Digital Transformation is, arguably, one of the most important tech trends in recent years. And, if industry visionaries are to be believed, it will only continue to grow in significance as investment flows into enabling technologies.
COVID-19 has certainly accelerated the process, and many organisations have either broadened their adoption of existing digital technologies – think: home working, video conferencing, collaboration, etc, or have been forced by circumstance to kick-start the process from scratch. Similarly, systems originally deployed on-premise are increasingly being migrated to the cloud, providing people with access to vital applications, documents and collaboration tools from anywhere. These are classic transformation projects.
But until the onset of COVID-19, digital transformation as a strategy had never been stress-tested or challenged by ubiquitous global trends. Would, for example, popular cloud-based, highly connected, data-driven technologies meet the needs of millions of organisations forced to pivot to home working virtually overnight? Would user experience and reliability suffer, and one of the biggest questions debated in the early stages of lockdown: to what extent would employee productivity be affected?
Recent research looking at the effect of lockdown on business and IT has uncovered how organisations and their digital transformation strategies met these challenges head-on. It revealed seven significant insights.
1: Most organisations shifted to home working without delay
Most respondents (73%) reported that their organisation was ‘immediately’ able to adopt processes and practices enabling them to work from home. In contrast, 18% said that it took 1-2 weeks before they were able to switch to home working, while 3% had to wait for a month or more.
2: The technology was reliable
For those organisations who needed to implement new technology during lockdown, reliability would be key to the success of their remote working strategy. Almost three quarters (72%) of that group reported that their technology had proved to be ‘extremely reliable’. In contrast, 28% said their lockdown tech investments were ‘somewhat reliable’.
3: Home workers got all the data and systems they needed to be effective
Only 8% of respondents said they didn’t have access to the data, information and systems they needed. The vast majority – 92% – were provided with those key components necessary to carry out their role. What’s more, a massive 98% said that their technology had enabled them to work effectively during the pandemic.
4: Employee productivity didn’t suffer
94% said productivity had either improved or was unchanged (42% said it had improved, 52% reported it was unchanged, whereas only 6% said it had got worse. Businesses and employees alike have proved themselves extremely adaptable – for many, factors such as the convenience of working from home, lack of commute and the technology and processes put in place to support productivity have contributed to this broadly positive outcome.
5: Home working has a long-term, technology-enabled future
Only 1% of research respondents said they would not be using their lockdown technology in post-pandemic circumstances. In a near unanimous collective response, 98% will retain their lockdown technologies when COVID-19 public health measures are no longer dictating how businesses must organise the workplace. Only 4% of businesses said that home working will cease completely after lockdown is no longer in place.
6: Tech strategy has been improved by lockdown
Exactly half of organisations believe their technology strategy is now in a better position than it was before the onset of the pandemic. No respondents said that it had become worse, with 44% stating that it was ‘unchanged’. This suggests that businesses are working through a potentially seismic shift in the speed of their digital transformation, whether it was already in their business and IT strategy or not.
7: Employee feedback on home working tech is overwhelmingly positive
92% of respondents gave their organisation a rating of four or five on their effectiveness of implementing home working technology. Over half (56%) gave their organisation the maximum score of five, with 36% offering a rating of four. Only 8% responded with a score of three or below.
So, what’s the catch?
Despite these broadly positive findings, there remain some major barriers in the path of enduring, successful digital transformation. Chief among these is the issue of strategic decision-making and awareness with regard to the adoption of digital transformation initiatives.
The research revealed that 47% of respondents said their organisation was not currently thinking about or has established a digital transformation strategy. Just under a third (32%) said their employer is focusing on digital transformation, either in the planning or implementation stages, and one fifth (21%) didn’t know.
The organisational and technology issues created by COVID-19 suggest that more businesses should be closely examining their strategic use of technology. Identifying processes and functions where technology can bring efficiency and resilience is vital – recent experience has demonstrated that point beyond any doubt.
And in pursuit of digital transformation, organisations should also be taking a holistic perspective, and avoid a mindset where technology is seen as an emergency remedy to a crisis. Those who maximise the investments they have made during lockdown and continue to invest in positive, tech-led change will be better placed to secure long-term benefits.
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