2020.05.14

Six tips to accomplishing your enterprise digital transformation in the context of Covid-19

By Philippe Mancini and Céline Huot

Newsletter

Digital technologies developed in the past ten years have been a true blessing during this period of confinement. Families have remained in touch or have been able to do their grocery shopping online while work teams have been able to collaborate at a distance, thus maintaining a certain level of activity.

One thing is clear: our post COVID-19 world will never be the same. We must expect significant change in the various spheres of our lives. For some organizations, this crisis will act as a trigger or accelerator to implement or consolidate their digital transformation. Beyond simply improving work tools, digital transformation will directly impact business models by adding value and improving the overall client, employee and business partner experience.

Thinking beyond our everyday management concerns relating to the crisis, here are six tips for a controlled acceleration of your digital transformation.

1.   Challenging yourself and being audacious

As we gradually weather the storm, albeit with some degree of difficulty, certain organizations are using this crisis as an opportunity to review their business models. These organizations see digital transformation as something that goes way beyond simply retooling the workforce. They are realigning their actions and questioning their digital ability to deliver on strategic objectives. They are measuring their level of digital maturity and identifying what gaps exist between, on the one hand, their business objectives and the required analytical and digital capacity to fulfill them and, on the other hand, their current reality and their teams’ abilities to transform themselves.

In the very short term, these organizations have been able to improve customer relations through streamlined business processes, data centralization and increased capacity to analyze this data.

2.   Using this opportunity to focus your energies on what is imperative

While businesses are wrestling with the reality of limited cash flow and a level of uncertainty surrounding an anticipated economic recovery, even the best performing digital transformation teams will need to limit their activities, in the short term, to what may be immediately “useful” to generate maximum impact on the organization. Usefulness, determined by the business context, will constitute the most important variable to allocate time and resources in the most efficient manner. Doing so will require putting in place work units to take charge of our digital transformation initiatives with short term action plans and clearly defined accountability. Two main questions will drive theses decision: 1) is this really necessary? and 2) what will the impact in three months’ time be if we don’t do this?

3. Overseeing the growth of cloud-based solutions within the current technological and analytical ecosystem

The current crisis is accelerating the digital transformation in many organizations. As a result, businesses are turning to cloud-based solutions to increase their analytical and technological capacity. These solutions are addressing immediate functional needs while requiring a very limited initial investment. However, security remains a crucial concern and it is imperative that each solution meet basic requirements to protect both organizational and client information. We must also confirm or implement application programming interface (API) protocols to share data and ensure networks will be capable of sustaining such exchanges. Whenever possible, we should include in our agreements provisions that will allow us to exit contractual obligations when solutions no longer appear to be relevant in the longer term.

Agile organizations have been experimenting with different solutions to address their perceived needs and are documenting the functional, non-functional, financial and safety pros and cons for each one. Ultimately, this will allow those businesses to position themselves and standardize practices, minimize costs, increase benefits and learn a few lessons along the way.

4.   Treating data as a lifeline

Being confined with limited access to what is going on in the workplace, management teams must rely almost exclusively on raw data and their analysis to make decisions. Defining, implementing and making data governance operational at all levels of the organization becomes an essential component of decision-making.

In this uncertain time, some organizations are monitoring key data and indicators to help them make informed decisions. Not only is it important to prioritize your actions, but you must also ensure that these decisions are made based on reliable, sound and well documented data. Efforts aimed at improving data governance must not only be maintained, they must significantly increase.

5.   Accelerating the development of competencies / professions

After an unexpected truce that will have lasted only a few short months, the “talent war” we have become accustomed to will undoubtedly return. However, its effects will vary according to the different sectors of our economy. One thing is certain, technological, digital and scientific competencies will be at the forefront of what employers will be looking for… and we know that Quebec is lagging in the number of graduates it produces in these disciplines.

Additionally, the introduction of telecommuting will change employees’ perspectives on working arrangements. And beyond technical competencies, soft skills will be in strong demand. Employers will be looking for abilities to work in multi functional teams, to collaborate, to communicate effectively, to exercise leadership. These competencies, relying heavily on personal and collective values, may in turn prompt businesses to revisit organizational values.

Savvy organizations are already offering training and support to help managers interact with their telecommuting employees. Others are implementing or increasing the number of multi-functional teams in their midst and going all out to maintain employee engagement.

6.   Developing leaders as change agents

Once it has subsided, this crisis will have revealed leaders who also act as change agents in the organization. They quickly seize on issues and opportunities to reinvent, transform and adjust the company mission and how the business creates value. It should be noted that renewed vision often foreshadows the advent of cultural transformation.

In closing, one word of advice. As difficult as this crisis may be, it must not serve as an excuse to cast aside significant gains and opportunities generated by the digital transformation organizations are undergoing: versatile work teams, increased investment, prioritization of what really matters.

At the end of the day, businesses may emerge from this crisis relatively unscathed if they have the foresight to transform their culture and adjust their business models