Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, many companies had digital transformation plans that they hoped to implement or were already implementing. Specific initiatives included advancing automation, finding more ways to take advantage of cloud technology, improving data collection and analysis processes, and more. But requirements brought about by the pandemic changed those priorities. For example, many companies had to shift their attention to ensuring the effectiveness of remote work.
Businesses that began digital transformations pre-pandemic may now be faced with questions such as whether to continue along the same path, change directions, or give up on their previous plans. In addition to greater reliance on remote work platforms, needs have shifted for many organizations. Cloud computing, data management, security concerns, and customer expectations are all playing a big role in how companies move forward.
The positive news is that some of the disruptions brought about by the pandemic have been good for companies in terms of forcing them to take important technological steps. In the sections below, we explore what has changed in the digital landscape and how businesses should adapt.
How Company Goals Have Changed
Prior to the pandemic, companies that were pursuing digital transformation were trying to solve problems within their organizations, such as reducing costs or achieving specific business goals, like improving the customer experience (CX). At the time, many of those initiatives weren’t urgent, and some companies were only taking them on because they knew “digital transformation” was something their competitors were doing.
The pandemic forced company leaders to realize that some of these initiatives were, in fact, urgent and that they would need to make significant changes to outdo their competitors in the post-pandemic world. Companies that have been able to quickly adapt have been the most successful. For example, delivery services like DoorDash had to ramp up to meet the demand for food delivery as restaurants became inaccessible.
Fortunately, many companies were able to pivot much more quickly than they thought they could. And they learned that some of the things holding them back previously actually weren’t true, such as the myth that customers are unwilling to have an all-digital experience.
Takeaway: Companies that are still stalling on digital transformation should take steps toward bringing their initiatives to fruition.
New Customer Expectations
The pandemic forced companies into different kinds of relationships with their customers. The in-person interactions that were valued in the past became dangerous. Businesses that recognized that fact and took steps to transact in a new way gained respect and customers. For example, Target set up an efficient curbside pickup service that enabled people to get what they needed without encountering other shoppers.
Takeaway: Customers now more heavily value seamless digital experiences, which may be the deciding factor between two or more companies offering similar products or services. Companies should align their customer digital experience accordingly.
Shifting Employee Needs
Employees, too, have changed in how they view the companies they work for based on their ability to provide a seamless digital experience. While business leaders might not give the matter much thought, the fact is that negative digital employee experience (DEX) can contribute to higher attrition rates, leading to greater company costs, and increased customer dissatisfaction, leading to reduced revenue.
Takeaway: Given the Great Resignation, companies can’t afford to create conditions that repel new talent. All businesses must be aware of the quality of their company’s DEX and take steps to improve it.
Importance of Cybersecurity
Greater digital complexity increases the need for strong cybersecurity, especially for companies that rely on personal information such as financial or medical records. Also, the rise in remote workers, necessitated by the pandemic, has created an additional strain on security, given that IT team members often have little to no control over remote work environments. And, while companies are becoming more vulnerable, hackers are becoming more active and successful.
At the same time, the IT profession is losing workers at a high rate, not enough of them are being trained, and IT teams are being pulled in many directions, with cybersecurity sometimes falling through the cracks.
Takeaway: Post-pandemic conditions require a greater focus on cybersecurity. Companies should consider this matter of critical importance when pondering any digital transformation initiative.
Greater Reliance on Cloud
One way to address the security issues mentioned above is to move some operations to the cloud. This action not only reduces the number of attack vectors but also enhances remote work opportunities and provides added scalability and agility. Additionally, cloud operations can help companies manage the ever-increasing amount of data being generated each day. The following video describes more about working in the cloud.
Takeaway: Cloud computing provides an avenue for digital transformation that can address several post-pandemic concerns at one time. Companies should consider moving some (or more) of their operations to the cloud.
Now Is the Time
While COVID-19 is still with us, many companies have the tools available to return to some semblance of pre-pandemic normal. Now is the time for businesses to reconsider their pre-pandemic digital transformation plans, make new ones, and take steps to use technology to improve. In addition to the takeaways listed above, here are a few more tips for achieving the most effective digital transformation right now:
- Start from scratch in determining what the digital transformation should achieve. Think about key challenges and goals.
- Reevaluate digital services and reduce or eliminate any redundancies.
- Find out what customers are looking for now and take steps to provide it.
- Revisit initiatives that started in response to the pandemic. Many of them were set up quickly and may need tweaks to ensure they’re secure and efficient.
- Understand that transformation is an ongoing process and be sure to regularly revisit goals and outcomes.
For companies struggling with digital transformation pre-pandemic, there is a silver lining in the COVID cloud. Businesses are now moving forward with technology improvements that will help them become more efficient, productive, and profitable.