Between three and ten years. That's how much time it's estimated we've leapt forward in terms of digital transformation and technology adoption during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This isn't just the huge increase in the use of collaboration tools like Zoom. It's B2B e-commerce tools. It's digital solutions for supply chain interactions, the back office, and even R&D.
Some organisations resisted this change. These new systems were completely alien to the way they had always operated and were perceived as being forced and unwelcome.
Yet for other organisations, this change was simply speeding up a natural journey they were already on. They might be being pushed into those changes faster. But because they had the right mindset and processes already in place, they were ready to successfully ride the digital transformation bought about by COVID-19.
Two key factors seem to govern whether an organisation managed to adopt the right technology to succeed during the pandemic:
Organisations that have leaders with a software-first approach – or, at least, a software-minded approach – seem to have been in much better positions to not only survive but thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Leaders and organisations who display digital maturity are more likely to encourage the use of the right software tools as well as a culture of fast, fluid decision-making. This is often because they are more comfortable with their team having more autonomy.
Having a software-first approach also seems to mean organisations have structures where IT, development, and the “business” sides of the company work together across teams, resulting in a forward-thinking attitude.
Many of the companies that are the most adversely affected by COVID-19 seem to be those that tried to “batten down the hatches” and wait until they could get back to “business as normal”.
But the companies that are emerging from the crisis in a stronger position are doing things like up-skilling their teams with training in digital technology.
The difference can be seen most clearly now that companies are facing decisions whether to continue with the technological changes the pandemic has encouraged or attempting to dial back the clock.
The ones that up-skill and adapt have a future-first mindset. They are often not only exploring the “new normal” but imagining what the next normal might be.
Let's consider these principles in action.
During the COVID pandemic, many organisations found themselves struggling to stay engaged with their staff. For some, this was a major issue. Gaining qualitative feedback at scale was needed to keep an eye on the ‘temperature’ of the business, and it was often much harder for a management team to get a good understanding of how its distributed workforce was coping.
A future-first, digital solution to the problem turned out to be AI voicebots, like DUCHESS, which is currently in trials with the UK Ministry of Defence and NATO.
These bots automate the entire information gathering process. The user inputs some open-ended ‘seedling’ questions. The AI asks the questions, automatically transcribes the answers, and even asks its own intelligent follow-up questions based on interviewee responses, before outputting visualisations that make it easy to examine the results.
The entire process is made faster, easier, and more efficient through the use of one well-designed tool.
However, it's important to point out that being future and software-first is not an automatic key to success. Trying to rush technological transformation is risky, especially if it involves app development.
A good example of this was the UK government's contact tracing app. The UK decided to go it alone when it came to development, despite being offered access to Google and Apple's API. Unfortunately:
- Contact tracing apps rely on Bluetooth to log other devices that have been nearby.
- Android and iOS APIs are designed to block apps from constantly broadcasting Bluetooth signals unless the user is looking at the app (they've been exploited for nefarious advertising in the past).
This meant the UK's approach was never going to work. A month later, the cost had shot up to £12 million for an app that was quickly sidelined.
Contrast this with Singapore's contact tracing app. It may have taken a little longer to get in place, but its 21-day recording and notification system has helped Singapore achieve one of the lowest per-capita COVID death levels in the world.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the global rate of digital transformation was increasing. But it was happening steadily – even most companies that were onboard were using pilot schemes and scalable models.
As soon as COVID hit, many organisations were sent scrambling for technological solutions. Unfortunately, designing and implementing a technological solution suffers when the focus is on ticking boxes and short delivery deadlines. Particularly if an organisation's overriding goal is to get back to “how things used to be” as soon as possible.
But the fast pace of digital transformation during the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that if organisations adopt a future-first, software-minded approach, they will be able to successfully adapt to the challenges of the future.
Interested in exploring your own company's digital transformation?
MyOxygen develops web and mobile apps that transform the way people work and live.
With clients including the Ministry of Defence, healthcare providers, manufacturers, and many others, we know how to create solutions that match the needs of all kinds of organisations.
Contact us. Let's chat about how we can transform yours.