The Digital Transformation opportunity for business leaders

The COVID-19 Digital Transformation Opportunity for Business Leaders
(Image credit: Future)

With businesses being forced to shut down and people being made redundant, the devastating effects of the global pandemic has tremendously shifted the landscape for business decision makers over the past few months. Business leaders have had to look at the challenges they’ll face once they emerge from the COVID-19 period. While organisations have struggled to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, the current situation had shed light on the importance of engaging with your customers.

For business leaders, they understand that digital transformation (DX) is important for the success of their organisation. Digital transformation is no longer considered a ‘nice to have’; it’s imperative to their operations. Through the precarious times of the global pandemic, an opportunity has risen for businesses to improve their customer experience and engagement with digital transformation. If they do not seize it, they risk permanently damaging their business and the relationships they have with their customers. 

Prior to the pandemic, most business leaders would plan their digital transformation projects for the long term. This global health crisis has forced leaders to accelerate their digital transformation plans not only for the long run, but to meet the immediate challenges they face on a daily basis.

Business operations and systems

A recent study from Pega found that 91% of global business decision makers have felt exposed after the pandemic and that they’ll have to change in order to survive in a post-crisis environment. The study also found that 74% of survey respondents feel that the current pandemic has highlighted more weak areas within their business operations and IT management processes than they thought, with only 6% reporting that they saw no gaps in their current systems during the pandemic.

Although it may appear to some that this is just a simple case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, organisations now know that it is much more complicated than this. Companies have to understand that they need to protect themselves from disruptive events in the future in order to attain any success for their business. Nearly two-thirds (62%) of survey respondents said that elevating the priority level of digital transformation in their organisation was part of their plans. 

The survey also found that 58% of survey respondents want to increase the speed of existing digital transformation projects, while 56% of survey respondents will also accelerate the overall level of investment in their digital transformation projects. This highlights the degree to which the pandemic has affected digital transformation plans.

Failures of customer engagement

As organisations around the world have struggled to adapt to the new norm of COVID-19, the failures of customer engagement and reputation management have hit companies hard. From taking control of brand damage to losing customers, poor communications have been added to the list of challenges for businesses. Worryingly, the survey found that 35% of businesses haven’t communicated with their customers at all since the outset of the pandemic out of fear of alienating their customers. For an organisation to communicate with their customers effectively has become a prominent issue throughout the pandemic. 

With some high-profile brands being forced to pull down advertising campaigns that have not been well received during this crisis, it can be hard for companies to know what to say without offending their customers. Good communication depends on the right message that is delivered in the most appropriate format.

Both your brand and customer trust can become damaged with tone-deaf communication, especially in such difficult times. While no brand should be judged solely on its off days, customers have had no other option but to do so in the past few months. When one could argue that organisations could not predict these current events, a counterargument to this is that neither could the customers. No matter what an organisation is dealing with internally, a customer will judge them harshly if the information communicated to them is not straight to the point, relevant, and understandable.

If an organisation communicates information poorly, then they are damaging the trust they’ve built with their customers, which can affect them not only for the short term, but for the long-term as well. 36% of survey respondents have seen a loss of customers during the pandemic due to failed communication, with 37% of survey respondents admitting that at least one of their communicated messages was received poorly and damaged their brand. In addition to this, more than half (54%) of respondents said that they wished they had helped their customers more during this time.

Digital transformation strategies

Digital transformation strategies are being created to simplify such things as communication, collaboration, and predictive analysis, which then gives companies the opportunity to empathize with their customers and effectively communicate relevant and useful information. For business leaders, they suggested that their top three most popular digital transformation projects needed in preparation for future emergencies were cloud-based systems (48%), CRM (41%), and AI-driven analytics and decisioning (37%).

During this time, numerous organisations are now looking to solve problems that have been highlighted under the ongoing global health crisis. The issue for many companies is that they waited too long and were too late in taking preventative action. In order to make sure that they do not find themselves in the same situation many years down the line, it’s critical for business leaders to think not only about the immediate effects of their actions, but about mitigating risk, and protecting both their customers and brand for years to come.

In such difficult times, there’s no made-for-all remedy to help those who have fallen under the weight of the challenges they’ve had to face. One lesson that we can all take from this situation is to accept the challenges, the problems, and the real issues that this pandemic has triggered, but to also take it as an opportunity. For a very long time, many business leaders thought that they would never see the day when the worst possible situation would actually become their reality. Now that is has, they have to take advantage of the opportunity presented right in front of them to ensure they’ll be prepared to face them if a global health pandemic arises in the future.

Don Schuerman

Don Schuerman, chief technology officer at Pegasystems. He is also an architect and evangelist for Digital Process Automation, Robotics, Low-code, CRM, Case Management, Rules and Decisioning technologies.