Even prior to the pandemic, technology had become an increasingly important part of the workforce. Businesses were looking at technology as a helpful means of engaging with customers, allowing some workplace flexibility, and for a way to introduce automation and faster processes. However, the spread of the novel coronavirus and the shutdown of in-person meetings for non-essential businesses accelerated these adoptions immensely. It forced companies to look into creative digital solutions so that the organizations could continue to function remotely and continue to serve their client base.
This shift towards digital operations took both a customer-facing and a behind-the-scenes role within many businesses. The lack of ability to gather in groups required many professional organizations and schools to find new ways for people to communicate, collaborate, and complete work or school projects while working remotely from one another. At the same time, customers have expressed their interest in receiving services with little to no contact with people, calling for remote or at least contact-limited operations from a customer-facing direction as well.
Together, this helped to drive a digital transformation that has impacted businesses across industries. Exploring how these changes have impacted the businesses can help people understand how organizations can embrace their digital transformation and what parts of these changes will likely be here to last.
Here are the key changes we have seen in the business world:
Greater investment and prioritization of technology
Businesses have been forced to acknowledge that introducing technology into their working systems does not require perfection. Organizations across different industries have been able to adapt to these changes significantly faster than expected. According to research conducted by Mckinsey, respondents indicated that their companies were able to adopt digital changes 20-25 times faster than they would have expected. Specifically, in the area of remote working, these respondents thought that their businesses were able to implement solutions 40 times faster than they would have expected in the pre-pandemic conditions. What employees would have expected to take a year to implement at their organizations took an average of 11 days. The brands were able to create a workable solution to allow employees to continue their jobs at home.
This has likely largely been driven by businesses realizing that operations did not have to work perfectly before being adopted. Simply having a solution that functioned adequately allowed businesses to keep running while obeying local ordinances that kept people home. Businesses were forced to prioritize the adoption of this technology. Prior to the pandemic, over half of businesses thought that a lack of prioritization was a leading reason why digital transformations and capabilities were not adopted. When COVID-19 forced organizations to make these changes a top priority, they were able to do so at lightning speed.
Paying attention to employee and customer experiences on technology
With employees working nearly entirely at home for the duration of their local shut down, companies were forced to think carefully about the employee experience using the digital capabilities. They could not expect employees to simply ‘make-do’ with what was available. Previously, employees might have had a grateful attitude for any benefits that offered increased workplace flexibility resulting from digital capabilities. Now, however, with companies across industries adapting to virtual work, the experience of employees online directly impacts their satisfaction with their work environment.
With many businesses struggling to navigate the challenging environment that the pandemic has created, no one wants to deal with high turnover that can come from low employee satisfaction and the costs that come with hiring regular new employees. Instead, paying attention to the importance of creating a positive digital experience for employees has an immense benefit for businesses.
Similarly, brands have also been forced to pay attention to the ease with which their customers can engage with them digitally. With customers doing a high percentage of their interactions with brands digitally, businesses must prioritize ensuring that their customers do not have problems shopping and converting on their websites.
Inspiring a ‘spring cleaning’ of technology to streamline investments
This push towards digital transformation has also resulted in many organizations beginning to go through a ‘spring cleaning’ process of organizing their technology investments. In the pre-COVID world, when businesses might have only called upon their digital capabilities occasionally, it is easy for redundancies or gaps in services to be overlooked by both employees and business leaders. The reliance on technology caused by the pandemic, however, has forced people to look carefully at the technology investments they have and how they line up with what they need to effectively run a digitally-focused business.
Brands will need to carefully examine first which software and capabilities they have invested in. See if there are many overlapping costs and investments or redundancies in capabilities. Evaluate why the businesses invested in multiple technologies to see if there might be a justification for the different services. Look for ways to reduce investments while ensuring that the priorities of the different departments are met.
At the same time, look for gaps in the services. Look at how organizations are running through their digital services and what difficulties they encounter. Try to understand what technology can help to fill in these gaps so that the brand can operate seamlessly online, creating a smooth, straightforward experience for employees and customers.
The goal here should be to create streamlined services across the organization. Conferencing software, platforms for hosting projects, tracking capabilities to monitor customer experiences, and other important forms of software should be selected for their ability to create a unified experience so that the brand can operate with as little confusion and as few interruptions as possible.
Increase in use of automation to improve the customer experience and build contactless services
As customers have increasingly called for contactless services, brands have also experienced a tremendous push towards automation, which has enhanced their ability to create this experience for customers. The fewer processes that must be handled directly by employees, the easier it is for brands to create positive, safe experiences for their customers.
Automation holds tremendous potential for brands, helping to manage everything from inventory to email subscription lists. While many organizations have already begun to see the power of automation in running their organizations, a growing number of companies have been forced by this pandemic to change their perspective and understand the power that this technology can offer them.
This trend has become particularly prevalent in manufacturing businesses, as the benefits of automation to reduce humans working in close quarters while also reducing the number of people needed to create a particular product have been tremendous.
Viewing technology as a means to innovate and thrive
Prior to the pandemic, many businesses viewed technology as a means to save money and reduce unnecessary spending. When data can be analyzed and emails automatically sent when triggered, for example, it frees up the sales team and marketing team to focus on other tasks that cannot be handled through automation and technology. However, a digital transformation also offers businesses tremendous opportunities to innovate and find their way to the front of their industry.
Before the pandemic hit, nearly half of businesses reported that they saw technology as a means of reducing company costs as one of their top three digital priorities. However, with the pandemic spreading and businesses beginning to discover the other values of technology, only 10 percent reported this as a top reason after the beginning of the shutdowns. Instead, more businesses reported that modernizing their capabilities, gaining a competitive advantage, and creating a business culture that was focused around digital technologies all outpaced concerns about reducing costs.
When technology is used well, it offers brands tremendous opportunities to innovate and mature in their ability to engage customers, answer their needs, and move forward in a new way. As brands have begun to embrace the capabilities offered by technology, they have also begun to understand and adopt this mentality.
Greater investment in cybersecurity
In response to the greater emphasis on digital capabilities, the critical nature of cybersecurity has become an important part of the digital transformation. With businesses across industries relying on technology and software to help them provide key services for their customers and students while also engaging with their colleagues about critical projects, keeping that information secure has become a top priority.
The average cybersecurity breach takes an average of 280 days to identify and contain, which leaves criminals plenty of time to wreak havoc on company computer systems. It also costs companies an average of $3.86 million.
During the pandemic, the priorities for cybersecurity within organizations have also shifted. They have transitioned away from providing support during routine tasks and maintaining internal networks towards empowering the remote workforce. Using capabilities such as virtual private networks (VPN) and working to educate and protect employees from scams and attacks that threaten remote workers, those in charge of cybersecurity have quickly pivoted in their work and emphasis.
With the increase in remote work, many industries have recognized the importance of increasing their cybersecurity spend. Although this presents a problem for the industries that have been hit the hardest by the pandemic, with decreased revenues forcing budgets to shrink, the importance of cybersecurity has become a priority for companies across industries.
The digital transformation after the pandemic
As the world looks forward hopefully towards an end of the pandemic, many wonder about the future of many of the changes businesses have made in response to the pandemic. It is likely that many of these changes are here to stay. Since the pandemic forced brands to eliminate many of the barriers that once stood in their way of digital adoption, such as network security to allow employees to work remotely, it will be significantly easier for companies to operate on a remote basis. Companies have already made key investments to help them protect their digital security while also building a technology stack that allows employees to work from their home office.
It is likely that many of these changes will last, with capabilities such as flexible scheduling to allow people to work from home when needed. Businesses have also begun to see the power and potential of digital adoption. Particularly as it comes to business innovation, adopting technology is not only about saving money, but also gaining an edge over competitors and seizing new opportunities in the industry. As businesses realize these advantages, they will be positioned to keep employing technology and taking advantage of what it has to offer.
Even in schools, where students have turned to remote classes in many school systems and universities, teachers have become increasingly adept at creating virtual lesson plans. The potential this holds for education, including opening doors for people who might have previously struggled to attend particular schools because of distance, will not likely be given up quickly.
The pandemic has changed the world’s digital transformation
Technology offers businesses across industries incredible potential to engage with people around the world at a moment’s notice. Prior to the pandemic, many organizations were just beginning to see the potential that many of these capabilities offered their businesses. However, when in-person meetings and work was limited in response to COVID-19, they quickly realized just how powerful technology can be. The pandemic helped to accelerate the digital transformation and created a landscape that will continue to encourage innovation and technological adoption moving forward. As businesses begin to better understand the capabilities of these types of modern technology, they will also begin to understand the opportunities that lie before them, even after the pandemic is over.
About EHL Group
EHL Group encompasses a portfolio of specialized business units that deliver hospitality management education and innovation worldwide. Headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland, the Group includes:
EHL Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne is an ambassador for traditional Swiss hospitality and has been a pioneer in hospitality education since 1893 with over 25,000 alumni worldwide and
Route de Cojonnex 18, 1000 Lausanne 25, Switzerland
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over 120 nationalities. EHL is the world’s first hospitality management school that provides undergraduate and graduate programs at its campuses in Lausanne, Singapore and Chur Passugg, as well as online learning solutions. The university of applied sciences is ranked n°1 by QS World University Rankings by subject and CEOWorld Magazine, and its gastronomic restaurant is the world’s only educational establishment to hold a Michelin Star for the third consecutive year.
EHL Swiss School of Tourism and Hospitality has been one of the leading hospitality management colleges for hotel specialists for 50 years. The College delivers Swiss accredited federal diplomas of vocational education and training and of higher education in its 19th century spa-hotel in Chur-Passugg, Graubünden, to Swiss and international students from 20 countries.
EHL Advisory Services is the largest Swiss hospitality advisory company specializing in service culture implementation, business consulting, as well as the development and quality assurance of learning centers. EHL Advisory Services has offices in Lausanne, Beijing, Shanghai and New Delhi and has delivered mandates in more than 60 countries over the past 40 years.