How Covid-19 has accelerated digital transformation

Digital transformation and Covid-19
(Image credit: Image Credit: Wichy / Shutterstock)

Covid-19 has been a catalyst for change. In April 2020, almost half the people in employment in the UK were working from home. 86% of these said they did so because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Those companies which had previously resisted homeworking had no option but to embrace this new way of working, for the safety of their employees and communities.

Workers very quickly had to get up to speed on new tools for collaboration, work sharing and interaction to replace face-to-face communication. Microsoft Teams users surged 70% with numbers reaching 75 million daily active users, while Zoom became a verb (“Are we Zooming today?”). Companies quickly had to find alternatives for tasks usually completed in an office setting, with those businesses previously resistant to change having to adapt at pace.

Technology has been a huge enabler during this time across our work and home lives – not just for collaboration but to maintain continuity, to deliver business-critical operations and to help us stay connected. Technology has also helped organizations meet changing consumer behaviors, such as the emergence of the ‘homebody’ economy and the explosion in ecommerce. Technology platforms, APIs and software analytics are playing key roles in delivering against consumer expectations, improving the customer experience, streamlining systems, automating processes and allowing businesses to scale up and take advantage of rising demand.

A new industrial revolution

The impact of the Coronavirus on our societies has expedited digital transformation on a scale no-one could have predicted. I’m not just talking about your parents upskilling, comfortably Zooming and WhatsApping in a short space of time – although that in itself is pretty remarkable. What we’re experiencing is a significant, universal acceleration of technology adoption throughout our developed world. Many businesses talk of going through a digital transformation. "We've seen two years of digital transformation happening in the space of two weeks," TechUK's deputy chief executive Anthony Walker told the BBC."A lot of business leaders we've been talking to, and survey data, shows that digital will be more important to their business, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic."

This feels like a new industrial revolution, as businesses take a microscopic look at the needs and preferences of their customers and employees, and accelerate investment in technologies which solve specific issues and truly make a difference.

To find out more on this topic, we took a deeper dive into the challenges, behaviors and investment plans of 250 organizations with 500 or more employees over the past few months. We were particularly interested in how these organizations maintained business continuity in the areas of shipping and mailing since the beginning of the pandemic outbreak, and what challenges they faced. For example, if your business regularly sends hundreds of invoices or statements to your clients, or needs to ship high volumes of packages or parcels, you probably have efficient processes and the right technologies at your traditional workplace. But remove your workplace from the equation – if you’re working from home, for example - and straightforward tasks quickly become complex.

Business continuity challenges

The businesses we spoke to were, like many, hit by continuity challenges during the pandemic. As a result, they are accelerating digital transformation and driving investments in sending technology and software over the next 6- 12 months. While the top strategic challenge as expected, is around protecting the health and safety of employees, 35% cited adapting their business to the new reality and responding to client needs as their key challenges during this time.

With almost 50% of enterprises surveyed sending more mail and parcels during the past few months, gaps in shipping and mailing processes and technology were highlighted.

40% said one of their top five challenges is the ability to provide 24/7 contactless pick-up for employees. 36% were challenged by the ability to allow employees to ship from remote locations. In theory, employees could put a stamp on a letter or parcel and expense it, but trying to keep on top of this when you have several hundred employees working from different locations is next to impossible, not to mention costly.

30% said they were challenged by the ability to produce and send critical customer communications and documents like bills, notices and certified mail, and around the same percentage - 29% - found it particularly challenging to track and account for large volumes of incoming mail and packages for employees. Although staff might not be at their traditional workplace, deliveries still arrive.

Investing in technology and software to solve specific issues

Our research found that businesses plan to invest in sending technology and software in the next six to twelve months to help them solve these issues, improve processes and adapt to evolving market conditions which have been amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the next 6 months, 40% plan to invest in mailing and shipping software solutions that can be deployed across locations. In the next 12 months, 66% of enterprises polled plan to invest in digitizing mailing /shipping (e-document solutions); 65% in mailing and shipping software solutions that can be deployed across locations; 62% in analytical reporting tools to optimize postage spend and efficiency and 60% of enterprises in mailing and shipping equipment such as meters.

This speed of transformation is particularly high among retailers. In the next 12 months, 70% of retailers we surveyed plan to invest in analytical reporting tools to optimize postage spend and efficiency; 68% in software to track high volume of inbound mail and packages; 74% in mailing and shipping software solutions that can be deployed across locations and 60% in intelligent lockers for contactless pick up. As businesses invest in the tools and technologies to solve specific issues, they are building resilience. They helping to protect their organizations, employees and customers from risk. And they are accelerating the pace of change.

  • Ryan Higginson, Vice President & UK/ROI Country Leader, Pitney Bowes.
Ryan Higginson

Ryan Higginson is the Vice President at Pitney Bowes. He is a highly driven Global Business leader with over 20 years' experience delivering growth and P&L business objectives within a matrix and direct team environment. Ryan is an expert in the senior management of Telesales & Web sales channels across a global footprint.