When a company is under enough pressure, it is capable of implementing incredible changes. That’s why crises always bring about opportunities: They drive forward innovations that are urgently needed and often even overdue. Little has made this as clear as the COVID-19 pandemic, which laid bare the extensive shortcomings in terms of digitalization in the economy last spring. Even just making it possible for employees to work from home was a massive undertaking for many companies. Multiple elements were lacking, such as mobile devices and efficient network infrastructures, as well as applications and services for communicating and collaborating with colleagues, business partners, and customers.
Solutions for remote working have existed for years, yet many a business leader avoided making the investment or were concerned about employee productivity. It took COVID-19 to show many that remote work is not an end in and of itself, but rather a part of resilience strategies that make it possible for companies to continue conducting business under exceptional circumstances. That’s why we have seen the resistance to working outside of the traditional office environment dwindle in recent months. According to the Digital Transformation Index from Dell Technologies, twice as many people are now working from home since the pandemic began.
According to this global survey, four out of five companies ramped up their digital transformation and above all, invested in remote working and cybersecurity. However, apart from client solutions, they were rather cautious and did not push forward with important infrastructure modernization projects due to a lack of resources. In view of the uncertain economic outlook, many companies are still putting the brakes on investments in IT projects that are not directly related to working efficiently from home, thus jeopardizing their digital future.
A recent study shows that they are aware of this problem: According to the Digital Transformation Index, 89 percent of companies are of the opinion that they need more agile and scalable infrastructures. These can only be achieved, however, if they continue to invest in a more balanced and future-oriented fashion. Hybrid cloud infrastructures need to replace outdated infrastructure silos so that companies can react flexibly to changing requirements and take advantage of the benefits of a multi-cloud approach. These kinds of infrastructures are also the basis for new services and business models that utilize future technologies, such as 5G and edge computing, and offer companies more freedom to implement their resources thanks to as-a-Service models.
The majority of companies are at least planning to address this issue in the next one to three years and want to invest in multi-cloud environments and container solutions, edge applications, 5G, AI, and robotics, and not to mention, of course, cybersecurity and data management so they can get a handle on and protect the inevitable data growth brought about by 5G and edge computing. In any case, they need to follow through with their good intentions and transfer this verve for digitalization, which has so far been acutely focused on remote working, into other areas.
This is where the company management comes in. It needs to provide transformation projects with explicit, unambiguous support and not put them on hold as was too often the case with working from home before COVID-19. Executives should also invest in building up the digital skills of their employees and promote cross-departmental discussions about experiences in digitalization projects, neither of which, unfortunately, take place in even half of companies today. It is even more often the case that a modern corporate culture, in which mistakes are seen as opportunities for improvement, is lacking. However, employees require such an environment to be able to contribute their ideas and test new solutions and technologies.
The fact that according to the Digital Transformation Index, discussions with C-level management to identify projects that are suited for digitalization are held in only less than a third of companies, makes me wonder. This goes to show that there is only limited interest in this topic, which should be receiving the utmost attention. Appointing a dedicated Chief Digital Officer or Chief Data Officer can help establish digital transformation as an important topic at the top level of management.