2020 will be remembered as a turning point, a year in which acute social, political, and economic disruption altered the way we lived our lives in the day-to-day whilst also forcing businesses to reconsider their go-to-market strategy and potentially, even their digital transformation strategy.
Following lockdowns and the aggressive spread of the virus, businesses the world over have been forced to reckon with the reality that digital transformation initiatives that they’d penned for delivery in the future were, in fact, essential to their keeping their head above water in the present. According to McKinsey, 90% of executives believe that the Covid-19 crisis will fundamentally change the way they do business over the next 5 years, digital transformation is key to regaining control.
The remote workforce, an exponential rise in e-commerce & the digital economy, and HR transforming to digital are set to define the ‘new normal’ and to this end, effective management of your digital transformation initiatives and strategies will prove vital in fighting Covid-19 and the many changes that it might institute. This article looks to explore the digital transformation process and how we might adapt to uncertain times.
Digital transformation is driven by the technical solutions that an organization utilizes to run its business. The collection of these problem-solving technologies together is commonly referred to as a technology ecosystem, and it’s something proving increasingly difficult for business leaders to manage and reassess as Covid-19 has become more prevalent.
The term ecosystem describes not only the tools that you’re using but how they interact and interrelate, as a result, building, reimagining, and renovating a business’ technological ecosystem is no small task. It is critical that executives establish a plan before proceeding with their digital transformation, one that begins with simple tools & builds towards including more advance ones.
When constructing a versatile technological ecosystem, effective leaders will consider the following:
- Establish what works – Look at the technologies you’re using currently and establish what works, what’s worth keeping and what you can’t afford to lose.
- Identify the processes for improvement – Look for the technologies likely to improve your systems and choose them according to your business size, industry, and characteristics.
- Ensure all technologies intersect – Technology for technologies sake is meaningless, instead make sure that every tool you use is pulling in the same direction to maximize value.
- Guarantee that every technical solution can scale – Can the technology you plan to employ work for you in a week, a month, a year into the future? Can it scale up? Ask yourself this question when considering technology and you’ll quickly sort the wheat from the chaff.
By following these steps, executives can establish a strong baseline for their technological ecosystem, one that is well prepared to support the latest innovations. KPMG and HFS Research’s recent survey of 900 senior technology leaders found that 59% believed that Covid-19 had set a desire to accelerate their digital transformation initiatives, with 56% focused on tech like AI & Cloud.
Cloud – Tim Crawford, strategic CIO for AVOA has stated “When you move to cloud, one of the great things about it is it really kind of forces you to think about how to run in a lights-out operation”. Cloud migration projects have become a significant focus as the year has worn on as cloud provides the agility and scalability that can help companies weather this, and other crises, more effectively.
Enterprise adoption of cloud technologies has soared as executives have realized this apparent competitive advantage. According to a recent poll of 250 IT leaders undertaken by Snow Software, 82% had ramped up their use of cloud to respond to Covid-19 and the shift towards remote work & 55% had increased their investment and usage of cloud-based collaboration tools in line with this.
In the future, cloud technology could help us to deliver innovations such as digital healthcare but cloud migration is already essential in 2020, e.g. , Gartner anticipates revenue from 2020 cloud computing to exceed $266 billion. Companies that successfully deploy cloud migration projects have seen a 145% return on investment. Truly, if you haven’t already invested in cloud, the time is now.
Artificial Intelligence – AI and automation technologies have seen unparalleled adoption rates since the start of the year. Even at the end of 2019, 72% of executives regarded AI as the business advantage of the future, citing its ability to automate time-consuming tasks and free up staff for high-value tasks as its core advantage.
It is estimated that AI could increase productivity by 40% delivering as much as $2.9 trillion in business value by 2021. In a year in which every dollar counts, executives can’t afford to turn away value on this level and should look at 2020 as the year in which to experiment with the technology.
The global revenue of AI business operations is set to skyrocket to $10.8bn by 2023, yet only 37% of businesses and organizations employ the technology in some capacity today. Evidently, there’s still time for late adopters of the technology to get involved prior to the boom we’re likely to see over the next decade. Automation isn’t a thing of the future any longer and executives must realise this.
Cloud and AI technologies are set to revolutionize business technology all whilst fitting into the aforementioned technology ecosystem, they intersect well with many technologies that organizations already use and they scale well, and to this end, executives cannot ignore their power.
As the technology we utilize in the day-to-day advances and the work we do remotely increases, our need to effectively protect the systems we rely from outage and cyberattacks rises steeply. A marked focus on cyber security and the security considerations therein has come to define 2020 and it’s showing no sign of abating.
When it comes to security and cybersecurity trends there are three appreciable developments which have occurred since the start of the year.
- International Fragmentation – Tensions are intensifying between countries around the subjects of internet governance, data localization and security. How do we balance it?
- Cyber Capacity & Access to Skills – The gap between the companies with an established cybersecurity strategy and those without has widened in 2020, the skills haven’t caught up.
- Criminal Activity Increasing – Criminal activity, though it is being perpetrated by the same pre-pandemic groups, is on the rise, particularly surround phishing and DDoS attacks.
However, when it comes to 2020 there are two distinct factors which have naturally facilitated an executive push towards security initiatives, namely, remote work and issues pertaining to Covid-19.
Remote Work – Early estimates from Gallup suggest that 62% of the American workforce were pushed towards remote work during April of this year and according to Webroot, since then there has been a 40% increase in unsecured remote desktop protocol (RDP) machines, Consequently, between March and April alone RDP brute-force attacks grew by 400%. The remote workforce is a fact of the ‘new normal’ and with that, so too is significant security risk.
Infosec trainer Frank Rietta states, “The biggest challenge for many organizations… is working with a 70-90% remote workforce. The technology to allow teams to work securely from home has existed for years, but there has been slow adoption due to organizational inertia and am overreliance on network security…This is a structural and not a technological challenge.”
Business has been resting on its laurels when it comes to remote cybersecurity threats, as it could afford to. In 2020 though, employee data and confidential workplace information are all up for grabs for hackers and cyberterrorists and as such, executives must protect both themselves and their staff from all potential threats whilst working from home, failure to do so could prove disastrous.
Coronavirus-Related Cyberthreats – Cindy Murphy, President of Digital Forensics for Tetra Defense explains this issue well, stating, “this is social engineering at its worst… People haven’t become more gullible in the past six months… but when the next news headlines could be a matter of safety or sickness, it’s much easier to believe information that appears right in your inbox.”
Cybercriminals are taking advantage of Covid-19, using the virus to reel people in and gain their trust. It’s certainly expected, but the scale at which these crimes are increasing will surprise many. According to ReedSmith, security scams increased by 400% over the month of March, making COVID-19 the largest-ever security threat than any industry has faced.
To this end, executives must prepare themselves for the fallout. These are perhaps the most difficult times that any industry has faced when it comes to cybersecurity concerns and though it may be difficult to part with the budget now, it will prove vital in your ability to protect your organization both during the pandemic and after it.
Since the start of the new millennium, technologies have risen up to reduce the distance which separate us. Social media, email and video call technologies have revolutionized the ways we communicate with one another and at a time of isolation, remote work and lockdown, digital communication has become more important than ever.
According to a recent study from the University of Zurich, in the US, there was a significant increase in voice calls (36%), social media (35%), and video calls (30%) from respondents. It also found that almost a quarter of people more frequently used email (24%), and just over one fifth played games more often (22%). Where face-to-face opportunities are a no go, digital is the next best thing.
How else can do we explain the exponential rise in – and successes of – omnichannel communication if not for this? Effectively communicating with consumers is second only to guaranteeing their safety at this time and reaching out to them across multiple channels can create significant value.
Statistics from Omnisend suggest at this value, finding that marketers using three or more channels in any one campaign earned a 287% higher purchase rate than those using a single-channel campaigns and businesses which adopt omni-channel strategies achieve 91% greater year-over-year customer retention rates.
Business leaders and organizations are flocking to make use of the approach but must first establish a plan to deliver results. According to Mckinsey, an effective omnichannel strategy will consider the following:
- Prioritize the Right Cross-Channel Journeys – All organizations must target a cross-channel journey which works for them, these should consider the multiple channels customers use and where their interest is as well as how important it could be too them.
- Design for the Channels that Matter – Companies can shift their focus after the first stage to look at building out functionalities to support the channels of customer choice, ensuring information flows freely across channels to create a personalized omnichannel experience.
- Embed a customer-centric mindset – Whatever you’re pursuing with your omnichannel strategy you should always ask yourself whether it’ll work for your customers.
The omnichannel approach is vital to operations at this time, as Dr. Kirsten Cowan – a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh – writes “retailers that innovate in omnichannel will succeed amidst Covid-19”, adding that “the more channels retailers integrate, the more satisfied consumers are likely to feel”.
Ignoring omnichannel is ignoring success, it helps you to communicate and put personalised content in front of the consumer across any of the channels that they use, this content can then activate and reactivate them again and again, in year like 2020 is not to be sniffed at.
Content then, is the cornerstone of the omnichannel approach and since the start of the year there’s been a marked increase in digital content consumption by consumers across all industries. According to Forbes, global online content consumption doubled in 2020. If there is one trend to be taken from this article it’s to ensure that you develop your omnichannel approach to include content that is unique and communicates your brand identity effectively and creatively.
How are Digital Transformation efforts having to adjust to Covid-19?
Technology, Security, Communication – digital transformation initiatives are won and lost based on a company’s ability to innovate effectively in these areas. In this article we’ve studied each and have illuminated the strategies by which any business might hope to action the change necessary to disrupt the impact of Covid-19.
These are uncertain times, subject to certain change but effective digital transformation will see you rise to meet it.
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