You surely don't need anyone to tell you that the pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation journeys of businesses worldwide. Stay-at-home orders and social distancing efforts forced companies to adopt new ways of doing things, measures that mainly included digital tools to communicate, collaborate, and track overall progress. So, saying that digital transformation has been in the spotlight ever since the coronavirus hit feels redundant.
What doesn't feel like that, though, is how the digital transformation itself has changed. Pre-pandemic transformations were mostly driven by customer-centric needs and a desire for more efficient and flexible processes, but the post-pandemic digital transformation journeys are different. Workforce health and safety, increased communication and collaboration, social distancing, and a higher degree of adaptability are all now deciding factors for digital transformations.
Thus, digital transformation is already a more challenging process, since it requires you to adapt to new challenges in real time while also needing a faster pace of adoption to ensure business continuity. Yet, as challenging as digital transformation can be today, it's become quite clear that there's no future for most businesses without it. Here's what you might expect to find in these new journeys.
From relevant to critical
Your business can gather many benefits from digitizing its processes, all of which result in a noticeable competitive advantage over companies that haven't embraced digital transformation. Though that was already a fact, the pandemic made it abundantly clear. Digital transformation went from being a relevant shift to a critical step in line with the COVID-19 outbreak.
That's precisely why you need to embark on holistic and strategic transformation if you haven't already. By digitizing your business, you'll be able to retain and grow customers, operate more efficiently, and adapt to the ever-changing market dynamics. Naturally, you'll need to understand the changes the pandemic has introduced and the trends it boosted. The following are some of those changes and trends.
Health and security
A health crisis will always bring changes to our everyday lives, especially when it has such a far-reaching impact. Many people are already talking about the post-pandemic world and how it will change our office-centered culture. Most of those talks revolve around health and security concerns for all. It's highly likely we'll see changes in our offices' structures and overall workflows.
Digital transformation processes won't be an exception to those health-related changes. Thus, it's time to start considering digital assets to help protect your workforce and clients while also helping to prevent new outbreaks. This means leveraging different technologies that might not be on your radar right now, such as Internet of Things devices, wearable technology for telehealth, and integrated solutions to monitor it all.
The new business context amid the pandemic forced practically all businesses to reinvent themselves in some way to stay afloat. Many had to shift to new channels to reach customers and distribute their products. The whole shift toward new distribution channels is a challenge in and of itself – and since the new channels are mostly digital, the problem was double for companies that hadn't even started their digital transformation journeys.
The massive migration to these new channels will undoubtedly impact entire markets with consequences we can't foresee just yet. That doesn't prevent us from saying that new distribution channels will bring new business rules and customer demands (more on this below). It's up to you to define which channels you will embrace through your digital transformation and how you can leverage them to stand out from your competitors.
The digitalization of more and more businesses implies changes in the workforce. The digital transformation process means you'll have to work alongside software development companies, QA outsourcing teams, software testing engineers and other IT professionals to help you get your transformation going.
This is also a challenge, as you'll have to compete for the same talent with virtually all the other businesses on their transformation journeys. That should make you consider different options to access that talent, especially outsourcing tasks and entire projects. Staffing services can also work well, provided you take on the mentality shift to work with expanded teams who can secure that scarce talent.
This is a challenge that businesses reliant on physical stores are surely noticing the most, but that doesn't mean other companies are free from their influence. The pandemic has accelerated emerging customer trends and fostered new ones, which forces businesses to respond to those new demands with the help of digital solutions.
Your new digital transformation journey needs to take the new customer demands into account to offer a proper experience. This means so much more than just integrating an e-commerce section on your site. It also involves revamping your customer support to deliver quality attention over different channels, redefining your product distribution schemes, and even adapting your offering to what customers expect today – contactless deliveries and payments, consistent brand experience across different channels, and rapid adaptation to market changes, among other things.
Communication and collaboration
Everybody is talking about how the office as we know it is dead or close to it. Many people will continue to work from home in the post-pandemic world. For a digital transformation, that implies you'll need even more emphasis on communication and collaboration tools to bridge the gaps between your in-house and remote teams.
You could argue that pre-pandemic digital transformations already had to deal with this challenge. While that might hold some truth, the extent of remote work then wasn't even close to what we'll see after the COVID-19 recedes. The new digital transformations will have to go beyond the traditional integration of tools like Zoom, Slack and Jira to meet increasingly complex needs. This could mean embracing hybrid clouds, developing custom software, or adding new mobile solutions to a digital environment that will have to uphold the new work culture.
How to deal with the new digital transformations
The five challenges mentioned above aren't the only ones you'll find in your digital transformation. There will also be the typical challenges associated with the process (changes to corporate culture, redefinition of the entire workflow, task automation). Thus, the process will be more intricate in the post-pandemic world. How can you better tackle it without feeling frustrated? You can follow these three suggestions:
Have a crystal-clear motivation for your digital transformation. If you aren't entirely sold on the idea of digital transformation or don't truly understand why you need it, it will likely fail. Try to go beyond universal motivators like "having a competitive advantage" or "being flexible" and seek to uncover a more meaningful purpose – such as renewing your sector through more sustainable practices or ensuring innovation through an increase in diversified talent.
Track your progress. This seems too obvious to suggest, but you'd be surprised at how many businesses drop their digital transformation process midway through simply because they don't know what's happening with it. It's essential to track how your transformation is going and make it visible to everyone in your team. The post-pandemic world will bring some big changes, so everyone in your company must know that you're adapting to those changes in a continuous journey. Define relevant metrics for your primary motivator and keep an eye on them.
Spread the excitement about the transformation. Most people prefer to stick with what they know rather than embracing new ways of doing things. This is especially true in the context of a crisis that brings about a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, you must get everyone in your company excited about and involved in the digital transformation. Since digital transformation processes always disrupt traditional workflows, it's essential for your team to feel like they are part of the process that will reshape how they'll work. This will get them excited about changes while also giving them much-needed visibility into the shift.
A new world, a new transformation
COVID-19 has forced a lot of businesses to accelerate their digital transformation processes to cope with the pandemic's consequences. However, many of them didn't stop to realize that such a transformation isn't the same as it once was. The COVID-19 crisis added new challenges and opportunities you have to understand in order to make the digital transition properly.
Hopefully, this brief rundown of the challenges mentioned above will help you see what you're up against in the coming months. Through that more in-depth understanding and the suggestions above, you might enrich your digital transformation and be better prepared to run your business in the post-pandemic world.