Digital transformation was high on the agenda of many companies at the start of 2020. More than 80% of UK companies either had a digital transformation strategy in place or were in the process of implementing one, according to independent research carried out on behalf of Ancoris and the Cloud Industry Forum. But the Covid-19 pandemic has meant many plans made at the start of the year have been turned on their head.
When lockdown was introduced, the ability to adapt and go remote as quickly as possible was critical to the survival and success of many office-based businesses. Almost all of these companies were forced to accelerate the pace of their work on digital transformation, with one CIO reported as saying that his company saw more innovation in the first six weeks of lockdown than in the previous ten years.
For other sectors, such as manufacturing and some parts of the retail industry, lockdown meant site and branch closures, lower sales or supply chain issues. For them, future survival depends on improving operational efficiency and being able to gain insights and act quickly in response to rapidly changing market conditions and new opportunities. These are both areas where digital transformation can play a role, by eliminating paper-based processes, speeding up reporting, and putting easy-to-use business intelligence tools into the hands of decision makers.
In short, digital transformation has been shown to be even more urgent and necessary for survival in every sector the previously thought. It’s no surprise that, even though the OECD expects many countries’ economies to shrink by more than 10% this year, industry analysts at IDC expect spending on digital transformation technologies to still grow by more than 10% in 2020.
So the two big questions for businesses in the next few months are:
- how can they ensure changes they’ve already made — in a hurry — become permanent?
- how can the current momentum in their digital transformation journey be maintained?
There are some pointers as to how to answer these questions in the research we commissioned just before lockdown began.
- Cloud-readiness. For many sectors, remaining productive during lockdown depended on their cloud-readiness. Being able to operate without relying too heavily on on-premise infrastructure was key. Cloud was already viewed as having a pivotal role in digital transformation, with more than 20% of all organisations considering it to be critical and a further 60% regarding it as very important. Future success will likely depend on giving cloud even more of a central role in digital transformation efforts while carefully reviewing the place of on-premise solutions in future operations
- Clear communication. While most people see the digital revolution as a great opportunity for their business, a significant number feel it’s a threat to their jobs. With millions of workers furloughed and the unfortunate possibility of redundancies for some, it’s more important than ever for leaders to be as transparent as possible about their digital strategies. They should be reassuring staff that automation of routine work and digitisation of paper-based processes are both designed to complement them rather than replace them.
- Expanding digitisation. While only a minority of organisations felt they weren’t doing nearly enough to become fully digitised, more than half of them admitted they were only doing just enough. It appears that businesses are continuing to rely too much on traditional, more-time consuming processes that could benefit from digital transformation. This is especially true in sectors such as manufacturing, the public sector and retail, which still require the physical presence of employees. As a result, businesses often had to manage their operations during lockdowns using very limited resources. Taking a broader view of digitisation and achieving the right blend of digital technologies and human input will be integral to the recovery of all sectors.
- Choosing the right partner. When asked what’s preventing them from becoming digitised more quickly, organisations across all sectors cited a lack of people and skills, with at least a third of all businesses saying this was holding them back. Furthermore, 25% of companies felt they didn’t get enough assistance from their partners to help them digitise. This emphasises the importance of choosing the right partner for digital transformation efforts. Businesses should be looking for partners who do more than just supply technical solutions. They should seek out partners who will be able to complement and supplement their in-house skills, as well as help them explore their options and develop their digital strategies.
If you’d like to find out more about how digital transformation can help your organisation recover from the impacts of Covid-19, read about our research findings in our Digital Transformation Goes Mainstream whitepaper - simply click on the download button. Or come and talk to the experts in our Digital Transformation team to find out how they’ve helped businesses like yours successfully move forward with their digital transformation strategies.