How COVID-19 is accelerating digital transformation

How COVID-19 is accelerating digital transformation

It is a given today that COVID-19 has disrupted global economies and businesses, affecting millions of lives and livelihoods. With nations adopting precautionary measures such as distancing, quarantines and lockdowns, technology is playing a critical role in keeping society functional. This crisis has accelerated the pace of digital transformation, the impact of which will continue to be felt in the long run.

Changes in the business landscape

The business landscape is experiencing new business trends emerging across sectors, which are setting the foundation for the way we will work in the future.

The good news is that teamwork and collaboration, which are the life blood of businesses, are not being compromised due to distancing measures and lockdowns.  The use of virtual collaboration tools has quickly ramped up to bridge the gap created by the inability for the in person working environment in an office setting, actually leading in some cases to improved productivity without the need for time to be set aside for commuting to the office.

The world’s largest experiment in remote working is slowly but surely turning into the new normal way of conducting business, as some of the top players in the world have announced plans to continue to maintain the work from home model for a significant portion of their workforce – While some of the larger players like Facebook and Microsoft have announced plans to continue to work from home for the rest of 2020, Google just announced plans through mid-2021, and players like EXL Service[1] (a Nasdaq-listed BPO and analytics firm) are likely to allow part of the staff work from home on a long-term basis.

For a while during the recent shutdowns, the only shopping option available to most consumers in the US even for necessities was online shopping.  This has led to a shift in mindset and acceptance of online shopping, which is expected to have a permanent shift in many ways.  To make the online shopping experience closely resemble the bricks and mortar shopping experience, another notable trend is the rise of e-tailing or live ecommerce[2]. The convergence of streaming video and digital commerce, live commerce has the potential to transform the industry and consumer shopping habits. Advanced technologies such as Augmented reality (AR), Artificial Intelligence (AI) are also playing a part to increase the use and acceptance of live commerce.

With cash being viewed as a potential way to spread germs and infections, digital and contactless payments through bank cards, online payment portals, facial recognition, Quick Response (QR) codes or near-field communications (NFC), etc., are slowly but surely gaining wider acceptance over cash transactions, keeping economies running and helping people to function while practicing social distancing.

Businesses are seen realigning their investment focus towards research and technology integration related investments to speed up enterprises’ internal digital capabilities. There is a greater focus on cloud-enabled IT infrastructure, including an enhanced cyber security protocol[3].

The impact of technology, however, extends beyond the workplace to quality of life that people are leading. Case in point: In Israel[4], a global technology firm has come up with a unique solution to address the issue of loneliness for the elderly and the technically uneducated. Built on lines of an intercom, the device needs to be plugged in to the power outlet and it will connect to incoming calls on platforms such as Skype, Zoom, or WhatsApp at the push of a button.

Adoption across Industries

Digital adoption has escalated across industries. The education sector can be seen using collaborative audio/video tools, digital whiteboards, Q&A chat boards and such, to conduct virtual classes for the students. Healthcare sector is shifting away from traditional care delivery towards technology-based care. Digital epidemiology tools, telehealth, telemedicine, EHR guidance tools, etc. are few of the trends that are revolutionizing healthtech. The Finance sector has already seen significant number of transactions taking the digital route, closely followed by retail, professional services, transportation, and media. Companies with a robust supply chain fared better than companies without one.

A key sector of the economy is the Micro and Small Businesses. According to the World Bank, MSMEs account for approximately 90% of all businesses and half of the world’s jobs. The lockdowns and other precautionary measures to curb the spread of the pandemic has left many of these businesses struggling to survive. A robust digital infrastructure has become essential for these enterprises to rebuild and relaunch their businesses and become resilient against future shocks, especially through establishing an online presence to ensure continuing availability of their products or services.

However, though crucial, digital adoption in this segment faces many barriers, including, lack of adequate awareness and skills, financial constraints and budgetary restrictions, lack of adequate technical resources, and security concerns. A good technology partner can address many of these concerns and help business make the shift to the digital.

Being future ready

During times of crisis, companies need to plan for success by reviewing their short-term and long-term strategies in order to ensure long term continuity. By embracing change and investing in digital technology that supports their strategy, businesses can improve their ability to survive unexpected disrupters, such as the recent COVID-19 crisis that impacted the entire global economy.