The need for digital transformation during a worldwide pandemic

The lockdown highlighted the cracks in businesses digital platforms when having to accommodate new modes of work. Much more investment is needed in communication technologies.

 

So much of the talk in the past months has been around the threat of the virus and possible toll it will have direct and through the effects of the lockdown on the economy.

Despite this valid concern the coronavirus has had the unintended consequence of accelerating a lot of changes to the way we transact and work.

Through a combination of the lockdown restrictions and health concerns, a lot of customers have adopted online shopping for the first time. If anything, the lockdown has highlighted how few retailers are geared toward online sales at scale.

“This digital transformation drive has far-reaching implications: for how we work, for the tools we use, and for businesses’ long-term relevance. It is shaping the future of our working world.”

Thibault Dousson, General Manager of Lenovo Southern Africa

Digital transformation in the workplace

An area that has seen rapid and possibly permanent changes as a result of the coronavirus has been a digital transformation in the workplace. Businesses have been forced to adapt to having significant amounts of their workforce work from home almost overnight.

This could have a significant impact on the nature and size of workplaces in the future. Thibault Dousson, General Manager of Lenovo Southern Africa explains:

COVID-19 has fundamentally altered where and how we work. Organisations that had never considered remote working have been forced to make it a reality in order to stay in business. […] During this time, we’ve learned that we can work productively and collaboratively without needing to be in the same physical space. In the future, workspaces could cater for smaller numbers of employees at any given point in time, which would offer huge cost savings”.

Many businesses are still coming to grips with rapid changes, but many others have hit the ground running and are benefitting from the use of technology to keep the lights on during the lockdown.

e-Commerce during COVID-19

During this time, online shopping concierge services like OneCart have been able to meet some of the demand by providing online shopping across multiple stores for one delivery fee.

Larger retailers have teamed up with existing services to solve the problem of last-mile fulfilment. With the effects of the coronavirus likely to be felt for at least the next 12 months, it’s expected that customers will benefit with more retailers providing efficient online solutions.

This will likely see a quantum leap in the e-commerce capabilities and usage in the country that otherwise would not have been realised.

“Consumers are engaging with businesses that are digitally astute now more than ever before. Those that are able to innovate, and to make their products and services available quickly, easily and reliably, are sure to succeed; those that aren’t sufficiently transformed will likely be left behind.”

Thibault Dousson, General Manager of Lenovo Southern Africa

Utility, not luxury

The lockdown has, however, highlighted a lot of the cracks in businesses digital platforms when having to accommodate new modes of work. Much more investment is needed in communication technologies.

Connectivity is yet another bottleneck that we cannot get away from as South Africans. Lack of good quality, high speed and affordable connections will continue to hinder digital change.

Internet access needs to be treated like a utility rather than a luxury item if we’re to see businesses reach their full potential. Doussan says that “the pandemic has also made the inadequacies of many of our digital tools blatantly evident”, and adds:

“We’ve seen the need for improved sound and camera quality in our conference tools, and the urgent demand for better connectivity and the democratisation of access. In a country like South Africa, the massive schism between those who can access technology and those who can’t have had serious ramifications in the COVID-19 era”.

No longer business as usual

South African companies have largely been building the plane while in the air. Still, Dousson warns that major digital changes “have to be carefully thought through in order to be successful, and must have a strong and strategic business focus.”

This will most likely be the next phase for companies as we move to less restrictive levels of lockdown. CTOs will need to start looking at how the transformation to digital has benefitted their companies and where they haven’t.

This will likely see some companies return to business as usual as soon as possible, but many companies could well be changed permanently in ways no one would have predicted just six months ago.

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