Business Guide to Digital Readiness in a Post Pandemic World

The future is digital. Is your business ready?

The COVID-19 pandemic has given many organizations the wake-up call they needed to speed up their digital transformation. It’s forced businesses to move along a more agile and flexible path. With many experts predicting we could start to emerge from the current crisis by mid 2021, it’s vital for companies to not lose their enthusiasm for accelerating their digital capabilities to keep pace with a new reality.

Recent data from McKinsey shows consumer and business digital adoption has vaulted five years forward over the course of a couple of months. Many, if not most businesses, have digitized at least some of their business operations to serve customers and protect employees. Banks have shifted to remote service teams, retail stores have transitioned to online ordering and delivery as their primary way of doing business, and medical providers have pivoted to telehealth. There will be no putting these “genies” back in the bottle once the current health crisis ends.

In fact, the same data shows 75 percent of people who began using digital channels for the first time during the pandemic say they’ll continue to do so when things return to “normal.” To stay competitive, organizations must acknowledge the future will be digitally driven, whether they’re ready or not.

In this guide, we’ll explain why embracing digital transformation is not merely an investment in IT assets. It’s the integration of three components: culture, process, and technology. We’ll also illustrate how, if an organization wants to boost their speed of reaction to a rapidly evolving digital world, they’ll need to make a more significant investment in employee skills, IT infrastructure capability, and the use of new technologies.

Finally, we’ll show you how you can use technology supported by a managed service provider to deal with whatever change—be it a pandemic or other major disruption—comes your way.

What is Digital Readiness?

Digital readiness is the ease with which organizations and employees can transition to digitized workflows enabled by technology and software. The end goal is to streamline how work is done, and customers are served.

A significant challenge in being digitally ready is that technological innovations often unfold at a pace humans have trouble keeping up with. Plus, different organizations currently have varying levels of readiness for using next-gen technologies. That raises the possibility of uneven adoption and discomfort amongst users.

Today, the digital readiness discussion in organizations has pivoted to look at people’s preparedness, their digital skills, and whether they have the tools they need to carry out their tasks. While digital readiness begins at the personal level, it must integrate with an organization’s work culture.

Why A Digital Culture is Essential for Future Business Success

Digital transformation calls for the review and redesign of an organization’s operating model, infrastructures, processes, roles, and work, all of which must align with company culture, capabilities, and rewards.

One organization may define its digital culture differently from another, but at its core, it’s about how people incorporate digital technology into their work and lives. In the workplace, this means adopting a mindset that improves process performance using digital tools and skills.

Even before the pandemic occurred, many organizations struggled to keep pace with changes in technology. The challenges they faced pre-COVID have only increased post-pandemic. With customer priorities changing and a massive shift to a remote workforce, many companies are now finding they must depend even more on their data, analytics, automation, and digital tools and technologies to survive. This dependence poses a major risk to their IT infrastructure, but it’s a challenge they must overcome to remain resilient and thrive into the future.

What Digital Readiness Looks Like in Practice

Big or small, businesses making full use of technology have an edge over those who aren’t. Digital technologies fuel the modern world, connecting people and creating new and exciting opportunities. As a result of technological advancements, people now have greater-than-ever access to knowledge, services, and resources: AI, automation, and wearables are ubiquitous in our personal lives and at work.

Assessing digital readiness, making necessary improvements, and breaking down barriers to change are key to maximizing technology’s potential. For instance, barriers such as high implementation costs, data privacy issues, and indecision over the best digital applications can prevent organizations from moving forward with new business models.

To ensure they’re digitally prepared, companies must adopt:

  • A simplified application infrastructure.
  • Multi-level master data management.
  • Automated delivery processes.
  • An agile workforce and new ways of working across IT and the entire business.

Employees at organizations that fully embrace digital transformation are able to navigate the digital world of work successfully and feel more comfortable in a digital environment. That’s particularly crucial today, as how people work has so drastically changed.

Digital Readiness Through COVID-19 and Beyond

One of the most significant worldwide impacts from the pandemic has been the massive shift to remote work. As the transition occurred, immediate infrastructure concerns were supplying laptops to all employees and providing secure access to business-relevant information. To ensure overall business continuity, organizations not only had to assess technical set-ups but quickly identify possible gaps in collaboration and content sharing.

Most experts agree similar seismic turns of events lie ahead which will require digital readiness on multiple levels. Things to consider include:

  • Where content, i.e., documents, files, contracts, notes, etc., are stored. Do they still reside in data silos, across multiple repositories, or disparate department applications?
  • Whether employees have access to the information they need to complete tasks, provide customers answers, and make sound business decisions.
  • If the organization is adequately set up to collaborate, support, and provide service to people outside of it, such as partners, customers, and suppliers.
  • Whether remotely-shared information is secure and employees, customers, and partners are fully protected.
  • If controls are in place to ensure remote employees are still working in compliance with legal and industry regulations.

How Businesses Are Becoming Disruption-Proof

In the near term, it will be COVID-19 redefining how organizations operate. Other disruptions are to be expected and with them come unique challenges. What businesses are doing now to address pandemic-related upheavals can benefit them when these other crises occur.

Some organizations don’t have a solid basis or the right digital infrastructure for the reimagined digital age. Others have made important strides to network smart technologies and make meaningful use of tech-based models of interaction. No matter where your organization falls on the spectrum, if you want to be digital ready, it’s crucial to adapt its existing IT infrastructure. Many companies worry about investing in the wrong digital places. Cost is a big concern, regardless of a company’s size.

The digital challenges businesses have been forced to face this past year are unprecedented, with overnight changes required to address:

  • New and more numerous customer demands on digital channels.
  • Reconfigured supply chains.
  • Additional employee collaboration capacity and bandwidth.
  • Equipment and licenses to support remote work.

As the pandemic has narrowed the physical world, technology has played an essential role in keeping the boat steady as organizations respond, recover, and eventually thrive post-COVID. Large corporations such as IKEA, Nike, and Disney have leveraged technology to create mobile apps, improve in-store customer experiences, and introduce digital self-service.

Smaller companies have also found ways to use digital solutions to drive success, with 70 percent of those surveyed saying digital tools have been useful to them during the crisis. The news is filled with inspiring stories of how SMBs are reinventing themselves and finding new opportunities. And where most once viewed these tools as a way to gain competitiveness, they now see how important they are to survive.

A recent study found that while SMBs are accelerating their digital transformations, only 24 percent are in the most advanced stages. That’s because while the technologies are there to help them level the playing field, many companies face considerable constraints like tighter budgets, cultural resistance to change, and a lack of employee digital skills.

From network design to disaster recovery, vendor management, and network security, an IT managed service provider can be the single support solution your organization needs to ensure it’s disruption-proof and digitally ready as you move forward.

Don’t Miss a Beat

Though the pandemic has exposed things organizations weren’t prepared for, it also helped them realize what they could do, often in a short period of time. On a positive note, COVID-19 flipped the decades-old mindset of resisting change to one of advocating change. That’s led to the emergence of dynamic digital organizations where people are excited by technologies that make possibilities appear limitless.

As the true impact of the pandemic on businesses emerges, it’s clear every business in every sector will need to write a new playbook to seize digital opportunities. Organizations have no time to lose and must move forward, using digital technologies to innovate, compete, and remain strong. Because one thing’s for certain: this is not the last health crisis the world will face. Other disruptions like global recessions, an evolving workforce, and new compliance and regulatory requirements should also be expected. Together, they make it vital for businesses to prepare now by assessing risk and developing mitigation plans and actions. As they move forward, organizations must be sure to document what solutions have served them well during the health crisis and identify areas in need of improvement to avoid future pitfalls.

Managed IT services have the capabilities and support needed to support your organization’s strategy for digital readiness. They help protect your business against security threats and make it easier for you to support on-site and remote employees. And they ensure high efficiency and timely improvement of your IT environment and processes in highly volatile times. For organizations concerned with budget constraints, managed services give you the ability to add capacity without significant capital investment in hardware or staff. There’s no better way to be digitally ready for the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

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