In 2020, we've experienced significant and somewhat related challenges, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, economic crisis and job losses as a result. In some cases the pandemic has exposed weaknesses in Government institutions, i.e. social issues and healthcare infrastructure constraints. This is exacerbated by a loss of life, some countries impacted more than others. For organizations, the pandemic exposed weaknesses in adopting and adapting emerging digital technologies and new ways of working. Organizations that are leading digital transformation are finding it easier to adapt to new ways of working quicker. According to some news sources, such as the guardian (2020), Google employees will work from home until at least summer (July) 2021. Business insider (2020), Salesforce will let its employees work from home until August 2021, with 6 extra weeks of time off for parents. Salesforce is giving all employees the option to work from home until at least July 31, extending its previous guideline allowing remote work until the end of 2020.
Digital transformation is how an organization adopt and adapt emerging or exponential technologies to create new business models, transform legacy systems, culture, structures and ultimately providing richer customer experiences. It is about creating and delivering new value in processes and systems that supports organizational vision.
Five focus areas to accelerate digital transformation during the pandemic
We are living in unprecedented and uncertain times, these are some strategies that will help organizations to drive digital transformation initiatives.
1. Position your Digital transformation strategy for the new normal
The challenge for almost all businesses during the pandemic is sustainability while staying competitive during and after the crisis. This forces Technology leaders to consider cost versus interim and long-term value (cost and benefit analysis) and therefore to prioritize key projects that would move the needle when it comes to technology adoption, such as cloud, big data & analytics, automation, AI, mobile, blockchain, IoT, 5G connectivity to name a few. Although technology is an enabler during this time, Business leaders should take an all rounded approach and focus not only on technology but process, governance, people and service delivery, business / operating model, data and insights to enable prompt decision making. I think you would agree with me that focusing on people enablement (culture) and governance as much as technology is crucial for success as most people are working remotely.
2. Employee productivity strategies
Wikipedia (2020), workforce productivity is the amount of goods and services that a group of workers produce in a given amount of time. It is one of several types of productivity that economists measure. Working remotely, such as work from home or anywhere has become the new reality for most of us. For most organizations this is introducing challenges and opportunities to accelerate digital transformation. Technology leaders needs to ensure their IT systems are fit for purpose, for example, scalable, have adequate capacity and are easily upgradeable to cater for increased demand for remote workforce and customer services. Cloud services, such as AWS, Google, Azure and Collaboration platforms, such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom etc. have become enablers for most organizations to stabilize their day to day operations and to enhance employee productivity. This has increase a need for organizations to bolster their security posture as well, for example, through VPN, firewalls, encryption, anti-virus software etc. All these new technologies are great and exciting to use, however without people change management and adoption could easily become redundant, thus its critical for organizations to ensure their workforce are adequately trained and can maximize these opportunities.
3. Customer experience is a must
Digital transformation improves customer experience and makes it easier for people to connect around the world, work anywhere, anytime and enjoy the benefits of the modern connected life. Customer or User experience (UX) refers to the overall experience to users or customers delivered using a product or service such mobile application/website that is easy, convenient and attractive to use. Customer experience is top of mind for most organizations. This requires organizations to adopt a customer centric and service culture, produce products and services with customer needs in mind and enhancing how the business deliver value proposition to customers, for example, through omni-channel strategy (store, phone, web, mobile, social) to ensure the overall experience is unified and consistent across customer journeys. Digital channels, mobile, internet and online services have become more popular during the pandemic, therefore businesses should take advantage of this opportunity.
4. Digitalization is gaining momentum
Digitalization is the use of converged digital technologies to optimize and automate the entire value chain of the business in order to deliver differentiated value proposition to customers. It has caused value chains to evolve into digital ecosystems, business functions and roles to be more flexible and fluid. Technology can make things work fast, efficient and effective. It can also make things to break fast, therefore the convergence of digital technologies, stitching cloud, big data, mobile, AI and IoT together through automation can enable the organizations to achieve great value and the bottom line. These technologies introduce new capabilities and endless possibilities. Tom Siebel (2020), says that they also create significant new challenges and complexities for organizations, particularly in pulling them together into a cohesive technology platform, according to him, many organizations struggle to develop and deploy AI and IoT applications at scale and consequently never progress beyond experiments and prototypes. In his book, "Digital Transformation - Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction", he provides 10 core technical requirements to enable complete, next-generation enterprise platform that bring together these exponential technologies.
5. Adopting and Adapting emerging digital technologies
According to Tom Siebel (2020), history teaches us that those who take the lead in technological revolution, which today's is "digital transformation" most certainly is to reap the greatest rewards. However the scope of digital transformation and its implications are still evolving, and its impacts are still being understood. Therefore Digital transformation requires companies to continuously monitor current trends, experiment and adapt.
Adapting to the fast pace of change influenced by technological advancement (digital transformation) and external factors, such evolving competitive landscape, crisis (Covid-19) is necessary for the business to stay relevant. For such change to take effect, the entire organization needs to be part of the digital transformation journey and therefore it requires collaboration from top to bottom and bottom up.