Louis Pasteur famously said, “Fortune favors the prepared mind.” In 2020, fortune favored the prepared organization. In this two-part blog series, we’ll review how the world took a significant technology leap last year, why specific organizations are better prepared to succeed, and three steps to Pivot to Tomorrow.
To be fair, few leaders can truthfully claim to have seen a global pandemic coming. The sudden stay-at-home orders, brick-and-mortar business closures, and resulting economic freefall caught everyone off-guard. But some companies fared better than most, and it was not by coincidence.
A recent study of 500 senior executives from various industries found that 48 percent of respondents said their revenues and profits declined since the beginning of the crisis. By contrast, only a small portion (10 percent) reported increases in revenue while also claiming improved customer and employee satisfaction metrics. What was the key difference between the laggards and the leaders? In a word: digital.
The small percentage of companies that managed to thrive throughout the pandemic had already achieved maturity in their adoption of artificial intelligence (AI), automation and the Internet of Things (IoT). Thanks to their earlier progress toward digital transformation, they were much more likely to indicate they could rapidly adapt their products and services to customers’ changing needs and create operational efficiencies that cut costs and accelerated innovation.
Meanwhile, executives of struggling companies voiced regret over their lack of digital maturity. Seven in 10 organizations (69 percent) said they would be more resilient today if they had invested more in digital technologies before the crisis.
Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, bur rather than dwelling on what might have been, let’s focus on the future — how companies can learn from the lessons of the past year and use them to reevaluate their business and digital strategies going forward. Moving aggressively to implement more advanced technologies, firms can better position themselves to adapt to ongoing uncertainty in 2021 and reinvent themselves to thrive in the years ahead. So, when the next unexpected disruption emerges, fortune will be in their favor.
2020: The great technology leap
By early 2020, most companies of any size had already recognized the inevitability of a digital future and at least started down the path toward transformation. But when the pandemic hit, companies were forced to accelerate their evolution. Suddenly, enabling seamless remote interaction between colleagues and creating convenient digital customer experiences were no longer just “nice to have;” they were critical for survival. Thus, one of the pandemic’s unexpected byproducts has been a marked increase in the pace of technology adoption and innovation.
Numerous studies confirm this assertion. For example, in one global survey of 700 CIOs of large enterprises, conducted by research firm Vanson Bourne, 89 percent of CIOs said their digital transformation had accelerated over the last 12 months. Fifty-eight percent said they expect the pace will continue to speed up.
Out of necessity, advancements many experts predicted might emerge over the next several years are suddenly front and center. For example, tourism was one of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic, and organizations ramped up the adoption of technologies to help people feel safe about traveling again. For airports and airlines, the solutions included cleaning robots equipped with UV lights, thermal scanners to detect travelers with fevers, and motion-sensing systems to improve social distancing in crowded areas. Hotels, meanwhile, have doubled down on app-based services to reduce human and surface contact, such as enabling guests to bypass the check-in desk and open doors with digital keys.
COVID-19 sent shockwaves through the manufacturing sector, as global supply chains were disrupted as demand plummeted for some products (new cars, for example) and surged for others (home cleaning supplies). Companies had to act fast to harness the power of AI, machine learning and other digital technologies to make more precise market predictions and optimize their operations accordingly.
Healthcare changed dramatically, too, as providers rushed to serve patients remotely through telemedicine solutions like videoconferencing. The financial sector worked to expand their mobile banking and investing services as physical branches shut down. And oil and gas companies explored options for business stability and resiliency as demand collapsed worldwide.
Nearly every company and organization in every industry was knocked off balance in some way during the pandemic. In its many forms, technology presented options to help them find their footing and move forward with confidence despite lingering uncertainty.
The right mindset: a state of perpetual agility
As executives plan for what’s next and ponder the role technology will play, they should take some time to define what precisely digital transformation means to their organization. Because, despite the ubiquitous use of the term, rarely has one concept been so misunderstood.
The word “transformation” itself suggests a change from one state to another, a conversion from A to B. But that leads many leaders to believe digital transformation will be a one-time switch from the old way to the new way, from low-tech to high-tech. The reality is that digital transformation is never really “complete.”
As technology itself is continually evolving, so too must the organizations that depend on it. Rather than a finite project to be checked off a to-do list, digital transformation could be more accurately described as a business discipline. It’s an ongoing journey, a state of perpetual agility and readiness, and a commitment to leveraging the power of technology to meet the needs of the day.
Companies that adopt digital as a core capability become inherently more agile and flexible. They’re ready to adjust to whatever challenges may emerge. This acceptance of — and advocacy for — constant change lays the foundation for an organizational culture of innovation and evolution. And it’s what will distinguish the next decade’s industry leaders from the laggards.
Pivot to Tomorrow
No matter the industry or the prevailing turmoil of the time, it’s an undeniable law of business that organizations must adapt to survive. The circumstances of 2020 were unprecedented, but it wasn’t the first-time companies tested by a crisis, and it won’t be the last.
Thankfully, today’s organizations have access to powerful mechanisms that companies of bygone eras lacked. Technology provides the opportunity to foster greater resilience and versatility. It creates in companies the capacity to overcome obstacles that might have once proved fatal, grow in unexpected directions, and emerge even stronger than before.
Now more than ever, successful digital transformation will be a determining factor in the survival of the fittest. And the ability to continually reinvent will be the definition of dominance for the foreseeable future.
In our next post, we’ll cover the three steps demonstrating how to Pivot to Tomorrow, including:
- Visualizing the possibilities
- Accelerating the journey
- Harnessing the future
Post Date: 3/16/2021