Technology has been enabling and empowering citizens and companies to do more. From that perspective, one of the positive outcomes of Covid-19 was an accelerated digital transformation. Digital adoption took a quantum leap at both the organisational and customer levels in just a few months' time.
The Covid-19 crisis brought about years of change in the way companies in all sectors and regions operated. We witnessed traditional sectors like education, health and finance embrace technology and be forced to change – which may not have happened in the next few years.
Companies adopted temporary solutions to respond to Covid-19's effects and much more quickly than they had thought possible before the crisis. Most of these changes adopted are expected to be long lasting and companies are already making the kinds of investments that all but ensure they will stick.
During the pandemic, customers also moved dramatically toward online channels. The Covid-19 crisis accelerated the digitisation of customer interactions by several years. During the crisis, companies refocused their offerings instead of making huge leaps in product development – in the span of a few months. Across businesses the largest leap in digitisation was a share of offerings that were digital in nature.
Given the timeframes for making manufacturing changes, the differences were more apparent between sectors – with and without physical products – than between business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies. Consumer packaged goods and automotive and assembly, for example, had relatively low levels of change in their digital-product portfolios. The increase was much more significant in healthcare and pharma, financial services and professional services.
The customer-facing elements of organisational operating models were not the only ones that were affected. Acceleration in the digitisation of core internal operations – such as back-office, production as well as research and development processes – and of interactions in their supply chain were also remarkably high.
Technology also brought about a significant increase in remote working, changing customer needs and customer preferences for remote interactions. This is perhaps the largest change brought about by technology and also the most likely to stick in the long term.
It would be naive not to state that technology can be both smart and dangerous. In this digital era, the degree to which our economy leaves behind the poor has caused a democracy-damaging digital divide. Since devices and connectivity are now fundamental elements of life, those who struggle to afford access to them are unable to act as full citizens.
Digital inclusion is key to becoming a digital economy. With an increase in technology consumption, the risks for cyber fraud are heightened. In order for individuals and corporations to protect their information online, it is important for security precautions to be taken to protect against cybersecurity breaches. Technology has brought about an increase in cyber bullying. There is no denying the fact that technology can also be a constant distraction, an addiction and create a lack of privacy.
The digital world taught us we have more hours in a day than we had before. We have become more efficient and worked harder than ever before, and as a result we have accomplished more things. However, as we embraced the digital transformation, we forgot our boundaries professionally. Our colleagues, customers, partners, vendors, and last but not least our bosses, were all enamored by this newfound 24x7 digital availability. We now need to learn how to respect boundaries and continue to operate efficiently.
Dependency on technology is going to continue to rise because technology has not only proven it can empower us to do more but has also improved the quality of our lives. With Covid-19, the world came to a halt. It is because of technology that we were able to continue leading our lives – professionals, students, teachers, doctors, lawyers, grocers, and many service providers leveraged technology to continue operating.
The Covid-19 crisis removed the dangerous barrier of technology not being a priority. Along with the acceleration of digital, the crisis brought about a significant change in executive mindsets on the role of technology in business. It is now a universally acknowledged truth that a technology-driven strategy is required to win.
Businesses have realised the need for digital strategies to be a significant part of corporate strategies. In successful companies, digital and corporate strategies are one and the same. Focused strategy and strong leadership are the usual pillars for success during turbulent times but the impact of technology during this crisis is immeasurable and undeniable.
Sonia Bashir Kabir is the founder of SBK Tech Ventures and SBK Foundation