The COVID-19 crisis brought big changes no business was anticipating. All at once, people everywhere needed to interact digitally instead of in person. This essentially gunned the engine on transformation for some companies but has caused others to reassess transformation plans as they focus on immediate pain. Where a company falls depends a lot upon its industry but also on digital transformation maturity.
Companies that had already transitioned to more modern, cloud-facing IT architectures—whether exclusively public cloud, multi-cloud, or hybrid cloud—have adjusted more successfully to COVID-19 disruption compared with companies saddled with legacy infrastructure and applications.
That’s because the less successful companies lack tools and capabilities that have been particularly beneficial during this pandemic, such as connected cloud applications for daily operations and the ability to model multiple reliable future scenarios based on quality data.
Connected Cloud Applications Keep Productivity High
Companies that have SaaS applications for finance, human resources, supply chain, sales, marketing, and other key functions are experiencing less disruption and higher productivity than those that have older applications and limiting infrastructure. Because of these cloud applications, employees were able to pick up where they left off—literally—with real-time information, up-to-date files, and embedded collaboration tools.
Meanwhile, other businesses have discovered that their virtual private networks (VPNs) can’t support a high number of remote workers, or their proprietary applications aren’t working over the open internet for daily tasks like file sharing. These companies have had to divert their time and resources to fix immediate problems. They’re essentially applying duct tape to what they have and are putting larger-scale digital transformation goals on hold.
Our experience is that these companies move at only about 5 percent the speed of their digitally transformed peers. They are taking longer to respond to the drastic changes caused by the pandemic and so are not nearly as productive as they could be right now.
Scenario Planning for an Uncertain Future
Scenario-planning capabilities are particularly important following a massively disruptive event like a global pandemic. What, for example, is consumer behavior going to be like as we emerge from this crisis? How will suppliers and supply chains be different?
Businesses need to ask questions like these and then build and prepare for multiple scenarios so they can pivot quickly when one emerges as imminent. A couple of practices can be helpful here.
First, you need integrated end-to-end data from all participants across the value chain in order to create as complete a picture of the future scenario as possible.
Second, companies need a sensing strategy drawing on data from multiple disparate sources on a real-time basis in order to track early indicators that an identified scenario is becoming more likely. These leading indicators could be sales data, market data, and/or publicly available data from third-party agencies or groups.
A bank, for example, could be monitoring weekly unemployment data combined with its customer list to track a leading indicator for what types of services will be in most demand in the near future.
Will the bank need to develop a new product to meet this demand? Run a new advertising campaign to remind customers of an existing service? Create a partnership, sell a part of the business, or buy back shares?
The insight to answer these questions is everywhere in today’s data-rich world, but it takes the right technology to bring the data together within enterprise-scale business applications.
Do You Need to Catch Up or Keep It Going?
The pandemic should be a wake-up call for businesses that have fallen behind on replacing old technology with new. The cloud is a game-changer on many levels, and companies have benefitted particularly from scalability and reliable connectivity during this crisis. They’ve been able to keep daily operations productive while also modeling multiple possible paths forward with data-rich insights.
Undoubtedly, this pandemic has validated the value of digital transformation for many people. At the same time, it’s made others aware of how difficult it will be to weather the next unexpected disruption if they don’t catch up.
Howard Tiersky is CEO and founder of FROM, the Digital Transformation Agency, which helps companies grow revenue across digital channels by creating customer journeys that resonate with today’s hyperconnected audience. He publishes regularly on digital transformation and enterprise innovation.
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