The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the critical importance of digital technologies. If there was any doubt about the necessity of digitization to the longevity of business’, COVID has increasingly made this very clear and has bought this need into sharp focus. The rapid move to making use of these digital platforms is set to continue into the post-pandemic world. Organizations that embrace digital solutions have been seen to have greater resiliency in dealing with adversity as well as gaining a competitive edge.
As lockdowns and isolation became the new normal, both businesses and consumers increasingly had no choice but to become digitized, which raised e-commerce’s share of global retail trade from 14% in 2019 to 17% in just one year. Companies in almost every industry across the globe have had to digitize at least some area of their business to effectively cope with restrictions and to operate effectively. For example, banks have moved to remote sales and service teams, grocery stores have shifted to online ordering and deliveries, schools have operated via online learning and digital classrooms and doctors have even been treating patients through telemedicine.
While the use of these platforms is not new, they have experienced a surge owing to the pandemic. In a research paper on COVID-19 and Digital Resilience: Evidence from Uber Eats, Arun Sundararajan said:
“Because we were forced into certain kinds of behavior changes, not being able to go and sit at a restaurant, having to order in. This kind of behavior change forces us to try something new that already was around, but we maybe never got around to.”Arun Sundararajan, author of The Sharing Economy, and Harold Price Professor of Entrepreneurship and Professor of Technology, Operations and Statistics at NYU Stern School of Business
The pandemic has permanently reshaped and is constantly reshaping how individuals live and work. As the world begins to reopen in a largely unstable environment with lockdowns easing and then being reinstated, it is clear that the effects and ways of working during the crisis will likely be around to stay.
The accelerated adoption of digital platforms
Across the globe, it can be seen that 75% of consumers across all industries have accelerated their adoption of digital platforms. According to a McKinsey Global Survey of executives, companies have accelerated their digital transformation of customer and supply chain interactions as well as of their internal operations by approximately three to four years. Additionally, the shares these companies have of digital or digitally enabled products has accelerated by seven years. E-commerce also boomed as consumers stayed home, and this increased activity is set to hang around. Even as things may slowly start to return to normal, people still seek the convenience of being able to get work or tasks done from the comfort of their homes or from somewhere whilst using their mobile device. Digital platforms and cloud-based solutions reduce both costs and time in relation to retrieving and storing documents. Additionally, going digital means organizations have more time to focus on pressing issues by automating minor and repetitive tasks.
Given how far the world has moved digitally, it is hard to imagine that individuals and businesses will ever fully return to brick-and-mortar work environments. This means that businesses have to now identify new ways to make themselves more competitive while similar businesses are accessible by the click of a button. Being digital means being able to constantly adapt and be innovative. Digital platforms that are easy to use, simplify work, and can easily connect employees to other employees, systems and customers, will succeed in having a competitive edge. As circumstances change, these platforms can be constantly adapted and updated to assess and close gaps quickly.
The new normal: Work Anytime, Anywhere
The term “work from anywhere” used to seem novel, however, since March 2020, people all over the world have been working from their homes, and companies have had to shift their once stringent policies and operations to ensure the safety of their employees as well as the longevity of their business. Many businesses already had the digital technology to ensure a smooth transition from traditional ways of working or they had to adapt very quickly to make sure their employees were connected to maintain productivity levels and business operations.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that certain kinds of work, such as accounting can be done from home as well as any geographic location. The integration of cloud-based platforms allows employees to use the same system/s they would use in the office from anywhere and in the same way. Data is conveniently stored in one cloud-based system that allows employees to easily access documents and data without having to rummage through filing cabinets. Being able to work from anywhere has also opened up new opportunities to hire the best talent from around the world. Not only are businesses able to hire individuals from any location, but they have also opened themselves up to more kinds of work such as “gig” work, which is becoming much more appealing to the new generation of workers, who prefer to spend time on one project and move on to the next as well as have increased flexibility and better work-life balance.
Digital platforms that can connect employees and ecosystems, engage consumers, manage operations and drive the innovation of products and services have become and will continue to be as important as corporate campuses and factories themselves. This is especially important as statistics show that more and more organizations will either become fully remote post-pandemic or adopt a hybrid model of working.
If the last year and a half have taught us anything- it is to expect the unexpected and to be prepared. Never did we think we would be living through a global pandemic, confined to our homes, having to wear masks daily, and ultimately having every sphere of our lives disrupted. It has therefore never been more evident how important it is for organizations to ensure that their employees are provided with the necessary tools and systems that allow them to improve organizational processes but also stay connected no matter what future disruption may occur.