How to maximize your digital transformation despite the pandemic
In early 2020, digital transformation had finally risen to the top of most corporate agendas. From bots to virtual desktop interfaces (VDI) to cloud solutions to omnichannel customer service, companies were executing on digital strategies at an unprecedented rate until the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world as we knew it to an almost complete standstill.
Businesses closed down, shipping and supply chains became paralyzed, and customers' day-to-day lives changed dramatically. However, it didn't take long before people began improvising and adapting. Doctors embraced telehealth, retailers implemented online ordering, curbside pickup and shipping operations, and cashless, touchless payment options ramped up.
In fact, rather than halting the digital revolution that was in progress, we are now seeing that it has in many instances accelerated the creation and adoption of digital transformation initiatives and collaboration tools. Rather than putting off expensive digital transformation initiatives, many companies are viewing this as the opportune moment to make meaningful digital changes within their organizations — especially those that can achieve near-term ROI and have the right talent to execute their strategy.
"As we move from reeling to reflecting on the disruptions we've seen courtesy of COVID-19, there are numerous questions being asked in boardrooms, on earnings calls, in the media, and in government," says Dave Evans, CEO of Fictiv, an on-demand parts manufacturer. "The answer to all those questions is digital transformation."
How COVID-19 is advancing corporate digital transformation
According to research from IDC, firms that have implemented digital transformation initiatives experience greater productivity, better customer support and more efficiency — all highly desirable outcomes at the best of times, and most certainly during challenging times. As Evans shares, "Digitally transformed industries drive value, speed and efficiency — and enable a level of agility and resilience."
Digital evolution enables something else, too: Innovation, says Anna-Katrina Shedletsky, founder and CEO of Instrumental, an electronics manufacturing firm. She predicts the next 18 months will drive five years' worth of innovation, "because the challenges the industry faces are so profound that an interim band-aid just won't do." New approaches to supply chains, human safety, quality oversight and remote optimization are only a few of the digital innovations that will emerge.
Shedletsky's prediction holds true across different industries. For example, many have long referred to non-traditional office arrangements and broad-based work from home models as "the future of work" — but, that future has arrived early. Many companies are now anticipating that some portion of their workforce will remain working remotely even when offices are given the green light to reopen, further emphasizing the need for secure, reliable and scalable digital solutions to be in place.
It's important to note that the changes and innovations associated with the future of work go well beyond screen-sharing and video conferencing. Particularly in contact centers, it's extremely challenging for frontline support teams to work remotely without having access to cloud-based solutions and technologies such as VDI, workforce management platforms, customer relationship management (CRM) and omnichannel platforms. Implementing these solutions and platforms has required a leapfrog in technology that many organizations had resisted or put off until the pandemic deemed them essential for business continuity.
These rapid changes made out of necessity must become part of longer-term strategies and tactics in order to be sustainable and successful. For many, that could mean offering more consistent access to networks and servers, or purchasing dedicated software to improve training. For others, it may require bringing in a knowledgeable and experienced partner like TELUS International that has the people, processes and technology to provide digital solutions, cloud technologies and remote work capabilities.
Ensuring digital transformation success
As with any successful strategy, prioritizing areas of focus and ensuring you have the talent to execute them remain key to ensuring long-term success. For example, if budgets are tight, Shedletsky suggests looking for digital solutions with operating expense business models that provide ROI on Day 1. "They make budget by saving money for you now," she says. What better way to gain traction than cutting costs while increasing future resiliency?
In addition to the right tools, a successful digital transformation also has a forward-looking people plan in place that encompasses the identification of current and future skills needed, recruitment, training, and ongoing learning and development programs.
A recent Harvard Business Review article says that "[organizations'] ability to adapt to an even more digital future depends on developing the next generation of skills, closing the gap between talent supply and demand, and future-proofing people's potential." Moreover, it shares that the focus on re-skilling and up-skilling employees ensures they can effectively adjust to change and adapt to the increasingly digital and virtual world. This parallel investment in people should not be overlooked, but be considered as vital an investment as the digital solutions and technology components.
Though many states, countries and overall economies are starting to see phased re-openings, the global community's pandemic response continues, which includes the need for us to transform. "Digital transformation has always made sense, but adoption has been slowed as people deal with recent uncontrollable forces," says Evans. "Now the needs are compelling and urgent, and those that fail to transform will likely be left behind and risk becoming irrelevant and noncompetitive."
For organizations looking to emerge stronger, now is the time to double down on digital transformation.