Crisis and Opportunity: How Coronavirus Accelerates Digital Transformation

The global crisis brought on by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has profoundly affected (and still affecting) us in several ways; it’s claimed several lives around the world, affected our various ways of life, and has put several businesses and organisations at risk of going bust.

But, perhaps equally important, the COVID-19 crisis has significantly influenced the different ways we do business and interact with clients, customers, partners, and each other. It has brought about some long and rather hard decisions.

In several cases around the world, the crisis has suddenly upended how businesses and organisations do business. Several businesses and organisations have had to make very tough decisions regarding matters like close doors till further notice, which & how many employees to furlough, allow some employees to work from home, and digitally transform how to continue to delivering quality products and services to customers.

It turned out I was wrong [about investing in American, Delta, United, and Southwest]… Our airline position was a mistake… The airline business, and I may be wrong, and I hope I’m wrong, changed in a very major way [due to the coronavirus global crisis],

— Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway

When Warren Buffett, the fourth-wealthiest person in the world, dumps his entire stake in the airline industry, what do you make of that? Perhaps very significant change is yet upon us due to the coronavirus crisis?

warren buffett

It still remains unclear how long the widespread effects of the COVID-19 crisis will last. But one thing we all seem to agree on is that the COVID-19 crisis will most certainly have severe impacts on several businesses and organisations for some years to come.

Necessity? What necessity?

The extraordinary lockdown measures put in place in several countries by their respective national governments, in efforts to combat the pandemic, meant that schools were closed, live events were cancelled, large gatherings in public places were stopped, commercial flights were cancelled, several offices and workplaces were shut.

Invariably, therefore, it has become imperative and necessary that many businesses and organisations; however ill-prepared they were for the crisis; have had to allow their employees to work from home, using whatever technology devices, tools, and networks are available to them, in order to continue business operations as much and as effectively as is possible.

Remote working (i.e. teleworking) and digital living have become the new norm, and are nearly most certainly here to stay. These disruptions are likely to have lasting effects on how we do business and how we learn, well after the crisis is over and things return to the new normal.

The [coronavirus] outbreak will accelerate digital revolution… Businesses that were probably hesitant to move forward on digital because things were going reasonably well and they didn’t really want to disrupt things, that’s now out of the window.

A well-executed digital transformation would help your business or organisation adapt quickly, better, and more effectively. It would make the transition smoother, more effective, more enjoyable, and more rewarding.

Yes, it appears that the COVID-19 crisis may have repositioned digital transformation programs and efforts as top priorities for businesses and organisations that want to thrive post-coronavirus pandemic.

Establishing governance and priorities for digital transformation

Despite all great efforts and intents, several digital transformation programs still fail. Some of the biggest digital transformation disaster stories in the world include stories of GE, Ford and P&G, which were reported to have collectively wasted US$900 billion on failed digital transformation initiatives.

Perhaps, the biggest digital transformation disaster in the UK, so far, was the failed BBC Digital Media Initiative (DMI) transformation program that cost £100 million (about US$125 million).

The truth is, people aren’t the problem; it’s the organisation’s failure to communicate effectively with its people that sets them up for digital transformation trouble from the start.

This is why an effective digital transformation strategy must include; amongst several other key factors like effective communication, periodic business case review, and effective risk management; both an effective programme governance and an equally effective corporate governance.

digital transformation

On the priority front, as businesses gradually come out lockdown measures and seek out quick competitive edge and low-hanging apples, they would most likely favour “viable and promising” small changes – that will improve efficiency and offer effective business continuity – over larger and overreaching programs take the backburner.

Digital [transformation] is very iterative; there is nothing right first time, right first time does not exist. It’s learning-driven, you do something, you learn and then you refine and do it again.

Then there is a plethora of security concerns and risks to identify, assess, mitigate against, and/or manage as ongoing concerns.

Such security concerns include cybersecurity, information security, safety and integrity of corporate laptops and mobiles devices issued to employees who regularly work remotely, the increasing costs of elastic cloud capacities and use of cloud Software as a Service (SaaS) products and services, and securing of corporate networks and communications between employees working remotely and clients, customers, and possibly other employees located elsewhere.

We are in uncertain times, but with the increase of remote working and a collaborative approach, companies are turning to digital channels and embracing the transformation.

In conclusion…

The COVID-19 global crisis has challenged and tested the strength, preparedness, and resilience of even the biggest and most successful businesses and organisations around the world.

There’s nearly most certainly a culture shift that’s expected to hit our corporate, economic, and social lifestyles when lockdown restrictions are eventually lifted and life gradually returns to the new normal.

The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger but recognise the opportunity.

— John F. Kennedy

Terrible as it may sound, crises like the COVID-19 crisis nearly always seem to be the harbingers of some great opportunities for growth, expansion, and diversification. And at times like these, a well implemented digital transformation becomes a key-enabling factor and one of many keys that could help unlock the new frontier.

A successful digital transformation; just like an effective risk management; has to be an integral part of the culture and mantra at your business or organisation.

Lots of businesses and organisations seem to think of digital transformation as a program or a collection of projects. That’s a rather very poorly-informed perception.

Your corporate culture and values; which include your digital transformation initiatives; are not destinations but a continuously evolving and improving journey wherein each evolution is expected to deliver better outcomes and desired results.