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The global pandemic: A catalyst for digital transformation

The global pandemic has sped up the pace of change in the technology market. Here we explore some of the main trends in digital transformation.

August 12, 2020

People at a desk viewing projected figures of how the global pandemic can be a catalyst for change

Digital transformation. Digital business. Digital technology. Digital disruption. No matter how you refer to it, the digital revolution is here. But what does digital transformation mean in a world that's currently dominated by COVID-19? And where are organisations now in their transformation journey? More importantly, what are the new drivers?

Navigating new digital transformation challenges

The emergence and spread of COVID-19 around the world is having an unprecedented impact on people and business testing even the most resilient. Technology is allowing people to connect at a time of isolation and the adoption of digital technology has an equally important role for business and the economy. While the trends described below are not new, their importance has never been greater.

Organisations that have made progress on the digital transformation journey are best placed to weather the current storm. Those that now recognise the unique business challenges they face and how technology can be applied to save time and money, reduce risk and improve customer experience, quality and profit will be the ones who emerge from this crisis strongest and best placed to thrive.

Applications to support better communication

Web and mobile applications have never been more important. They give organisations the ability to communicate with customers and keep operations running efficiently, despite social distancing and traditional call centres either being off-line or overwhelmed by the sheer volume of callers.

Applications are being used by governments around the world in the fight against the virus. The apps are designed to trace those infected and notify people who may have come into close contact with them.

Adopting agile principles in the development of new apps, which ensures business focus, user engagement, quality, adaptability and the ability to deliver on time, will be crucial.

Hybrid IT (Multi-cloud solutions)

Increasingly, digital enterprises are adopting a multi-cloud approach, consisting of on-premise, private cloud and public cloud. In a 2019 Gartner survey of public cloud users, over 80% of respondents said they were working with two or more cloud providers, with AWS, MS Azure and Google Cloud Platform dominating.

This trend is set to accelerate as organisations are keen to avoid vendor lock-in and look to take advantage of the best platform for an application. Factors such as availability, scalability, performance, data sovereignty, regulatory requirements and cost all influence the decision.

One of the main benefits of public cloud during the pandemic is the ability to deploy new applications very quickly, in hours or days, rather than in weeks or months which is often the case with traditional on-premises environments. Cloud based collaboration tools such as Teams, WebEx and Zoom have been able to meet the huge spike in user demand during the pandemic by making use of the scalability afforded by public cloud.

A very difficult economic landscape lies ahead, and many companies will be seeking to reduce costs and protect capital. The pay-as-you-go economics of public cloud will be attractive to many, who will be reluctant to make long term, capital investments in data centres and infrastructure.

Technology supporting the flexible modern workplace

The 2019 International Workplace Group Survey identified that 62% of organisations globally had a flexible workplace policy. Governments around the world have told workers who can work from home to do so and this has been a major weapon in the fight to contain the spread of COVID-19.

This will surely serve as a catalyst to accelerate the move to home working. The opportunity to save money by reducing an organisations real estate costs is bound to be on the agenda.

However, organisations will need to invest in the appropriate technology, network connectivity, security and staff training to ensure employees can securely access the systems they need to remain productive.

The use of collaboration tools such as Teams, Skype for Business, WebEx and Zoom has increased exponentially during lockdown. Microsoft says meetings on its Teams service recently hit a new daily record of 2.7 billion meeting minutes in one day, up 200% from 900 million in mid-March.

It's likely that in the future, a new balance between the office and home working will be established.

The role of artificial intelligence in customer experience

Artificial intelligence (AI) is already widely used across a broad spectrum of business verticals.

We're all looking to do more, with less. That starts with making smarter decisions with your budgets. Enter AI. As machine learning and chatbots evolve, AI is driving improved efficiency and experience—especially when it comes to tech support.

Anyone who has worked in tech support knows the relatively simple, repetitive requests end up eating up most of analysts' time and mental energy. Although still at the cutting edge of technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning often make the most sense for solving day-to-day problems.

AI can respond to users and assess problems—and share data analytics and insights that spots patterns that will help your team perform root cause analysis to prevent them. Saving time, and money.

5G and Internet of Things (IoT)

The rollout of the 'Fifth Generation' (5G) mobile network is a huge focus for the mobile network providers and will spur innovation in IoT. The almost instant transfer of data between IoT devices and the cloud, where a huge amount of processing will be done will open-up a world of possibilities.

Digital enterprises will need to harness this opportunity post-pandemic, to be more efficient and find new ways of being competitive – whether that be manufacturers using IoT to ensure uptime of machinery through predictive maintenance, or haulage firms using autonomous vehicles to deliver goods.

As the world emerges from lockdown, business will need to continue to invest in cybersecurity expertise, tools and processes to ensure it stays one step ahead of those with malicious intent.