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How Digital Transformation Can Bring Resilience During Disruptions

By Mitch Mitchell
Published: February 9, 2022
Key Takeaways

The COVID-19 pandemic proved it: embracing digital transformation is the best way for organizations to respond to crises. 

To kickstart this process within your business, you'll need to strategically balance leadership, talent and technology and follow these four steps:

  1. Adopt a "virtual first" perspective.
  2. Invest in cloud-based agility and extensibility.
  3. Automate decision-making.
  4. Leverage data.

Source: istockphoto.com

Businesses suffer disruptions year-round—from natural calamities and IT issues to the loss of people's talent or skill. And leaders want to ensure they recover swiftly from these setbacks and maintain business continuity. So how can they do that?

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The answer is clear: Digital transformation is essential to attain such a level of robustness and adapt to future disruptions.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations that had already digitized their business processes were winning. A recent McKinsey survey revealed 72% of businesses that effectively responded to COVID-19 were among the first in their industry to experiment with new technology. (Also read: Post-Pandemic Life in the Tech World Looks Pretty Good.)

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These organizations were also first to fill the tech talent gaps, innovate and successfully manage data-related and cybersecurity risks during the crisis. Nearly all respondents in this survey agree that building resilience and improving recovery time objectives requires a digital-first mindset.

While it is evident that digital transformation should be central to an organization's growth strategy and operating model, the pandemic has made this imperative more critical. If your organization is still taking the first steps or is in the middle of its digital transformation journey, you might find yourself intimidated once you realize digital transformation raises a wide range of issues—such as the extent, cost, procurement, integration, education and return on investment (ROI).

So, here are four basic steps that can expedite the process and help you become truly digital and resilient against future disruptions:

1. Adopt a "Virtual First" Perspective

Business executives are wrestling with complex labour issues—such as how to lead in remote environments successfully. In other words, how can you handle a varied workforce's demands, especially one that's shifted expectations around well-being, diversity, sustainability and social impact? And how must corporate culture change to meet these demands while maintaining cohesion? (Also read: How Technology Is Helping Companies Achieve Their DEI Goals in 2022.)

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Smart digital transformation can also pave the way for virtualizing company infrastructure in the future.

You can evaluate where physicality can become optional and which technologies and cyber tactics are required to support a largely digital workplace and workforce by taking a virtual-first approach.

On the other hand, you should consider which jobs necessitate a physical presence and how to employ technology to enable a more human-centred workforce.

Both can have ramifications for how organizations access, curate, and engage talent in a post-pandemic world and how management practices that line with their business strategy can encourage a virtual-first culture.

On both sides of a personal interaction, rethinking assumptions can lead to real opportunity.

For example, telemedicine was an innovative solution proposed for a long time but remained under-appreciated since patients and caregivers expected an in-person encounter.

However, video and audio visits with providers considerably increased during the pandemic with widespread evident benefit. A shock can sometimes be necessary to shake loose the foundations and allow something new to develop.

2. Invest in Cloud-Based Agility and Extensibility

Cloud capabilities enable organizations to move at the speed of their markets in today's chaotic and highly disruptive environment. Migrating to the cloud can result in increased operational uniformity, automation, scalability and agility.

It is important to remember that the cloud is not an outsourced data center—rather, it's a scalable business platform. Digital transformation keeps your organization updated with today's technology and makes it much easier to add new capabilities to your tech stack.

Major cloud providers, for example, have expedited the growth of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) by quickly integrating these frameworks into their huge data centers.

The cloud's true worth lies in its efficiency and its ability to boost creativity and flexibility. With a security-by-design strategy, security may become a competitive differentiator. Indeed, one of the cloud's major selling features is security, which is one of the reasons why more firms are shifting their systems online. (Also read: Will Cloud Replace Traditional IT Infrastructure?)

3. Automate Decision-Making Where Possible

Many businesses have high-volume, high-cost activities that require little human control. With AI and/or ML, you may set thresholds to signal which inputs require human intervention and can be automated. Seventy-three percent of executives surveyed by Deloitte stated they are exploring intelligent automation for their businesses—up from 58% in 2019.

You can also access additional AI capabilities in the cloud and use them to boost customer management and product innovation once your employees get used to automation. For example, many of the top customer relationship management products now feature customer modeling that can forecast and flag individuals most likely to leave.

More and more, AI and ML are expanding frontiers. These tasks include engaging with customers, exhibiting compassion and asking questions based on intuition and experience.

4. Leverage Data to Innovate

Unfortunately, most data in many organizations today do not meet fundamental requirements; and the rigours of digital transformation necessitate significantly improved data quality and analytics.

Data reveals a fascinating paradox: Even though most businesses recognize data's importance and the fact that quality is a problem, they squander a significant amount of money by failing to establish the necessary roles and responsibilities. (They frequently blame their IT departments for all of their shortcomings.)

As with technology, you need a wide range of knowledge and expertise when it comes to data. The capacity to persuade huge numbers of employees on the front lines of businesses to take on new roles as data customers and data providers is even more critical.

This significant shift in your organization's cultural mindset requires a Chief Data Officer (CDO). They can help streamline the data collection process from disparate sources and enable your front-line employees to improve their work processes with data-driven insights.

The Three Ingredients of A Successful Digital Transformation

To ensure you can implement your digital transformation goals effectively, you need the right mix of leadership, talent and technology. Here's how to hone each area:

Leadership

Determine committed leadership for your digital transformation program. This person or group will be in charge of overseeing and driving execution across your organization.

At the same time, your leadership should foster a culture of open communication and mutual accountability among the rest of the executive team. Leaders should grasp why and how digital transformation works and what it will take to make the vision a reality.

Talent

Set explicit goals for how your workforce—and your work itself—will need to change to accommodate new technology and operating models.

According to a recent CIO survey, 67% of technology executives have had to upskill—or teach new skills to—existing employees due to labour shortages in the sector. Moreover, because of the pandemic, organizations and their workforces have had to quickly adapt to working and conducting their operations remotely, expanding the divide further.

People will need to learn new skills as our economy changes. What kind of skill set, background and variety do you wish to have? Without supporting resources and incentives that reinforce company goals, talent may get hampered. (Also read: The Pros And Cons of The Hybrid Workforce.)

Technology

Create a link between efficiency and innovation. Consider cloud, data, AI and ML as a flexible and scalable foundation for research and development to allow rapid experimentation, insights and iterations.

Because digital transformation must include institutional IT, it is critical to re-establish confidence. That means, with every technology breakthrough, developers must produce and demonstrate commercial benefits.

Make the necessary technological investments that strike a balance between innovation and dealing with technical debt. You might consider investing in integrated business management solutions instead of disparate productivity tools. Integrated solutions share a single database and provide a single source of truth for the entire organization, allowing for better decision-making and increasing organizational resilience against inefficiencies.

ContinuSys IBMS, for example, is an integrated suite of apps that helps organizations manage all the core business processes. With access to vital business information anytime, anywhere, these cloud-based integrated apps enable business continuity in the case of calamities. As a result, organizations can quickly recover from short- and long-term disruptions.

Conclusion

The pandemic has pushed the need for organizations to become digital and build new capabilities to respond rapidly, innovate and adapt in the face of rapid change. It's now or never for executive leaders to free themselves from the shackles of the past and build a brighter future for their organization by accelerating digital transformation initiatives.

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Written by Mitch Mitchell

Mitch is a founder of ContinuSys, which is an Integrated Business Management system (IBMS) that helps organisations become resilient against short and long-term disruptions.

The IBMS ecosystem specifically helps businesses in developing and implementing robust business continuity plans to ensure uninterrupted business operations.

Connect with Mitch on LinkedIn.

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