Digital Transformation during and after COVID-19

Written by Shiraz Hussain and Fehmina Choudhry

The outbreak of Covid-19 is a tragedy and its socio-economic impact is huge. We are all facing the wrath of it one way or the other. It has already forced companies to re-imagine the fundamental way in which they do business. The buzz word “Digital Transformation” now appears to be more relevant than ever before.

During these trying times, let’s evaluate how the Covid-19 crisis will continue to impact some of the key pillars of a digital transformation journey.

Below is a classic example of a digital transformation journey where the leadership team, in tandem with the implementation team, is executing a companywide ERP implementation. In an ideal scenario, the implementation process starts with a focus on people, subsequently merging with processes and technology.

The effects of crises on the Digital Transformation pyramid:

People: The ‘people’ factor in a digital transformation journey is the most crucial one yet overlooked by most stakeholders in a business. Most research studies unanimously point out that digital transformation journeys often fail due to resistance from employees or a lack of effective change management. Cultivating a sense of need for change among the employees and making them feel part of the change is the most challenging task.

In one way, we at LaNubia see this as a silver lining for digital transformation journeys. Today, the value-adds of IT and Digital transformation are recognised widely across all levels of employees more than ever before. We are all forced to think, communicate, and work differently on our daily jobs. As the popular joke on the internet goes, “the digital transformation journey is being led by Covid-19, neither the CEOs nor the CTOs.”

All this boils down to the fact that the global phenomenon of resistance towards change from employees is reduced and due to the sense of urgency and the new normal we have scope for more effective change management at organisations who found it difficult to deal with resistance previously.

Process: A successful digital transformation journey demands a thorough analysis of the underlying business processes and policies, and intelligent optimisation.

‘Continuously seeking opportunities for process automation’ was already the norm for few organisations. Unarguably these firms are reaping the benefits during this time of crisis. For the others, process automation or at least process optimisation possibilities should be the need of the hour.

The fact that 85% of the Robotic Process Automation (RPA) market is still untapped, reveals that there is room for aggressive investment in the area of process automation by businesses. Many experts are already hailing RPA as a recession proof technology which has a lot of potential to grow in the post Covid-19 world. RPA will lead to a reduced degree of reliance on individual employee circumstances. While there will always be tasks and roles that require a human touch of ingenuity and creativity, certain tasks that are repetitive and demand high speed and accuracy are best addressed by RPA.

Technology: Covid-19 pandemic is pushing businesses to their limits, but cloud-based services are a relief. Reacting and learning from crisis periods, companies are expected to aggressively migrate their data and applications from on-premise to cloud. Using the right cloud-based services, firms can scale their IT infrastructure up or down depending on the dynamic market needs. To that extent, vendors of IT systems are in the process of developing next-generation, cloud-based versions of their solutions with the goal of transitioning away from on-premise systems.

Multi-cloud and Hybrid cloud solutions are also intelligent choices which firms favour these days. A cloud usage survey conducted by Denodo, interviewing 250+ IT professionals and business leaders across the world revealed that cloud deployments adopted a hybrid configuration in 42% of cases, much higher than public cloud (18%) and private cloud (17%) implementations. However, without proper planning and execution, a cloud migration can go horribly wrong. Some of the major pain points firms experience during a cloud migration revolve around Integration, Security & Lack of Internal Resources/Expertise.

Now that we have discussed how the different layers of the digital transformation pyramid undergo changes on a macro level, we at LaNubia believe that certain relevant areas should also be brought into the limelight for a complete and successful digital transformation journey.

  1. More digital & less physical: By now everyone knows that remote working will be the new norm in the post Covid-19 world. There are pros and cons here: on the recruitment front, think of a global workforce which an employer can tap into, against the limited option of hiring someone within, say, a 60 km radius from the physical work location, the cost of setting up a physical work location for each employee and the time wasted in commuting. While factoring in the aforementioned overhead costs, we realise that remote working has benefits but the attitudes are divided. Remote working is not for everyone. Sometimes it’s just hard for employees to manage work and personal commitment being at home, and extroverts amongst them may find it difficult to work in confined environments that lack physical interaction with peers. However, 57% of  employees think they are more productive while working from home (Source: Indeed).

Organizations are expected to invest heavily on data security, online collaboration tools such as Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams etc. and setting up ‘work from home’ infrastructure for their employees. Even after the Covid-19 crisis, remote working is here to stay and we at LaNubia believe that hybrid working models (combination of remote and physical working) should be employed first to perform a feasibility study before rounding in on any decision. Some industries are more suitable for remote working than others. A survey by Slack on ‘The suitability of job for remote work by industry’ clearly depicts this:

  1. Flexible leadership style:  Post Covid-19 era is  definitely  going  to be a  leadership  proving ground .  Just like how Netflix’s online platform overpowered the  brick and mortar stores of Blockbuster back in the early 2000s, a  new  and evolved leadership style that is effective regardless of physical/digital/hybrid   way of  working is going to win the race over conventional leadership methods.

Establishing trust both ways and fostering a healthy work culture (literally and figuratively) even during remote working are the key challenges.  The health and safety of the employees should be the primary concern for any leader. Ensuring that the employees feel safe physically and psychologically  at the  work place  is not going to be easy anymore. There is no handy  ‘rule book’ to manage  the crisis. Flexible leadership, staying agile and timely communication should be the foundation.

The top-level leadership should continuously gauge how efficiently the organisation can cope with a Covid-19 level threat in the future  and make sure that the team/organisation is well equipped to face it .  At a time where some of the world leaders  freeze  in front of  the crisis,  we need leaders who  can execute  flexible and  adaptable  business models

One of our customers had a scheduled go-live on April 1st and the lockdown that started two weeks prior to the deadline threatened to derail the plan. Despite many challenges the Go-live went as planned, courtesy a collective determined and resilient group. The leadership and middle-management tiers of the company were quick on their feet to identify and adapt to a new way of working, collaborating with a complex mix of external and internal stakeholders. Leaders should ensure that their toolkit contains adaptability as a key strength, especially when they have to steer the ship through unforeseen circumstances, reshaping numerous parts of the business.

  1. Recruitment and Talent Management

During this time of crisis, some organisations will have to make some tough decisions when it comes to hiring or downsizing. Even if this is in complete alignment with their commercial strategy, organisations must continue to maintain their brand image under the spotlight while hiring and ensure that top talent is retained within the organisation. If individual departments have to be downsized, companies should assess emerging market needs and reassign talent, equipping them with the right skillsets.

Crisis-proofing your talent management strategies is going to be key. For example, building up a talent pipeline even if the company is under a hiring freeze can help the business bounce back once market operations resume in full steam. Another area worth exploring could be leveraging AI to develop an ‘Intelligent Applicant Tracking System’, which can scout, filter, and shortlist candidates that fulfil the organization’s value proposition, in alignment with market needs.

Over the years, we have seen lots of businesses struggle with their digital transformation journeys. As a result, we have a sound and current understanding of the pain points businesses often stumble upon during their transition phase. Our multidisciplinary team of consultants are well-equipped to craft tailored solutions that directly address pain points unique to your business. Our focus is to leverage our understanding and expertise to help you fulfil your digital transformation ambitions – our testimonials speak for it. “