections they need to make given technological advances, evolving customer and employee behavior, the need for organizational agility and supply chain resilience, and the expanded role of the government.
The world is still in chaos right now. What’s more, this chaos has sparked a major social, economic and technological transformation that is playing out before our eyes. Clearly, we won’t revert back to our old ways of living, working or doing business once the worst of the crisis has passed. Tomorrow is certain to be very different – which is why we must start reframing the future today with hope, agility, and creativity.