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COVID-19 is Accelerating the Need for Digital Transformation

Matthew Jenkins< Matthew Jenkins April 8, 2020

Those of us who experienced the economic impact of the dot-com bust, the 9-11 terrorist attacks, and/or the 2008 economic downturn have had over a decade to forget the sudden impact a global recession can have on a business. As COVID-19 has temporarily paralyzed society and the business world, it’s tempting to shelve your firm’s digital transformation strategy, cut costs, eliminate new projects and focus solely on business continuity plans.

To ensure a better position after the pandemic passes, companies should avoid that behavior and instead, accelerate business transformation efforts. Research suggests organizations that contained costs during past disruptions often felt pressure from the companies that continued to invest in their initiatives after the global economy rebounded. While the coronavirus disruption may be different at its core than prior economic, environmental, or political disruptions, the successful business response is always the same: adapt or fall behind.

It’s clear the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting reality, and it has created a “new normal” for customers, employees, suppliers and partners. Business leaders need to figure out where to go from here, because thriving in the new normal is going to require transformation – and lots of it.

Transformation is already occurring

Immediately obvious right now is the need for social distancing to slow community transmission of the virus. As a result, people are connecting and collaborating online in massive numbers now which is an obvious example of a digital technology and process adaptation that your business will have to focus on in the coming months.

While allowing workers to work remotely isn’t new, many companies haven’t been as quick to adopt the work-from-anywhere model. It should come as no surprise then that companies that had previously adopted flexible productivity and collaboration tools and processes have adapted to the outbreak faster and with less friction than companies that, until now, had resisted allowing workers to work from home.

Time to double down

While this pandemic, and disruptions in general, pose considerable challenges, they also provide opportunities to change our thinking. In this case, it forces us to accelerate our digital transformation initiatives.  The COVID-19 pandemic is driving many to a “cloud-first” digital strategy. While the benefits of cloud have been known for quite a while, the speed at which companies must move to it now is rapid-quick. 

Cloud technology allows businesses to communicate instantaneously, adapt efficiently to their ever-changing environment, and most importantly, scale quickly because they shed the burdens and cost of fixed capacity.

To survive and ultimately thrive, organizations will need to increase their flexibility, creativity, adaptiveness, and ability to recover and pivot quickly. Leaders that push forward and even double down on the most important advancements in digital transformation will emerge from the pandemic in a more competitive position. Firms that don’t will be left far behind their competitors on the other side of this crisis.

In short, don’t panic. Work with your leadership team and do it quickly. Remember that no matter what, disruption is just disruption – and there’s always something changing in your business environment. Making a business successful and guiding it through any challenge is an exercise in daily problem-solving and adapting to a new normal. Along the way we will discover the need for many more business process modifications and we can look back on today’s experiences for guidance.

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