Throughout the pandemic, the team at Hamilton Forth and the wider Livingston James Group have held regular virtual discussion forums with our network in order to share experiences of leadership and managing business operations in 2020.

These sessions have allowed us to gain insight into leadership during what is one of the most devastating global crises in recent history.  A key topic during the discussions has been the impact of the pandemic and resulting lockdowns on digital transformation. Twilo’s Digital Engagement Report suggests that the pandemic has sped up digital transformation in organisations across the globe by 5.3 years.  It would seem that organisations are keen to capitalise on this progress, with a research study by IFS revealing that 70% of businesses have increased or maintained digital transformation spend amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and 52% of companies stating they will increase their spending on digital transformation.

Here, we share some lessons on digital transformation as highlighted by the pandemic.

People Come First

Whilst it is clear that digital transformation requires tools and technology, the key to successful digital transformation is your people.

Clear and concise communication of your digital transformation strategy and goals will ensure that your workforce understands the purpose of the changes you are implementing and the benefits it will bring.  By illustrating the bigger picture for employees, the senior team can tell them how to rely on digital initiatives during a crisis.

Once your team is onboard, the next step is to boost skills and invest in talent. Developing your employees’ abilities will help organisations focus on data-centric initiatives and maximise the effectiveness of their digital transformation initiatives.

Now is the Time to Accelerate

For many organisations, at least some form of digital transformation has allowed them to continue operating throughout the pandemic.  As we get used to this new normal, or at least normal for now, it is tempting to want to relax a little. Whilst reflection on how far we have come in the last few months is important, now more than ever is the time to focus on the next steps in your organisation’s digital transformation plan as part of Covid business recovery or strengthening for the next phase.

CEOs and CIOs must move digital transformation from the pilot ‘reactive’ stage, to focus proactively on tech-driven innovation for their organisations, ensuring that the transformation happens at the core of their business and organisational culture.

Whilst this is a complicated and long-term process, it is undoubtedly the right step towards sustainable growth and business resilience.

Tap into Potential

Despite all the havoc that Covid has wreaked on our lives this past year, one positive aspect is that it has forced businesses into adopting digital transformation, in many cases unlocking potential they didn’t know they had.

Pre-pandemic, some leaders believed that their capacity to grow through digital was limited, and so it was pushed down the list of priorities.  What the pandemic has shown is that every organisation has at least some untapped potential that digital initiatives can help to unlock, and that embracing it can open up new horizons and opportunities for growth.

Ignoring Digital is not an Option

There can be no denying that businesses with little or no digital presence or strategy have struggled hugely during the pandemic. For the majority of sectors, the old-fashioned bricks and mortar 9-5 business model just isn’t applicable anymore.

Many industries that were struggling pre-pandemic e.g. newspaper journalism, and in store retail, are those that have been hit extremely hard by the affects of lockdown, with their business models making them vulnerable to future threats.  Contrastingly, many tech-driven businesses have been able to turn the crisis into an opportunity for growth, simultaneously reducing costs and increasing revenue.

Quite simply, those organisations that don’t adopt digital as part of their business model are unlikely to thrive after Covid, or to survive the next crisis that we encounter.

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