Why digital transformation is key to post-COVID-19 economic recovery

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we live and work. 

Now, with countries beginning to lift restrictions and non-essential shops starting to re-open, many businesses are taking stock of the past few months and wondering: 

Where do we go from here? 

The Coronavirus outbreak forced businesses to undergo rapid change, and for many companies this meant accelerating their existing digital transformation strategies.

According to the Agents of Transformation Report 2020: COVID-19 Special Edition, 71% of technologists report that digital transformation projects that should have taken months or even years to complete, were implemented in a matter of weeks. 

 But what are the long-term implications of this rapid transformation?

In this article, we’ll explore the link between COVID-19 and digital transformation, and why successful digital transformation is the key to helping your business survive the post-Coronavirus economy.

How COVID-19 fast-tracked digital transformation

For many businesses, remote working allowed them to remain operational during the biggest health, social and economic crisis in living memory. However, even if your business had the resources in place to support remote working, few businesses were prepared to facilitate remote working on this scale. 

Over the past few months, we’ve helped countless IT departments make the major infrastructural changes required to support a purely remote workforce, while continuing to maintain a high level of performance and security. These measures included helping businesses protect themselves against a 20% spike in cyberattacks, as hackers attempted to use the global pandemic to their advantage. 

Digital transformation helped countless businesses survive the short-term, and these businesses will need to continuously adapt in order to navigate the post-COVID-19 landscape. In their “Roadmap For Recovery,” both the European Commission and the European Council identify successful digital transformation as the key to driving economic recovery in the wake of the Coronavirus. 

At Systems Assurance, we believe that digital transformation will prove crucial for businesses of all sizes, in the coming months and even years. For example, some small and midsize businesses (SMBs) may not have the physical space required to serve customers on-site while maintaining social distancing. For these businesses, taking the steps necessary to sell their products or offer their services online may still be the only viable option. 

For SMBs, successful digital transformation may also mean an increased focus on online promotions and digital marketing, as this typically has a lower cost than traditional print campaigns. By focusing on digital and online promotional activities, SMBs can market their business on a reduced budget, something that’s going to become increasingly important in a tough, post-pandemic economy. 

For larger businesses and enterprises, successful digital transformation can help them take advantage of new opportunities and expand into any new markets that emerge during this time of massive upheaval. 

However, not all digital transformation is good digital transformation! According to a recent study, 76% of technologists are concerned about the long-term impact of digital transformation initiatives that were rushed through during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Over the past 25 years, Systems Assurance has helped businesses continually invest in the technology they need to adapt and survive, but it’s never been more important for businesses to get digital transformation right. 

Beyond COVID-19: 3 ways to update your digital transformation strategy

So, how can you ensure your digital transformation efforts are putting your business on the path to success? 

We may not have a crystal ball, we do have decades of first-hand experience working with organizations who’ve undergone periods of rapid digital transformation under challenging circumstances. 

Based on our 25 years of experience, we advise that businesses keep the following in mind, when planning digital transformation activities for these challenging times:

1. Continue to invest in remote working 

Every company’s situation is different, but we’re seeing an increasing number of non-essential workers returning to their physical places of work. 

Even if you’re in a position to offer your staff a safe and healthy work environment, you should be prepared for the possibility that not all of your employees will be able to physically return to work at this particular time. 

Some of your employees may have health conditions that put them in the high-risk category; some may live with a vulnerable friend or family member and don’t want to risk exposing their loved one to the virus, while other employees may simply not feel safe returning to their physical place of work. 

As a responsible employer, you should be prepared to support employees who want or need to continue working from home. 

Now is also the time to prepare for unforeseen circumstances that might force your business to return to a remote working model. For example, government guidelines may change; or a member of your team may test positive for COVID-19, forcing your entire workforce to self-isolate at home as a precaution. 

Making any infrastructure, application, network or security changes required to support remote working, should be at the core of your post-COVID-19 digital transformation activities. Over the coming months, you should also continuously review and invest in remote working, to ensure that your employees can remain productive, regardless of the circumstances. 

By investing in a cloud-based platform, you can ensure your staff always have access to the tools and data they need, regardless of geographical location. Want to see how Office 365 can help your business support remote working? For a limited time only we’re offering a 6 months free trial of Office 365 plus an exclusive guided migration led by our team of industry experts, so you can see exactly what the cloud has to offer your business. 

2. Provide access to real time data

Do your IT departments have access to the data they need to make informed decisions? 

The global pandemic has fundamentally changed the business landscape, and we should expect further upheaval moving forward. If your IT department is going to help you navigate these uncertain times, then they need to be able to evaluate the technology stack’s performance, and its impact on your wider business. 

According to AppDynamics, 92% of technologists predict that visibility into the performance of their technology stack will be the most important factor during this period of upheaval, with 89% stressing the importance of being able to access this data in real time. 

As part of your long-term digital transformation, you should continuously review and invest in the analytics tools, resources and policies that your IT department needs in order to access relevant data, and make decisions that will drive your business towards success, even in this unpredictable global economy.

3. Focus on operational resilience and business continuity  

The COVID-19 pandemic was an unprecedented crisis on a scale that very few of us anticipated ever happening, but businesses can now use the events of the past few months to inform their risk and disaster planning, with a special focus on operational resilience and business continuity. 

The global pandemic emphasised the importance of ensuring your staff have access to the infrastructure, tools, policies and support they need to continue working, even when they cannot physically get into the office. In some instances, having access to cloud technologies enabled organizations to seamlessly transition from on-premise working, to a full remote working model. 

As part of your digital transformation activities, you should continuously review your risk and disaster management to prepare for a situation where the majority of your employees may need to work from home. In particular, these plans should include data protection policies for any staff who need to access confidential corporate data and applications on unsecured personal devices, as we saw a dramatic increase in cyberattacks during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Depending on your business, disaster preparation may also involve diversifying your supply chain in order to remain operational in the event of widespread disruption amongst your existing partners and suppliers. 

By applying the lessons learnt from this unprecedented global crisis, you can ensure you’re in the best possible position to keep your staff safe and continue trading, even in the face of global disasters. 

Conclusion 

It’s clear that the COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting impact on businesses around the globe. 

Even if your staff are now returning to their physical place of work, you need to ensure your digital transformation strategy continues to drive positive change. 

Remote working, operational resilience, business continuity and ensuring your IT specialists have access to relevant data, will all be important factors in ensuring your business survives in a challenging and potentially volatile global economy. 


Want more information about digital transformation? Check out our 7 step guide to driving a successful digital transformation. 


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