8 Key steps to achieving digital transformation during COVID-19
Our world is being reshaped by digital technology and many SMEs are experiencing large-scale change to capitalise on the benefits and opportunities to stay ahead of the competition.

As the pandemic unfolds, the percentage of investment in digital transformation by SMEs will grow.

Most companies are currently addressing the challenges and operating through the crisis and coming to grips with digital transformation, so it’s worth trying to understand it better and how firms can leverage such practises to evolve the way they work during this time of crisis.

Digital transformation is one benefit of COVID-19

Whilst technology underpins digital transformation, it’s not the only factor. It encompasses optimising business models, processes, and functions driven by new revenue streams and customer expectations around products and services.

Whereas pre-crisis digital transformation was important, it has now become a corporate priority. At such a fluid and dynamic time, digital transformation is key to establishing competitive differentiation, business agility, improve worker productivity, enable automation, and improve business continuity. More importantly, many employees who work from home or rotate in and out of the office have greater employee engagement and create greater business value.

“You look at marketing: everything that’s happening in marketing is digitised. Everything that’s happening in finance is digitised. So pretty much every industry, every function in every industry, has a huge element that’s driven by information technology. It’s no longer discrete.”
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft Corporation

Although digital transformation is driven by business strategy and goals, it represents a cultural shift requiring companies to disrupt, experiment, and challenge the ways they’ve always done things. This involves facilitating collaboration across teams and revolutionising value delivery. In order to embody the key elements of digital organisations, businesses need to accumulate and leverage data and insights and use them to inform re-planning and re-forecasting exercises to pivot and reposition the company expeditiously and support or automate decisions that drive interactions with customers, employees, and partners.

Digital transformation prioritises cyber security 

Our businesses right now are more reliant on remote working than they ever have been. Technology allows collaboration through tools and cloud technologies to support digital working and business agility. With more devices accessing remote servers, digital risks increase proportionately, making secure connectivity and good cyber hygiene increasingly important. Underpinning digital transformation are necessary investments in cyber security and compliance to protect the corporate network from malware, data breaches, and other nefarious activities.

8 Key steps to achieving digital transformation during COVID-19

Besides technology, businesses need to focus on the following process and business changes:

1. UNDERSTAND WHAT OBJECTIVES BUSINESS IS SEEKING TO ACHIEVE

Companies should consider the goals of the business during this time, what value can be delivered, how value will be measured and what KPIs will be tracked to ensure that transformation is effective.

2. BE CUSTOMER-FOCUSED

Customers need to be the driving force of any digital transformation initiatives. Gathering insight from them to improve the customer experience. Transformation should be a customer centric process. Often transformation is only considered in terms of how technology can make life easier for the organisation itself. A new mindset of empathy, establishing trusted relationships, and being deeply connected with customers is essential for gathering real insight to drive transformation in the right way.

3. CREATE CONSENSUS AMONG LEADERSHIP ON THE BEST PATH TO PURSUE

Focus on building an organisation with customers at the centre, breaking down silos is always challenging and should be facilitated through digital transformation and on-boarding by C level executives and business leaders.

4. ESTABLISH ACCOUNTABILITY

Executives must feel confident they have control over the transformation initiative, organisations should determine who is responsible for key tasks and projects. To coordinate the efforts of these autonomous teams, an accountability framework should be established to ensure that it is driven from the top.

5. IDENTIFY MANUAL TASKS

Automation is a key benefit of digital transformation, helping businesses realise efficiencies and free up employees to focus on more value-driven, strategic tasks. Identifying processes that are manual or repetitive and look for opportunities to simplify or streamline them.

6. EVALUATE AND IMPLEMENT CHANGES FOR REMOTE EMPLOYEES

Given that a large part of the workforce is working remotely, businesses should evaluate and implement changes to ensure these workers have similar capabilities as they would in an on-site environment.

7. ENCOURAGE COLLABORATION

Create a secure virtual workplace where teams from across the company can share and inspire new ideas, discuss and overcome obstacles, reinforce a sense of belonging, and move things forward. Many remote collaboration tools offer virtual water cooler environments where remote teams can open lines of communication. This allows information and data to be shared across the whole organisation seamlessly in a non-intrusive way.

8. DON’T STOP TRANSFORMING 

Digital transformation is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s about continually evolving and adopting new solutions as the needs of customers and businesses change. Above all, lasting transformation puts the customer at the centre of all the business does.

During times of great uncertainty leaders often focus on immediate issues and leave larger strategic decisions until later but digital transformation is a critical element in helping businesses survive, stabilise and grow out of this current crisis and emerge in a stronger position. This period of great change will redefine the leaders and the laggards. Companies that invest in a digital strategy and embed a technological reflex within any strategic discourse, balancing short-term and long-term initiatives, will be in a more competitive place when the pandemic passes.