The recovery from Covid is digital - Is it a chance or a challenge?
The pandemic has made clear how vital digital technologies have become in keeping people, businesses and governments connected. Overall, society has made a massive leap forward in the adoption of new technologies.
Without doubt, 2021 will be about those who can and will adapt - and those who can't or won't.
So how much of this will stick?
Every change offers a new chance, and this massive upheaval has opened up new opportunities for innovation in the areas of how we live, work and interact. As the past months have shown, with the right tools and mind-set, a lot is possible. Those who adapt and embrace have the ability to thrive in this new normal.
The overall change has been unprecedented: Online learning and remote working have suddenly been de-stigmatized, doubters of the success of virtual meetings and conferences been proven wrong, and new ways to socially engage and consume experiences online are popping up everywhere.
Things that used to be considered daring are now normal. Who would of thought doctors' consultations are now conveniently delivered online? That we would rely on Zoom to interact with co-workers? Close a mortgage without ever setting a foot into a bank? And that elite universities offer a full online experience as a viable alternative to their traditional campus-based programs?
The progressive mindset will prevail
We saw that technology adoptions that were expected to take years suddenly happened in weeks. According to McKinsey, digital adoption has leapfrogged five years forward in just two months' time.
In the business world, the pandemic has unforgivingly revealed which companies are ready to succeed in this increasingly digitally focused world and which ones will not. Those which do not see the urgency to adapt and embrace digital will be more likely to fail, including those without the right tools, such as a proper IT infrastructure or a strategy in place.
Tightened budgets are an additional challenge which may hamper a company in making much needed investments in new technologies and solutions, says Microsoft. But this is expected to be just a short-term phenomena with budget growth on the horizon.
According to a recent study by IFS, companies with a progressive mindset toward technology investment will be well equipped to rebound. They need think about their investments in the here and now to lay the foundation for the future.
Opportunity in a time of crisis
Economic downturns are the perfect time to look for hidden opportunities and turn them into profits by launching a new product or service - or even starting a new business.
Statistically, start-ups launched during such a period tend to be far more successful than those started during better times. Uber, Airbnb, Instagram and Slack all have all been founded during the past financial crisis in 2008 - 2009. Their success is owed to being forward-thinking, embracing new trends and being ahead of change instead of following it.
While not all companies will be multi-billion dollar tech companies that can envision and drive future needs, all business - no matter the size and industry - have the ability to respond to evolving customer and market needs.
Embrace what is here to stay
So far, the recovery has been unpredictable with COVID continuing to put new and enormous pressure on businesses. Even though dine-in restaurants and brick-and-mortar stores have re-opened in various places, such as in some parts of the US or in the UAE, online ordering is still trending upward and customers’ out-of-home engagement continues to remain lower than before the pandemic's peak in April 2019.
Without doubt we will again cherish a stroll in the shopping mall or enjoy a meal with family and friends in our favorite restaurant. We are social creatures after all. With the convenience and endless possibilities of doing so many more things digitally - and all from the comfort of our home - we have been given many good reasons why we will never go back to how we operated before the virus struck.
The need for digital transformation
One year into the pandemic, many businesses which are building their digital capabilities are still in the early stages of their transformation journey. Even for a fast adopter the process takes time. Some have returned to the drawing board to identify how to make their business more sustainable and future-proof. This includes identifying new ways of working, launching digital sales channels and online communication tools - or simply reworking their business model altogether.
Having an agile culture for example, helps businesses evolve and react well to the rapid change. They know how to handle uncertainty efficiently and work with a more adaptive, flexible and innovative workforce setting them apart from competition.
Businesses that stick to the comfort of the old ways will have a substantial disadvantage versus the digitally savvy ones and those which see change as a chance, not a threat.
Every business needs to identify creative and new ways in reaching and selling to customers and prospects in this environment. Doing nothing is not an option.