It is a crisis, the like of which has rarely been seen on this planet before. The Coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the way our society operates, with a wide scope of both short- and long-term ramifications.
The loss of life has been severe. There were well over 400,000 fatalities and more than eight million confirmed cases reported as of mid-June, with healthcare systems placed under intense pressure, especially during the virus’ peak.
On top of the devastating human impact, the financial consequences have been significant. For example, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has stated that “the crisis will cast a long shadow over the world,” and warned that the UK’s economy is set to slump by 11.5% in 2020. If there were to be a second peak in the pandemic, as many fear, then that figure could reach 14%.
With those ominous statistics in mind, how can businesses react to the situation, minimise the damage and come out the other side of this crisis intact? As recently as 2019, digital transformation was predicted to be the biggest risk to businesses. However, in these times of great change and uncertainty, it has unlocked a number of key solutions.
The employee experience
With the vast majority of workforces operating remotely under self-isolation and social distancing guidelines, it’s fundamental to a company’s survival that its employees have all the tools they need to do the job effectively. To ensure this, greater effort is being devoted to providing workers with the adequate technology – such as Microsoft Teams and/or Zoom for video conference calling capabilities.
There are many advantages to automation, such as greater efficiency, improved quality and a richer depth of insights, while it can prove especially beneficial to businesses in the current climate as it limits the need for face-to-face interaction. Companies across all sectors are capitalising on these improvements and RSM’s Global Chief Innovation Officer, Paul Herring, believes it is a development that ought to be embraced, not feared:
“Many people hear the term ‘automation’ and assume that machines are going to replace humans. The truth is actually much less sinister – automation simply removes repetitive, time-consuming tasks from our plate so that we can focus on higher value and more interesting activities.”
The Covid-19 crisis has actually provided organisations with the opportunity to reset and take stock of their situation. This allows them to remove any redundant or time-consuming processes, which means they have greater resources to put into other areas of the business.
Herring offers up the elimination of the paper trail as one such example: “Digitising workflows and using cloud-based documentation and storage offers many benefits. Members of your team can access information through mobiles, laptops, and tablets, rather than waiting for someone to physically show up at the office to unlock the filing cabinet.”
The rapid rate of digital transformation over recent years has meant that organisations across all sectors have been able to pursue a wider range of sales and marketing avenues. Some have proven more effective than others but during this period of social distancing, in-store retail has been greatly reduced which means e-commerce has had to make up the deficit.
“Expanding your sales and marketing reach through a greater focus on digital channels will require some out-of-the-box thinking,” says Herring. “In addition to creating the new channels, you will also have other considerations, such as security parameters, pricing, marketing the new channel to your existing audience (or new ones), and customer service and support.”
Now, more than ever, businesses can ill-afford to swim against the tide and digital transformation is an innovation wave that they must ride.