As the first anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic passes, three questions are top of mind with business leaders:
- When will we be able to resume our lives without restrictions?
- How will the world we re-enter differ from the one we left behind in March 2020?
- What should I do now to maximise the opportunities that will arise?
I can’t speak with authority to the first question, but from my conversations with CIOs and other business leaders over the last year, I’m seeing some clarity on the realities of how the working world will evolve in 2021.
An unprecedented accelerator
There’s no question the pandemic has served as an accelerator globally, compressing as much as a decade of change into a single year. Just 45 days in, the impact of the pandemic was evident, with Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella saying: “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months”.
According to research from KPMG’s 2020 UK CEO Outlook report, 48% of CEOs in the UK say the pandemic has ‘sharply’ accelerated digitisation of operations, putting UK businesses ‘years’ in advance of where they expected to be.
The shift from in-person activity to all-digital supercharged digital transformation efforts across every industry. For those already embracing modernisation, like banking and financial services, the pandemic has been a catalyst to go even faster. For others, like manufacturing, it’s given business leaders the incentive to really get behind change.
In the short-term, digital transformation was essential for survival. Now we’re on the cusp of having the option to return to business as it was pre-pandemic, yet I see little incentive to go back.
Over the last 12 months, businesses have experienced the benefits of digital strategies and see big potential in forging ahead.
In the healthcare and life sciences sector, process transformation is improving patient care and drug development; banks and financial services providers are innovating customer experiences, and operational supply chains are being simplified and made more efficient.
Habits are hard to break — particularly when alternatives have proved successful in stripping out complexity and unlocking more effective ways to operate and innovate.
If momentum equals mass times velocity, then accelerating the entire planet to a rate of change 10x faster than projections creates an overwhelming amount of inactivity that will last long after the pandemic if it dissipates at all.
That’s manifested in five clear trends over the last year:
- Covid exhaustion: Pandemic fatigue may be taking its toll, but many leaders are using this unique moment in time to push the pedal to the floor on modernisation strategies. A global survey of CEOs from KPMG states 69% are accelerating digital business models and revenue streams, and 60% will pursue M&A activity over the next three years to bolster their digitisation efforts.
- Technology is in the boardroom: The pandemic has given even the most traditional industries a new appreciation of technology as a true enabler of the business. An IDC study reveals 55% of CIOs say their scope of influence has increased across their organisation in the last year, “finally giving them a seat in the boardroom and the opportunity to digitally transform the business”. It’s an opportunity they won’t relinquish any time soon.
- Tech giants are setting the customer experience benchmarks: The winners in the pandemic have overwhelmingly been large, fast, digital-first organisations like Apple, Amazon, Shopify, and Netflix, who have been ideally placed to capitalise on the effects of the pandemic to grow revenue.
These organisations win on the customer experience, combining convenience and ease-of-use with unrivaled personalisation to build affinity, attract new customers, and grow loyalty. The bar has been raised for global enterprises and startups alike to deliver personalised, engaging experiences.
- Digital leaders are being rewarded: Organisations that were serious about having a digital business strategy before the pandemic largely sailed through the last year. Already on the journey to simplify established processes, streamline operations, and innovate rapidly, they have reaped the rewards through revenue and market share increases.
Just one example of this is videoconferencing, messaging and collaboration tools, which have become vital for facilitating remote working over the past year. At the end of March 2020, Slack had added 9,000 new customers in Q1(up from about 5,000 in each of the previous quarters), additionally, Zoom saw its shares increase by 112% on the year and Microsoft Teams saw 75 million people using the app in a single day in April, up from 20 million in late 2019.
- Digital disruptors have used their advantage: Digital-native disruptors have been ideally set up to take advantage of the pandemic situation. These organisations didn’t have to pivot their business model — they were established as digital-first organisations, with agility and speed at the heart of their model.
These venture and growth-stage companies in highly-disrupted sectors like healthcare, fintech, life sciences, and retail, have an incredible opportunity to maximise their advantage if they harness their unique agility to scale quickly.
If these five trends are shaking up the post-pandemic landscape, then how are business leaders acting on these trends to position their organisations to benefit?
In my next post, I’ll discuss the two strategic shifts business leaders are making in order to maximise post pandemic opportunity. Be sure to read it.
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