There is a common consensus shaping up the world over- that while we battle the COVID-19 crisis, businesses that are geared up for a more digital future will be the winners at the end. The pandemic has emphasized the vital role of technology and innovation for supporting remote working, scaling digital channels, and measuring productivity. Companies have digitized overnight to keep operations going while minimizing the risk to employees by adapting to new ways of working and new technologies to aid them. And there is more change to come.
In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Sushant Rabra, Partner, Digital Transformation, KPMG in India shares how COVID-19 has exposed a clear digital divide and is leading to a greater realization of the need to digitally transform across the ecosystem and/or value chain.
COVID-19 seems to be accelerating digital transformation in the workplace across industries. How are businesses fast-tracking their digital agenda amid this crisis?
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a clear digital divide: those companies which had already invested in digital operating models/enablement have fared much better than those which had not. In fact, for many businesses, the continuity of operations critically depends on their digital capabilities. Amid this pandemic, a few key areas where organizations are using digital to effectively deal with the crisis are –
• Strategy & growth: Re-evaluating business strategies to focus on sustenance over growth and exploring new business models to stay relevant
• Customers: Enhancing customer value proposition and getting closer to customers through digital
• Production and operations: Stabilizing the supply chain through collaboration with suppliers, enabled through digital
• Liquidity & profitability: Evaluating funding strategies and financial strength enabled by scenario modeling to evaluate the impact and strike a balance between short term liquidity and long term profitability
• People & society: Safeguarding of workforce and looking for new ways of working through remote capabilities
• Technology & security: Assessing technology landscape for readiness to allow remote working, assess, report and mitigate cybersecurity incidents, revisit and refine disaster recovery plans in case of disruption of services and develop long term technology strategies
• Governance, risk and compliance: Adopting digital solutions (e.g. analytics and workflow-based applications) for business monitoring and risk mitigation in this emerging risk scenario
What investments are the most necessary to create the technology environment that will allow companies to thrive in the next normal?
Many companies have, until now, looked at digital transformation only at a product level or focused their efforts on individual components of the value chain. But now, there will likely be a greater realization of the need to digitally transform across the ecosystem and/or value chain. We can expect to see a reprioritization of technology spend. Most will likely start by building in-house where possible on what already exists - but beyond that, we are likely to see increased spend with software vendors as well as potentially more alliances and partnerships with startups through whom digital capabilities (including greater use of AI, robotics, and automation, big data and analytics) can be more quickly embedded.
Cloud implementations are also expected to increase. The necessity of enabling fast and responsive 'access from anywhere' will likely lead to increased spends on cloud and associated infrastructure.
A lot of employees must be working remotely. How do you see the future of remote work and how will technologies evolve to make flexible work easier for employees and employers?
We have entered a new phase of COVID-19 pandemic where organizations have resumed work and begun operations. The future of remote work will call for organizations to remain agile and act fast in re-inventing business and operating models. Precisely, organizations will continue to focus on –
• Controlling workplace access and conditions to ensure employee safety
• Revaluating strategic workforce planning decisions, including remote workforce planning
• Visualizing existing operations in digital format, re-prioritizing and expediting digital transformation initiatives to enable resilience and establish digital channels for customers
• Enhancing cybersecurity measures with a significant focus on awareness in order to avoid frauds
• Working on the adoption of cloud-based technologies, automation and collaboration platforms, and data analytics
Do you see a new tech infrastructure in the making for organizations after COVID-19?
Every change one makes to navigate the coronavirus crisis will impact the IT operating model across multiple dimensions: process, technology, governance, people, service delivery, performance insights, and data.
“For many organizations, the future is suddenly now, with their digital enablement plans having been massively accelerated and scaled overnight.”
Going forward, it will become imperative to drive value by embedding these changes together, using methods and tools such as agile working, collaboration, and integrated cloud. A few key tech changes that have clearly emerged during this pandemic are –
• Smart supply chain and smart logistics have become indispensable to a functioning economy in the future
• New bandwidth and internet infrastructure were critical in supporting individuals and companies alike
• Combination and increased adoption of AI, robotics and automation, big data, analytics and cloud have enabled businesses to function even in times like these and deliver value to their customers
What do you think are the security implications of the post COVID world because data will no longer be confined to corporate offices?
As organizations have shifted to remote working to protect their workers while continuing to serve their customers, they have moved the majority of their activity to the digital world—increasing the risk of cyberattacks. We have worked around these risks with several organizations, helping them put together a set of five principles to help cybersecurity leaders prepare for the new landscape.
• Foster a culture of cyber resilience: Businesses should look to break down barriers between departments, unifying the resilience culture across IT, operational technology and business-facing functions and promoting resilience by design across the enterprise.
• Focus on protecting critical capabilities and services: Businesses need to re-establish a cyber hygiene culture in the workforce, move to new models of managing access and monitoring activity on critical assets and prioritize investment in cyber automation.
• Balance risk-informed decisions during the crisis and beyond: Businesses need to revise their approach to supply chains; define practical, meaningful cyber risk metrics; and focus on the risks to operations when designing new digital strategies.
• Update and practice your response and business continuity plans: Businesses need to revise resilience planning processes and test them, equipping crisis management teams with the skill sets and experience to manage under intense pressure.
• Strengthen ecosystem-wide collaboration: Businesses should think about how to reach out to their industry networks and establish collaborative awareness and intelligence sharing sessions, work together to disrupt criminal activity, and take a systemic approach to risk management as part of the broader community.
In the post COVID world which of these technologies will be bet on by companies most –IoT, AI, 5G, Blockchain, or cybersecurity?
There are three key themes that will become important for organizations as they continue to learn and evolve during COVID times. These are:
Connectivity: Enabling the flow of relevant information to decision-makers in real-time
Automation: Improve productivity, quality, and safety through automation
Intelligence: Generate insights & drive better decision making
Technologies that help organizations enable these themes including – AI, RPA, IoT, Data and analytics – along with cybersecurity will become ever important in a post-COVID world.
To learn more about leading with Adaptable Tech in a post-COVID world, join us at People Matters TechHR India week.