Driving digital innovation to combat COVID-19 disruption
The term ‘disruption’ gets bandied about a lot in the technology world. Whether it's to describe a group of agile market entrants, changing customer behaviour, trailblazing tech or simply new ways of doing things – disruption is everywhere. COVID-19, a disruption of monumental proportions, has thrown life in a disarray globally. As the pandemic took its toll, buzzwords like ‘social-distancing’ and ‘quarantine’ cemented their place in our lives. In such a scenario, technology has been standing tall as the common denominator mitigating the impact of the pandemic, restoring livelihoods and tackling similar challenges.
In India, we are known for our ‘jugaad’ - a frugal innovation mindset passed down generations to find solutions to problems with limited resources has sparked a wave of innovation. From using AI to identify affected people, and providing online consultations, to apps fighting the spread of misinformation, digital innovation has been conspicuously omnipresent. Bolstered by a wealth of engineering talent, crowdsourcing ideas from the government, and faster internet connectivity, businesses across the globe have embraced digital transformation like never before, for sustenance and communication across teams.
While most experts are discussing how this pandemic will impact the world going forward, one thing is for certain - the world will never be the same again. Work culture has been altered forever leaving leaders to realign several practices. Overnight, businesses are left grappling with several issues - reconfiguring supply chains, communicating with customers online, assisting necessary workforce collaboration and all of this while supporting remote working. Resilient leaders must therefore step in and fill the chasm, realising the necessity and grabbing the opportunity. For example, the pandemic has disrupted the norm of business travel drastically. While corporate travel is hurt, it is also not expected to bounce back anytime soon, as businesses have realized it is possible to cement deals even without travelling. The importance placed on face-to-face interaction and physical presence as a persuasion tool has significantly diminished. Making virtual collaboration the default can therefore bring about a pendulum swing in operational costs, in terms of saving time and travel costs.
In the aforesaid scenario therefore, there is a dire need to equip employees to be future-ready, and well-positioned to not only survive, but also thrive in volatile circumstances. Businesses must make a concerted effort to nurture environments that promote unlearning outdated practices and encourage employees to adapt to new, digital skills that help sustain a digital future. Training programs initially targeted & very well adopted in junior to mid-management must now also focus on senior level management, so they can experience the power of digital tools, thus encouraging co-creation. Remote work has enhanced the need for investments in robust and secure technologies, requiring businesses to reconfigure systems for accessibility from beyond the central office. Cloud computing and blockchain will soon be the future of work while handling large amounts of data from different locations.
Work from home however invariably comes with its own set of challenges even as factors like long commutes don’t exist for the time being. While there has been a reported rise in productivity, with the boundaries of ‘work hours’ getting increasingly blurred, mental fatigue has been on an alarming rise. Therefore, keeping the well-being of employees at the heart of any decision-making is extremely crucial at this point in time. However, work related to mental fatigue could be a temporary phenomenon as once life normalizes, people might experience the real benefits of working from home with technology being at the heart of this transformative work habit.
Initiatives like deploying daily virtual yoga or exercise sessions provides a great opportunity to disengage from work, release stress and engage with colleagues. Regular, informal meetings with teams paves the way for a sense of camaraderie and belonging within individuals. Such programs can smoothen the transition and make it as painless as possible. Also this allows the organization to connect with larger audiences than ones which were mostly catered to employees working out of the same office premises. Technology has allowed employee engagement to be all pervasive and more inclusive.
There is no escaping the fact that technology is increasingly woven into the fabric of almost every business today. The good news is that many of the major technology shifts proposed are either underway or should be underway for many organizations. As the current crisis unfolds, there is an opportunity to accelerate these efforts. The key is to enable present workarounds and use this as an opportunity to shape the future ways of working, which are more efficient, effective and collaborative, beyond the boundaries of the function and the enterprise. Technology leaders have the opportunity to show visionary leadership and execution across sectors, and must continue to support entrepreneurial minds for socio-economic recovery, once lockdown norms begin to ease.