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How COVID-19 is driving digital transformation

By Marcus Lambert

The COVID-19 lockdown has altered our ways of working - perhaps forever. Could remote working be the new normal? In this blog our CTO Marcus Lambert dives into what our working world could become.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced all of us to rethink our relationship with the world. Remote working has become the new normal, education has shifted to online learning, and restaurants are turning to online ordering and delivery to survive.

Elsewhere, employees are finding they can be more productive when working from home and are beginning to question their previous work routines. Do we really need a diary full of meetings every day? Can we justify the amount of work-related travel when technology makes long-distance collaborative working so easy?

Video conferencing is just the beginning.

As the period of uncertainty caused the stock market to crash, it was the video-calling app Zoom that enjoyed a dramatic upturn. As flights remain grounded and demand for video-conferencing tech grows, the company now has a market value of $42bn. To put this figure into perspective, it’s more than eight times the market cap of British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines Group.

Zoom is also more valuable than Delta, American Airlines, and United Airlines. Our world has already changed. The rise of video conferences and virtual events are just a few examples of how the future of work isn’t what it used to be. Almost any business process or task can be digitised and virtualised.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, many businesses had zero interest in exploring video conferencing, remote working at scale or attending a virtual event. Allowing every employee to work from home for once a week was also unthinkable. By contrast, many are now beginning to see the art of the possible and explore new ways of working and thinking.

The rise of distributed teams

Many businesses are already solving the problem of attracting and retaining the best talent by removing their geographical location from the equation. The rise of distributed or virtual teams enables employees to work remotely from any location in the world. Businesses can also scale quicker by turning to freelancers to complete tasks rather than a full-time employee to get a project over the line.

In the past business leaders were cautious about allowing their employees to work from home. If they gave the option to one team member, they would have to do it for everyone. But the genie is out of the bottle, and many are discovering that it could be their over-cautious disaster recovery policy and ability to provide remote working that could save their business.

Catch 22. Should you delay your digital transformation efforts or bring it forward?

Business leaders are caught between a rock and a hard place at the moment. They know they must adapt to the rapid evolution and reinvention of their infrastructure and business processes as everything becomes digitized. But technology infrastructure upgrades and strategic initiatives will be the last thing on their mind when faced with job losses and global uncertainty.

Working from home has evolved from being a ‘nice to have’ to an essential requirement. But digital transformation is about much more than upgrading systems and technology. It’s an iterative process that affects your corporate culture and every employee too. Do not underestimate the value of securing marginal gains where even a 1% improvement could alleviate a difficult situation for your business and increase your competitiveness.

Digital innovation will play a critical role in giving your business resiliency a much-needed boost. Don’t be tempted to park your digital transformation strategies at a time when you should be positioning your business to secure growth as soon as the pandemic subsides.

A journey, not a destination

The inconvenient truth is that many enterprises don’t have the technology infrastructure to offer remote working capabilities. But that needs to change—and quickly. Completely changing every aspect of how your organization leverages technology in all of its processes should be explored immediately.

A return to rigid work-in-office policies will look dangerously out of place in a world that has dramatically changed forever. It will quickly become apparent that the fast-tracking of digital transformation efforts will be the only way for businesses to get back on track.

Missed financial targets, supply chain disruptions, and dampened customer demand are very real challenges. However, it’s time for digital transformation strategies to step beyond buzzword status toward integrating technology across every area of businesses and solve real problems.

Sandy Shen, Senior Director Analyst, advised, “This is a wake-up call for organizations that have placed too much focus on daily operational needs at the expense of investing in digital business and long-term resilience.” On the importance of digital channels, Shen also advised, “Businesses that can shift technology capacity and investments to digital platforms will mitigate the impact of the outbreak and keep their companies running smoothly now, and over the long term.”

Collaborative work across distributed teams will quickly become the new normal, and every business should already be preparing. Many are beginning to grasp the fact that digital transformation is a journey, not a destination. Legacy mindsets need to be retired, and corporate cultures will need to be upgraded for an organization to continually evolve.

Our world has changed forever, but we also need to remember that an economic downturn or recession is also a catalyst for innovation. Faced with the need to operate much more effectively, rethinking traditional business models is no longer an option, it’s a necessity. But it will be those that adapt by daring to innovate and drive their digital transformation efforts that will be successful in a post-coronavirus world.

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