COVID-19 – A CATALYST FOR DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION
By Joice Benza
By the time the Covid-19 (the pandemic) struck, Digital Transformation which was driven by the fourth industrial revolution and disruptive technologies was at an advanced stage and just required a trigger to accelerate its pace. The pandemic presented itself as the handy trigger which has driven several transformation projects globally and instantly. Agility and focus in implementations were made easy as connectivity to homes based on last mile fibre infrastructure, mobile networks, and other facilities were already enabled. While locally the uptake of new technologies such machine learning and artificial intelligence has been relatively slow, the use of cloud technologies has accelerated at a very fast pace through workforce collaborative tools
As a result of the pandemic organizations have gone through the three phases of the Lockdown, Reopening and adopting the New Normal where transformation into virtual teleworking was experienced. This also included the cyber warfare in these times of fear, confusions and uncertainty and hence demanding relevant cybersecurity enhancement. In his book Cyber Warfare — Truth, Tactics and Strategies, author and principal analyst at Forrester Research, Chase Cunningham describes the dangers of connecting to the internet today, as “a live fire battlefield.” He goes on to say “the crux of it is to remind people that cyberspace is not necessarily a friendly environment. It is a warfare-fighting domain that we just happen to be able to use because of the proliferation of the technology”.
The positive impact on Digital Transformation resulted in remote operations with less physical human resource interactions. The Pareto’s 80/20 rule has taken effect with most organizations having prioritized their critical processes and hence operating efficiently with between 20 to 30 % of their staff compliments. The ubiquity of online meetings, video Conferencing, collaboration and the need for immediate online operations has resulted in some cases, in planned 2 years’ worth of Digital Transformation being achieved in less 2 months. It has been reported that one of the video conferencing service providers has been recording over 200 million meetings and 75 million users within a day. Most businesses have hence adopted remote working as a critical digital strategy.
Embracing Digital Marketing
While physical customer touch points and physical onboarding were traditionally the norm and digital marketing was considered one of the options to sales and marketing, digital marketing has now taken the center stage and become the acceptable New Normal. Online purchasing of products is now the preferred norm. There is however a need to ensure that social media platforms are effectively managed to ensure that all the communication with the customer is captured and responded to instantly.
While the face-to-face touch with the customer, including the coffee shop chat has probably been lost, it is however arguable that through video conferencing some of the body language and facial expressions can be captured. Human resources practitioners are utilizing this platform to assess the expression of the other party effectively. Doctors’ patient reviews are now also being effectively managed through these platforms and hence eliminating the physical visit to the doctor’s rooms.
Insurance Sales staff and Employee Benefits Departments have also started re-positioning themselves in order to embrace Digital Marketing.
Joice Benza, Managing Consultant, (CEO), X-Pert Solutions
Savings on Office Space and Admin Expenses
Consideration is also being given to reduction in office space and the level of office administration expenses given that a percentage of key staff are operating virtually from home. Some of the savings relate to messenger expenses and/or scanning documents for signatures. These are being replaced by online tools for digital signatures such as Docusign
Globally there has been a diversification by brick and motor property owners of malls whose income is based on % income from walk-in customers to investment in e-commerce related projects where there is an increase in online payments related business.
Virtual Systems’ Support
The System vendor costs related to support trips to on premises maintenance have been reduced to a bare minimum. Most vendors have now taken improved ownership of their systems and offer online 24/7 support activities from their offices. System updates, upgrades backups and other support activities are being carried out virtually and efficiently from remote sites
Banks and other payment agents have accelerated their digital transformation in relations to “do it yourself” functions which could ordinarily have been carried out by the bank tellers. The pandemic has enhanced e-commerce as all payments are now online through mobile money, banking platforms and other smart applications.
Post Pandemic Planning
Given the pace of the continued digital transformation, there is need to start focusing on post pandemic issues and Gartner emphasizes that there is now an urgent need for organizations to;
- Make effective resource and investment choices by scenario-planning outcomes for individual business units, products and service lines.
- Build resilience by planning for complex scenarios in which societies may revert back to a renewed lockdown period.
- Constantly adjust strategic planning to successfully navigate the chaotic period of reopening until a more stable period is reached
Joice Benza is the Managing Consultant and CEO of X-Pert Solutions. She is a Business Continuity Planning and Cybersecurity Expert and a seasoned Project Manager with over 30 years’ experience in the Pensions and Insurance Industry acquired locally and abroad. She is also the vice president of Computer Society of Zimbabwe Council. She can be contacted on: +263 4 798148/792917 or Mobile: +263 772 239 842 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org