Why Digital Transformation Equals Survival During COVID-19 Era

eWEEK DATA POINTS: A CEO directly involved with new and upgraded IT systems looks at how COVID-19 is impacting businesses and how it's speeding up digital transformation.

Download the authoritative guide: Artificial Intelligence Leaders: Top AI Vendors

COVID-19.chart

Updating and upgrading an IT system (also known as “digital transformation”) is more than just a buzzword and a process. It can open doors to limitless potential by expanding and improving capabilities and advancing all industries. It’s often forward-thinking. However, during this turbulent time, digital transformation is survival.

Companies have been forced to quickly scale to meet the demands of a decentralized workforce. Brick-and-mortar businesses have shifted offline business online. Tech adoption curves that typically have taken months or years have been sped up to days or weeks.

Box CEO Aaron Levie recently shared: “The industries that have resisted going digital—health care, banking, legal, retail, government—will do so faster this year than in the last decade combined.” He’s right, and there’s no going back.

Directly involved with many organizations going digital is Chris Byers, CEO of workflow productivity solutions provider Formstack. The company currently works with more than 22,000 organizations worldwide, including Cleveland Clinic, the NHL, Netflix, Twitter and Butler University, to digitize information, automate workflows and reform processes.

[To see a larger version of the chart image at top of the story, right-click on it and select "View Image."]

In this eWEEK Data Points article, using industry information from Byers, we’ll look at how COVID-19 is impacting businesses and how that is speeding up digital transformation.

Data Point No. 1: What are the biggest disruptions large corporations are seeing due to COVID-19?

  • Company health: The first and most important disruption stems from the unhealthy aspects of your organization, which will become magnified in this environment. In other words, these flaws are exposed much faster than normal. If you already had strained relationships, tight cash, poor success in your GTM, these will become fires that you have to deal with before you can think about your core day-to-day.
  • Work experience: Now that employees must work from home, companies must work digitally in an asynchronous manner. This underscores the need to fast-track plans to modernize outdated, overwhelmed tech stacks to sustain business, as companies must scale to meet the demands of a remote workforce. Some vital steps include moving all paper processes to digital, automating workflows and enabling modern cloud apps for employees. For companies that have not already established a system for digital work, this can be an enormous overhaul for operations and can significantly impede, and even halt, workflow.
  • Customer experience and expectations: Brick-and-mortar businesses across all sectors—from health care to retail—have been forced to significantly reduce in-person customer interactions. Innovative organizations are developing user-friendly, contactless experiences and processes for customers to mitigate the risk of losing customers who will look elsewhere for alternative, more convenient services. For example, banks that require in-person transactions will lose out to competitors that are making it easier for customers to transact digitally. Moreover, customer expectations for these digital services will extend far beyond the pandemic, and organizations that fail to shift to digital or cease supporting digital processes post-COVID-19 will ultimately lose.

Data Point No. 2: What is the biggest disruption SMBs are seeing due to COVID-19?

Lack of capital. In addition to facing many of the same challenges as large corporations, SMBs are also experiencing a lack of capital in the current pandemic environment. A large company can adopt cost-cutting measures and typically have stronger relationships with banks and investors, giving them sustainability built into a company’s infrastructure. If you have to cut costs in your small business, it might mean you have to close the doors. To prevent this scenario from occurring, it is critical for SMBs to adopt digital processes and tools early on, so that they are acclimated to digital systems and are prepared to use them for business continuity and growth, regardless of crises.

Data Point No. 3: What’s the main difference between SMBs and large corporations?

Same as above.

Data Point No. 4: What are key productivity—and collaboration—tools that are reliable for large companies and SMBs?

Digital toolbox. In today’s digital world, we all use similar technology. We need to create a digital toolbox that facilitates communication, scheduling, project management, file sharing and storage to drive success. The SMB and the enterprise can adopt Teams, Slack or Chanty for chat; Hangouts, Zoom or Skype for video; or Formstack Sign, HelloSign or DocuSign for closing contracts digitally. What’s great about it is the SaaS subscription model even helps level the playing field by making business software solutions more affordable and attainable for smaller budgets. 

Data Point No. 5: How specifically are all these factors speeding up digital transformation?

Digital transformation is now survival. In the normal course of business, digital transformation is forward-thinking. In today’s COVID-19 environment, digital transformation is survival. For example, the government moves on its own timeline, but in times like this, it is forced to go digital or shut down. In Estonia, the government is operating seamlessly through all of this because of its government’s digital adoption.

To adapt to our current environment, which essentially mandates partial, if not full remote work and business, companies must develop digital processes and use new technologies to enter digital transformation. However, this is not just for the time being as we work through the pandemic. Expectations from all sides—customers to stakeholders—will forever be changed, as they see and experience businesses that are providing top-notch digital service and succeeding in this environment. 

They will continue to expect these digital offerings even beyond the crisis, which emphasizes the importance of investing in digital transformation now to refine operations, improve productivity and ensure business growth during this turbulent time and into the future.

If you have a suggestion for an eWEEK Data Points article, email cpreimesberger@eweek.com.