New Pandemic, New Me?
Unquestionably, COVID-19 has been a catalyst for digitization in the world of work, and, well, every other area of our lives ultimately. But, digitization isn’t something new. We’ve been telling the stories of digital transformation and digitization projects for decades. However, previous digital transformation processes have largely included more opportunities for experimentation built around scalable, carefully planned pilots and that’s not what we are talking about here. Covid digitization initiatives have had to take place in a matter of days and at a stretch, weeks.
COVID-19 has been the heart-attack moment for digitization
The ‘old’ digitization process is similar to say, someone that has decided to live a healthier lifestyle, where you might first start by increasing your daily water intake, then progress to changing your diet, then, maddeningly, you might even begin exercising – the change and evolution to that healthier lifestyle are gradual—something you would / should do in stages and adjust to over time. And digital transformation journeys have largely reflected this type of transition – gradual, planned, carefully thought-through, and with the respective space and time allowed for adjustment before plowing ahead with the next step-change.
Well, Deloitte has put it rather succinctly… Now imagine that the individual that has started their health-kick journey has a heart attack. For many, this would be a severe wake-up call that would accelerate those lifestyle changes to happen all at once so that you can thrive and continue your life by reducing the risk of it happening again. In the same way, COVID-19 has been the heart-attack moment for digitization – “an opportunity for organizations to make some fundamental shifts and to implement structures and practices that will enable them to thrive.” As Deloitte also notes, “Slow, but steady” doesn’t work, given the dynamics of a pandemic.”
Deloitte notes that: “For business, one consequence of the COVID-19 crisis has been a dramatic uptick in the use of digital technologies that help reduce face-to-face interactions and safeguard customer and employee health and well-being. These digital technologies include consumer-facing applications such as grocery and food delivery services, business-to-business e-commerce applications, and applications such as videoconferencing that seem to have penetrated the consumer, business, and not-for-profit worlds.”
The challenge now lies in bringing the rest of our operations up to speed with this unplanned and unpiloted digital territory. We will need to implement learning and development programs to close the now vast talent and skills gaps and not rest on our laurels – Building a company that is resilient and encompasses a culture of change is paramount for continued success and survival.
What about the impact of the pandemic on those that had already started transitioning?
We’re seeing the most rapid organizational transformation in the history of the modern firm
A recent Forbes article highlights that as a result of the pandemic, two camps have emerged: Those that transitioned smoothly as a result of having already digitized and begun a transformation of sorts, and those who struggled. Companies that have been using digital platforms and processes already have fared much better than companies that still use paper, manual and in-person processes. We can see this even at a very small, local-level with our high street restaurants and retail shops. The businesses that had already begun online offerings and shopping experiences for example have been able to rely on this and ramp up these services to survive whereas those that rely solely on the in-person, physical transactions have suffered enormously.
This thought is mirrored within a new survey commissioned by Boston Consulting Group – “The vast majority of both managers and employees believe that these [digital transformation] capabilities helped counter the effects of the pandemic and will aid businesses in getting back on their feet once the crisis is over.” And a Harvard Business Review article commented that “we’re seeing the most rapid organizational transformation in the history of the modern firm.”
Through this period we have seen more than ever that digitization is the way of the future and the resultant business resiliency from digitization has been the major competitive advantage. We now need to build on these successes by creating strategies and frameworks for continuity planning and preparedness in the digital world moving forward. We need to stop firefighting and start planning for the future based on the lessons we’ve learned.
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