Pandemic fails to stifle digital transformation
This year has been all about Covid-19 and its effects on how companies, industries and societies interact. In Ireland we have seen hospitality and retail take the brunt of the commercial damage, while initial national solidarity during the first total lockdown has wavered with the arrival of a more nuanced tiered system. The tech sector, however, seems to be largely immune to such effects, indeed many IT professionals have reported increased productivity and a faster-than-expected pace of change. The new work from home culture has created unprecedented demand for digital services, accelerated digital transformation projects and even made employees more satisfied with their jobs.
TechBeat in association with Expleo compiled the Business Transformation Index 2021 to assess the state of the economy, the willingness to adapt to the new normal of remote and hybrid working and the role of new technologies in delivering them.
Almost 200 respondents from fields as diverse as banking, retail and the non-profit sector shared their experiences.
Covid-19 struck the economy hard, but our respondents reported a general satisfaction with how management has been handling the crisis. Almost three-quarters (73%) said their companies were more likely to approve new IT strategies and innovations as a result of the pandemic. There was almost unanimous support for managements’ ability to weather the pandemic, with 87% believing their leadership had the requisite skills not just to survive but succeed post-Covid.
General satisfaction was also expressed in minority opinions. An amazing 40% said their businesses were launching new products, and 42% said significant changes to business plans were being made.
“As enterprises around the island of Ireland confront the myriad of challenges associated with the pandemic, there is one obvious truth: business resilience knows no bounds,” says Phil Codd, managing director for Ireland of Expleo.
“The Covid-19 pandemic crisis has put an immense strain on enterprises globally, underlining the need for decisive action, cool heads, and big-picture thinking. Business leaders have stepped up to the plate, and trust is strong in their ability to weather the storm and emerge from the pandemic on more assured footing.”
If there is a single take home message from the pandemic, it’s that work can be done at home over the long term without loss of productivity. Our second unanimous result showed that 89% of respondents said their productivity had either stayed the same or improved while working from home for a protracted period. As multinationals like Twitter offer staff the opportunity to work from home entirely, and others like Salesforce, Google and Facebook begin formulating return to work roadmaps aiming for the second half of 2021, our respondents expressed confidence in their ability over the long term to maintain their discipline.
“Our research illustrates that worker productivity has endured, and even improved in the remote working era,” says Codd. “Only 11% of respondents said productivity had declined due to remote working. It is particularly encouraging to see that workers are highly engaged in their work and adapting well to remote working arrangements. While worker productivity is relatively easy to gauge, statuses on camaraderie and company culture are much more difficult to ascertain. More than half (53%) of respondents expressed concern that long-term remote working has or will negatively impact their team or organisation’s camaraderie. As remote working becomes firmly embedded in the ‘next normal’, steps will need to be taken to ensure attention is paid to maintaining and restoring company culture and camaraderie.
“Our research points to a concerted effort being taken to address staff and IT shortages where relevant. Investment across these key areas will be critical as businesses enter into 2021, particularly as companies digitise key processes pertaining to the onboarding and training of staff. Readying for this inevitable pivot, 68% plan to increase investment in digital skills training.”
According to the Business Transformation Index, there is an acceptance that companies will not survive in the absence of coherent digital transformation efforts. Almost half of respondents (48%) said the pandemic had increased the speed of their companies’ efforts, while 14% said efforts had halted or been significantly slowed.
“The findings… illustrate how passivity around digital transformation is very much viewed as an existential threat for enterprises,” says Codd.
“Acknowledging this trend, businesses are pouring time and resources into futureproofing their operations with innovative solutions – contributing to the overall expedition of digital transformation across the board.”
Finally is the role of new technology in maintaining business continuity. Some 40% of respondents said their company was automating more processes because of the pandemic. Almost two-thirds (64%) were already using machine learning or artificial intelligence to do so. In answer to a follow-up question, a further 66% said they planned to increase their investment in AI.
“Innovative new tools can greatly complement the ingenuity and creativity of staff. Specifically, the new strands of focus for digital-first enterprises are automation, machine learning, artificial Intelligence,” says Codd. “The Business Transformation Index 2021 forecasts a notable spike in the level of spending across these areas post-Covid, with 66% planning to increase investment in automation. According to respondents, the biggest impacts automation will have on organisations in the next three years are: help employees to focus on business-critical tasks (60%), speed up processes (69%), reduce costs (63%).”