There are no two ways about it. How we do business has undergone a seismic shift this year – and in many regards, we won’t go back. The pandemic, and the subsequent limitations we have experienced, has created an urgent requirement for creativity, agility and brave new approaches if organisations are to survive. And at last, in order to support all of this, digital technology has come of age.
At the same time, we are entering into an unprecedented recession. Back in the last recession of 2008, recovery meant getting things back on track and returning to the status quo as quickly as possible. This time it feels different. 2020 has forced our hand; embracing technology has become a necessity rather than simply another option. And we are all seeing glimpses of the possibilities it offers. Many organisations won’t want to relinquish the changes they have made – indeed some of these have been introduced with the long-term in mind. They will continue to play them forward into 2021 and beyond.
Covid-19 has fast-tracked the social, technological and business advancements that were already on the horizon. And leaders have had to learn to manage transformation at a far greater speed than before. According to McKinsey companies have accelerated the digitalisation of customer and supply chain interactions, as well as internal operations, by three or four years.
This is backed up by a recent survey conducted by Advanced of more than 1,000 senior business decision makers in the UK. 98 per cent of respondents told us they believe technology will play a major role in the global economic recovery. This suggests that organisations who invest in the right technology could emerge stronger, with more confidence and a greater understanding of the markets they serve. As Neil Ross, Policy Manager at techUK told us recently, “If we want to increase business resilience and support sustainable livelihoods, we need to encourage businesses to adopt the digital tools that will be needed to allow them to adapt to the new economy.”
Organisations that are going to survive, and then thrive in the aftermath of the pandemic, will have a culture of dynamic innovation. They will be powered by technology that works hard for their business; liberating the workforce, protecting their data, flexing with requirements, scaling with workload and supporting priorities. This will enable the sort of bold decisions needed to respond to transforming markets, replace unsustainable practices and satisfy evolving customer demands.
Previously the remit of the IT Director, digital technology is no longer just a chance to save on costs or improve productivity. It is increasingly being discussed at the highest levels, across all functions, as a key part of business strategy. There is a growing understanding it needs to be applied in a holistic manner, and if done right it can give an organisation a head start on the competition and help attract the best talent. As James Hallahan, Director – IT & Digital Technology at Hays UK & Ireland recently said, “Professionals are drawn to working for organisations which are ahead of the curve when it comes to technology.”
Few of us have come through this year unchanged. At a time where little has felt certain, we have examined how we lead our lives, refocused on the importance of balance and wellbeing - and reimagined what might be possible going forwards. Many have seen the benefits of working from home, with technology enabling them to reduce the risks of catching Covid-19 while remaining productive and connected in ways we wouldn’t have considered a year ago. As our work and home lives have merged more than ever, we expect to see the same level of technology provided by our employer as we enjoy in our leisure time – particularly the digital natives in our teams who have grown up knowing nothing else.
In our recent survey, 77 per cent of respondents told us that one of the legacies of Covid-19 will be a shift to a digital-first mindset. What this means in practice will differ for each organisation. Perhaps it is the need to modernise core legacy systems so these powerhouses can integrate with transformative new applications. Or maybe it is about automating mundane and repetitive tasks so that your people are freed up to focus on where they can truly add value to the business. Whatever the strategy, digital technology is here to help us. Let’s make sure we take full advantage of what it can offer, at a time when we need it most.