I recently discussed what the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic could be on in-flight digital transformation projects. I’m sure this is a topic that many businesses are contending with at the moment and thought it’d be a timely and interesting discussion to share.
Should Digital Transformation continue right now?
If organisations are able to continue, they should. The rationale for commencing the digital transformation not only still holds true but also has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Businesses will have identified that digital transformation can save cost and increase revenue, both of which are even more critical now. In addition, the specific nature of such a programme is relevant now, as it can largely continue remotely without face-to-face interactions being an integral part of the work. Ultimately, digital transformation (specifically channel shift in both opening up new sales channels and the ability for customers to self-service) has become integral to the short-term survival of many businesses; the monthly sales revenue of Primark falling from £650m to zero being the most spectacular example.
What are the main challenges facing those businesses that are looking to continue with Digital Transformation?
We have found that, generally speaking, the main challenges do not relate to actual digital transformation programmes, but rather the understandable nervousness that many businesses would have with continuing to fund such activity in these uncertain times. Many are pausing to assess if the Covid-19 pandemic will force them to re-deploy funding in an emergency manner to another area of their businesses. Some businesses are also unable to continue with their digital transformation as staff have been furloughed. The challenges do not necessarily relate to technology issues, rather funding and/or resources.
What are the options available that will allow businesses to move ahead with tech investments/projects?
For those businesses who had (pre-Covid-19) decided to conduct their digital transformation internally without any outsourcing, this could be the time to reassess if that approach is still valid in terms of balancing their internal resource availability, their approach to risk and the ongoing support they may need across their business.
Are there certain tech projects that are more viable than others are right now?
The nature of digital transformation means that it can largely been done remotely, however that assumes that the business in question has a standard approach to remote working in terms of technology, equipment, software, security, collaboration, employment conditions etc. As such, those IT management functions that have not developed a standard Employee Experience / Digital Workplace capability should focus on that right now, as it is the main enabler for remote working.
The main area of tech projects that we at CGI have had to stop focusing on are the immersive ones where physical interaction is essential. This would encompass Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality; these activities require specialist equipment that cannot be replicated remotely, so projects involving them have had to be paused.
How can businesses best ‘sell’ these investments to their board when they are tightening purse strings?
Most of the standard ‘sell in’ content for digital transformation would ring true during this economic downturn, however certain aspects would come to the fore now. The focus would need to be on the consequences of a ‘do nothing’ scenario and the ‘opportunity cost’ of focusing on non-digital transformation activities. For example, in the months leading up to the Covid-19 pandemic I met with several businesses who decided against investing in their first ecommerce solution, and an employee experience capability to facilitate remote working. Now with hindsight (knowing the pandemic would hit so hard), most businesses acknowledge that remote working facilities are paramount in the modern workplace.
I believe that investing in digital transformation has become more important rather than less during these challenging times, and choosing not to invest could lead to a more difficult future in the long run.