The coronavirus is having a huge impact on our lives and our daily business operations. Guidelines set by governments and businesses have forced people to stay at home. This means cancelled meetings and events as well as postponed client visits. Also, business processes may face interference or even disruption.
For some industries, physical presence will always be a requirement, such as healthcare, construction, logistics, and law enforcement. In most cases, they cannot operate properly without a physical human workforce to manually deliver products or services.
For some businesses, such as professional services, the digital transformation process may enable connection, reduce manual activities, and minimise the risk of disruption due to a situation like the coronavirus. Thus, digital transformation can improve business continuity.
Defining Digital Transformation
Digital transformation is defined as ‘the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, fundamentally changing how you operate and deliver value to customers.” It is not about applying more technology. Instead, digital transformation involves putting technology into places it hasn’t been before.
Through consolidation of processes and operations, your workforce and their clients can stay connected to the company. That might seem obvious, but the current situation has proved that, in times of crisis, this isn’t assumed.
Employing some of the digital transformation best practices described below may help improve business continuity during this situation and into the future.
By providing remote access to company networks, applications, and data, your workforce can work from a different location outside the firm’s office or even the client’s location. Establish remote access through a secure connection, such as a virtual private network (VPN), and make it available to every employee. Applications and data should be centrally stored rather than housed on local devices. This will make it easier to manage and secure your applications and data.
Digitalisation of Processes
Some processes, however simple, might still require manual human handling. Think of signing off hardcopy documents, such as purchase orders, contracts, or timesheets. Application of workflow management tools strongly reduces manual handling and physical presence.
Businesses should determine which processes and operational activities rely heavily on manual handling and a physical presence. You might be surprised to find out how many daily operational activities still run on manual activities.
From there, decide which processes can be digitized. There are many easy-to-use software tools available that can transform these activities from manual to digital. You will save time and minimize the need for physical presence.
Online Collaboration Platforms
When staff are required to work from home or clients do not allow visitors, working together on assignments can be challenging. It can also be difficult to maintain version control of your documents.
Online collaboration platforms allow your workforce and clients to be engaged in assignments without having to face physical boundaries. Commonly used collaboration platforms include Microsoft Teams and SharePoint.
Video Conferencing and Chat
Presentations, trainings, and business and team meetings can easily be done through video conferencing. Especially in times of quarantine, video conferencing enables you to continue with business activities that require human interaction
High-quality video conferencing services and screen-sharing capabilities include those that integrate with business applications like Outlook. Some examples of video conferencing tools are GoToMeeting and Zoom. A chat application for exchanging short messages can save unnecessary server loads and emails. Popular tools are Telegram and Slack.
Online File Sharing
Company policies often prohibit large or sensitive data transfers through email due to technical limitations or security and privacy risks. File sharing platforms, such as Citrix ShareFile, allow you to transfer and share files in a secure, efficient way. These platforms provide access regardless of location and allow you to safeguard data, documents, content, users, and devices.
Moving Services to the Cloud
When services and data live on your local network devices, they often require reliance on business-owned hardware, local IT managers, and application managers. By moving services to the cloud, accessibility and security can increase.
Be aware that using cloud services is not the same as moving servers to a cloud, which still requires self-management. Professional cloud service providers manage the application for companies. They spend considerable money on security and availability and often follow data protection compliance programmes. In other words, chances are that they are much better at it than you.
Digitizing processes and related activities are one thing, but to actually reduce dependency on human interaction is another. After processes have been digitized, businesses may consider automating certain activities.
Processing high volume, repetitive transactions is a good example. When a pandemic actually impacts the availability of the human workforce due to health issues, process automation can safeguard business-process continuity.
The modern digital age requires ultra-high connectivity. A basic requirement is 24/7 connectivity. Without connectivity, digitalisation and automation come to a standstill.
We strongly recommend that companies that rely on a digital way of working and for service delivery make safeguarding connectivity their number one priority. Redundancy, backup lines, and alternative connectivity protocols – for example, through 4G or 5G when your fibre line is down -- are prudent steps to take.
Finally, people engagement should be paramount in your digital transformation process. Adoption of technology and new ways of working are crucial for success. Statements of intent, or hollow initiatives to try and build up the company, are not enough. You need to make fundamental changes to how people think, work, and collaborate.
The coronavirus has forced businesses to re-think their digital transformation strategy. Technology can help us navigate through this crisis and improve business continuity.