Yoav Tchelet
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Digital Transformation during COVID-19

Digital Transformation during COVID-19

Companies that continue engaging in digital and technology transformation and investments during the COVID-19 pandemic will thrive, come out stronger post-pandemic, and outpace their competitors (the remaining ones).

These companies and businesses will also be able to survive future crises better. Why? Because the knowledge they will learn from keeping a business afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic will prove invaluable in the future, so valuable that it’ll be enough to help these businesses operate more efficiently and cost-effectively in the future.

To understand why the businesses that’ll make it through the COVID-19 pandemic are those that will continue investing in digital transformation, you need to understand digital transformation.

More importantly, you need to understand how having it as part of your business growth strategy can make all the difference during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Digital Transformation 101: What It Is & Why It Matters

As it relates to business, “digital transformation is the process of integrating different digital technologies into various aspects of an enterprise or company.”

Digital transformation is the cultural, organizational and operational change of an organization, industry or ecosystem through a smart integration of digital technologies, processes and competencies across all levels and functions in a staged way. Digital transformation (also DX or DT) leverages technologies to create value for various stakeholders (customers in the broadest possible sense), innovate and acquire the capabilities to rapidly adapt to changing circumstances. 

Credit: i-scoop

The overarching aim of the digital transformation process is usually to enhance operations, service, goods, and value delivery to the end customer, and to entrench a cultural and operational shift that allows the business to thrive in the digital business space.

For most companies, investing in digital transformation usually touches on the core, three types of digital transformations: business model and process, domain-specific, and cultural or organizational.

Businesses that apply any (or all) of these types of digital transformation models can benefit from streamlined business operations, functions, and efficiency gains in areas such as marketing, human resources, administration, process automation, business ecosystem, and asset management, organizational culture, etc.

Any technology or digital investment made in any of these areas, and any other areas of the business, can have some profound positive benefits on the enterprise, especially when it comes to improving its competitive edge during the COVID-19 crises.

Digital Transformation before COVID-19

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses that took on digital transformation processes did so willingly, not out of necessity —at least not all the time— but out of a desire to create a streamlined operational process and ethos that helps their business remain competitive. The business-operations changes precipitated by the outbreak of COVID-19 have altered these dynamics significantly.

Now, more than ever, digital transformation is vital. Enterprises keen on surviving the business environment changes brought on by COVID-19 have to focus on survival, job and cash preservation, which, unfortunately, is what most businesses are doing.

They have to emphasize the use of digital technologies and advancements to continue operating efficiently during these trying times. For instance, these businesses have to continue investing in short and long-term digital transformations like empowering employees for remote work, virtual meetings, and service delivery automation.

Some businesses, like hotels, liquor stores, entertainment spots, and other enterprises that rely on foot traffic and the free movement of people, have to pivot altogether and adopt new business models that allow them to operate profitably during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Focusing on investing in digital transformation during the COVID-19 crisis can have profound business benefits —which is why businesses that continue doing it are the ones that will survive:

Why Digital Transformation During COVID-19 Matters

To gain a deeper understanding of why businesses need to continue investing in digital transformation and technologies during the COVID-19 situation, you need to comprehend the business benefits of investing in technology and digital transformation during COVID-19, which are plenty:

#1: Business Model and Process Benefits

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses had already started their journey of adopting digital technologies to enhance the business process —more so in the sense of using ‘tech’ to enhance goods and service delivery, customer experience, and others to streamline other business operations.

After the COVID-19-instigated changes to business operations, many businesses that will not scale this up or adapt to using digital technologies to change their business model and processes will not make it through the crisis intact.

Using the COVID-19 pandemic as an impetus to make changes to the business process and model can have many benefits, especially on an enterprise’s business model and operational plan. For instance:

  • Empowering employees for remote work: Unfortunately, perhaps driven by the instinct to survive and stay afloat, many businesses are laying off workers and scaling down operations. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, businesses that focus more on investing in technological and digital advancements that empower their workforce for work-from-home opportunities, telecommuting, and virtual meetings, etc.,  will have a leg up over those that fail to do so. Such businesses will have a workforce that takes ownership of the production process, which is enough to improve overall productivity, even during uncertain, COVID-19 times.
  • Process automation: Process automation is a core part of digital transformation. Enterprises that continue engaging in, and enhance their digital transformation processes during COVID-19 will be better off for it. Businesses that use this crisis as a wake-up call to ‘robotize’ and automate backend/office operations like legal and accounting will have an advantage over the competition. In addition to transforming their modus operandi (M.O.), these companies will benefit from having fully-fledged operations when other businesses are scaling down or scraping entire departments altogether.

#2: Risk Mitigation benefits

Sandy Shen, a senior research director at Gartner, notes this of the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects it’ll have on businesses:

“…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.

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.”

That is indeed true:

During the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses need to find the balance between survival, cash, and job preservation, and on using technological advancements to streamline their operations will lower their risk significantly, first, because the process will lead to invaluable knowledge on how to operate a lean and efficient operation. And secondly, because these establishments will mitigate their risk to other effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the possible recession.

#3: Evolution Benefits

For years, business leaders have been aware that the businesses that innovate as rapidly as possible are the ones that thrive in uncertain times. No one can dispute that COVID-19 has brought to the fore the importance of integrating innovation into every aspect of a business.

Unfortunately, many enterprises are using the changes occasioned by COVID-19 to adopt technologies that help them survive until the pandemic passes, at which point, they may go back to ‘normal’ operations.

Businesses that continue their digital and technology transformations projects and investments not as a COVID-19 stop-gap measure aimed at keeping the business afloat, but as necessary, and permanent business evolutions will outperform the competition on every level possible. For instance:

  • Easier collaboration: Businesses that put in place permanent technologies that ensure their work-from-home-empowered employees can collaborate easily will be able to cart these technologies to the post-pandemic business environment. Easier collaboration can make all the difference and give a business the edge over the competition.
  • Better insight: Using data collection and analytics technologies to transform and streamline a business’s working model and production process is one of the most cited aspects of digital transformation. During COVID-19, businesses that adapt (fast) to digital technologies for better service delivery to their core customers will have better insight (from the data they collect). By using technology to collect and analyze data, these companies shall find it easier to make data-driven business decisions that help them thrive amidst global business uncertainty.
  • Skills transfer: Businesses that continue investing in digital transformation during the COVID-19 pandemic will be all the better off for it because the endeavour will transfer invaluable knowledge to employees. For instance, businesses that adopt cloud-based technologies for collaborative projects will have to teach their employees how to use these technologies effectively. This skills transfer will help these enterprises create an agile business culture that will outlive the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • A digital work culture: Businesses that continue investing in their digital transformation projects amidst the COVID-19 crisis will experience another standout benefit that will revolutionize their operations: an entrenched digital work culture. The businesses that entrench the use of technology to deliver value to the end-user will see a significant work environment shift. For instance, digital transformation endeavours like remote work opportunities will compel employees to become more innovative and productive. Moreover, companies that use the COVID-19 crisis as a chance to accustom their employees to using technology to deliver value will equip these employees with the ability to adapt to other technological changes in the future.

Digital transformation, before, during, and after COVID-19, has many more benefits that make it a worthwhile undertaking.

Conclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses of all types, even those that were resistant to it, to adapt to technology.

Given the uncertain nature of the pandemic and the business operation changes it has heralded, now is not the time to scale down digital transformation budgets and programs.

Instead, businesses keen on remaining profitably operational during COVID-19 must prioritize the adoption of digital technologies and transformation. Those that had digital transformation programs in place before COVID-19 must continue investing in these programs.

Stay safe, look after yourselves and your employees and finally look to the future and make the right decisions for your businesses.