COVID-19 is Accelerating the Move to Digital Transformation

Albert Anderson
Al Anderson

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing businesses to reconfigure offices and factories to allow for social distancing among employees, rethinking guidelines about working from home, refinancing debt, conserving cash, and controlling costs.  Another “lesson being learned” is the strong push by businesses to accelerate digital transformation.

What is Digital Transformation?

Digital Transformation is the act of revolutionizing business processes to take advantage of digital technologies, with the intent to change, improve, enhance and replace existing business processes.   It is the adoption of digital technology to transform services by replacing non-digital or manual processes with digital processes or replacing older digital technology with newer digital technology.  Digital solutions may enable automation and new types of innovation and creativity, rather than just merely enhancing and supporting traditional methods.  

A major focus of digital transformation has been in improving the “customer experience;” by using digital technologies to impact how customers interact with businesses and their products and improve how they serve the needs of their clients, not by just making minor incremental improvements as new technologies become available, but by dramatically changing how things get done.  One example of digital transformation is the use of cloud computing.  This reduces the reliance on large capital investments in user-owned hardware and it allows access to the latest applications at any time, enabling faster deployment of resources.  In addition, reliability is one of the biggest benefits of cloud computing, enabling employees who are working on the premises or at remote locations to easily access all the cloud features with uninterrupted service.

Through digital transformation, businesses across all industries are becoming more application-centric with the goal of moving faster, boosting efficiency, and securely delivering the digital customer and employee experiences the market demands. In application-centric networking, success is determined by the end user’s experience with an application. One of the best metrics to measure that success may be application responsiveness.

While the pace of change differs by organization, most digital transformation journeys follow a similar path:

Phase 1: Automating individual tasks to improve efficiencies by transforming information technology and business processes.

Phase 2: Integrating those discrete automated tasks and taking advantage of cloud-based infrastructures to scale the process with coordinated activities.

Phase 3: Harnessing and analyzing data from application services to provide actionable business insights that prevent loss, predict capacity, optimize resources, and increase revenue.

What to Consider When Going Digital?

Digital transformation can increase sales and profits by increasing product quality, customer satisfaction, and workforce diversity while reducing environmental impact.  But to achieve performance gains, the following areas must be addressed:

  • Infrastructure: Technology-related assets and capabilities must focus on cybersecurity and data privacy.
  • Data: Siloed, unused data on products/services and operations should be collected and analyzed with the objective of increasing efficiency, revenue growth, and customer engagement.
  • Talent and Skillsets: Training and recruiting programs should be revamped to allow quick access to talented labor sources.
  • Outside Resources: The organization must have access to external business partners, such as research and development groups, tech incubators, and startups, where they can find resources such as technology, intellectual property, and people.
  • Organizational Processes:  Workflows should be updated and expanded to deploy best practices for human and technological capabilities.
  • Customer Experience:  Digital and human customer interactions should be coordinated company-wide to ensure a seamless customer experience.
  • Business Model: Business models and revenue streams should be optimized and expanded to ensure the business is able to adapt to changing economic environments and market conditions.

What are the Drawbacks of Digital Transformation?

Change is uncomfortable, and organizations can be resistant to embracing a new approach to business operations and the technologies that facilitate such changes.  There is usually a learning curve and a requirement for retraining that some employees battle, lacking the willingness, patience or capability to master.  Change management strategies must be arranged to ensure adaptation of digital transformation.

If not properly rolled out, digital transformation can be rocky, with problems and glitches creating unhappy customers and employees.  Success requires significant paradigm shifts and executive sponsorship to drive company-wide buy-in.  


Banks have moved teller services online and manufacturers are rethinking their business model and distribution channels.  The e-commerce model is ratcheting up in importance and has become an important distribution channel. The shift has been fueled by tremendous growth in e-commerce business activities.  The increase in online sales has highlighted the need for speed, adaptability, and agility of the e-commerce model.  COVID-19 took the digital transformation roadmap and escalated it by at least a decade, proving that embracing technology allows businesses to be nimble when paradigm shifts in the marketplace occur.

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