Home Thinking Aloud COVID-19 Hastened Digital Transformation; How Businesses Can Keep Up

COVID-19 Hastened Digital Transformation; How Businesses Can Keep Up


by Sri Manchala, author of “Crossing the Digital Faultline: 10 Leadership Rules to Win in the Age of Digitalization and Uncertainty

The global pandemic forced businesses to put an even greater emphasis on technology to reach customers, interact with employees, and handle any number of other issues.

Now there’s no retreating, and those businesses that hope to enjoy continued success must keep their forward momentum going even after COVID-19 fades from the nation’s collective consciousness.

Even before COVID-19 hit worldwide, companies were struggling to understand the why, what, when, and how of digital transformations.

And while the pandemic accelerated the pace of digital transformation and left many companies faltering, it’s not too late for them to get in the game. They just can’t wait too much longer.

Leaders of those businesses will need to be more daring about stepping outside their comfort zones. That’s because true digital transformation involves understanding customer behavior, reimagining products and services, and delivering high-velocity, digitalized experiences to all stakeholders, even if that calls for discarding existing models.

Some things to expect in coming years include:

The technology industry will disrupt even faster.

Tech companies have been encroaching into numerous industries for decades. Prominent examples include Amazon in retail, Netflix in entertainment, and PayPal in payment processing.

The encroachment so far has mostly been in transactional and easy-to-understand consumer markets. In the next wave, high-tech will be launching businesses in areas where problems are larger and yet to be solved. For example, using analytics and algorithms, tech companies are beginning to report breakthroughs in the medical field. If their approach to link genetics with diseases works, it will lead to the early detection, treatment, and prevention of birth defects. This pattern of using technology to rethink problems will up-end every industry soon.

Businesses that worry more about customers will do better than competition.

When COVID initially forced people into isolation, they began to spend more time in the digital world, whether shopping, connecting with friends, seeking entertainment, gaming, or pursuing hobbies. The more time people spend on their devices, the less they interact with businesses in person.

The shift is non-linear and permanent. Customers now demand the highest ROTI or ‘return on time invested’ from anything they buy or consume. Given how few companies in any industry truly understand this change, it is not the competition but customers that matter. The companies that do understand will rapidly change their products, services, value, and experiences. They will not have to worry about their competition.

Only companies that use data and analytics for strategy will succeed.

At the beginning of COVID, data and analytics simply helped make sense of volatility in revenues, demand, and supply, Manchala says.

The idea was to make quick adjustments to minimize financial losses and transition employees to remote working. However, the shifts in customer behavior, industry technologies, and global competition are accelerating and continuous. Companies that use analytics to understand these shifts will first change their strategy, value propositions, and priorities. This data-driven realignment sets the stage for a reinvention.

In a post-COVID world, the breadth and speed of digital transformation might seem overwhelming, but there’s no need to be ruled by a sense of hopelessness – it begins with accepting this new reality and its pace.

Leaders who are calm and composed but aggressive in their approach are the ones who will succeed. The only way to beat the ‘future shock’ from digitalization is to methodically confront, predict, outsmart, and shape the change it causes.


sri manchala

Sri Manchala, the ForbesBooks author of “Crossing the Digital Faultline: 10 Leadership Rules to Win in the Age of Digitalization and Uncertainty” is the CEO of Trianz, a highly specialized digital-transformation services firm headquartered in Silicon Valley and serving clients globally. Manchala shares data-driven insights on transformations and adaptive business leadership based on his two and a half decades in the technology industry, and leadership experience in the military and as a CEO.