Ever since modern computers came to life and IoT (Internet of Things) became a reality in the early 2000s, we have been hearing about how a single click will be able to get everything done. From ordering groceries, sending messages to our loved ones, paying all our bills, to having entertainment at home. The 21st century has been a tale of rapid technological advancement with computers getting exponentially powerful and newer and better technology and gadgets invented daily. While we have seen rapid technological advancement in the first two decades of the century, the digital transformation of businesses, individual lives have been gradual. Although mobile apps were introduced back in 1997 with “Snake”, it took an iPhone to innovate the mobile apps market. Similarly, open-source software has been around ever since the invention of computers. It is in the last decade, however, that we saw rapid advancements in open-source platforms leading to the creation of data ecosystem platforms.
All modern tech giants were built on the shoulders of open-source giants, and it is these open-source platforms that have been powering our digital transformation journey. As recent as early 2020, businesses organization, government departments, service providers, etc. had digital transformations as one of their long-term goals, with the idea being of a slow and gradual switch to ecosystem platforms. Although some progress had been made on implementing digital technology in the back end of business processes to make operations more efficient and integrated, there was a gaping hole in providing the same innovation platforms to the users. A handful of business enterprises had truly understood the power of digital transformation in service delivery and had become industry leaders in the service sector.
Transformation of Sectors
Digital technology has led to the rise of innovation platforms that have led to the creation of new sectors and the transformation of others. Digital transformation of business models and service delivery has completely changed how users perceive a service and interact with the business. Gone are the days of visiting a physical store for your needs. Users now want everything on their smartphones and personal computers, a click to avail a service from the comfort of their homes.
Some of the sectors that have been driven to newer heights through digital transformation are the healthcare sector, e-commerce, restaurants, Fintech, Information technology, car rental, etc. These sectors had already been going through the process of digital transformation, but the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated their transformation. On the other hand, we have the emergence of new sectors driven purely by the digital transformation of services. OTT platforms, food delivery services, cab booking services are some of the examples of industries that have originated because of digital technology and have actively implemented digital platforms in their service delivery. User engagement and feedback is a major cornerstone of digital services, and as such, there is an increased focus on ensuring user engagement.
Although digital transformation has helped numerous sectors and helped create new sectors, traditional sectors have been losing this fourth industrial revolution. Sectors like real estate, automobile, tourism, hospitality, steel, etc. are on the losing side because their services remain physical in nature and have been unable to translate their services onto digital platforms. Users want to be able to avail themselves of services from the comfort of their homes, and the COVID-19 led quarantine has made such sectors unable to cope with the absence of physical customers in their businesses. The absence of footfall fuelled by the pandemic has led these sectors into a quagmire where their only way forward is to reinvent themselves on digital platforms.
What has Changed?
Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there had been little to no pressing need for businesses and industries to switch to digital platforms. Those who were doing so were moving in for the early mover advantage, and the rise of streaming services, e-commerce platforms, etc is evidence of that. The need for digital transformation for most sectors was to facilitate user engagement and marketing. Digital ecosystem platforms were not necessarily for service delivery but for facilitating such services.
Through the pandemic and after it, business enterprises have realized the need for the digital transformation of services as a way to become accessible to users on digital platforms along with ensuring productivity of workforce even with remote work. The entire office ecosystem has been rendered useless with people spending months in quarantine and working from home. The need for creating secure remote workplaces and virtual area networks has taken center stage. This is because it allows employees to safely access and work on projects without risks of cyberattacks. Businesses realize the need to transform their workspace into a more digital-friendly environment where a computer and internet connection are required to keep their workforce productive. This has led to the demand for overhauling IT infrastructure, data security, and switching to digital platforms wherein the office ecosystem can be created virtually to facilitate communication and productivity.
Focus has shifted to ensure the reliability and scalability of such digital ecosystem platforms and their adaptability to future uncertainties. A reliable digital platform that facilitates both back-end business processes and front-end user engagement has become the need of the hour for service sectors and industries across the world. Ensuring data security has become a bigger priority in the presence of unforeseen escalation in cyberattacks and ransomware.
How COVID-19 pushed the boundaries for Digital Transformation
COVID-19 was a wake-up call for organizations that the digital age is here, and digital transformation cannot be put on hold or drawn out. Deviation from the usual way of life has pushed enterprises towards the world of digital technology and opened the flood gates for rapid digital transformation.
Here are 10 ways in which COVID-19 has pushed the boundaries of digital technology:
- Switching to the online world on a day-to-day basis implored organizations to speed up the deployment of digital technology across the world. From business enterprises and organizations switching to digital platforms to carry on business processes to providing services through digital ecosystem platforms, organizations had to implement management systems and supply-chain infrastructure to keep functioning.
- Data security became the Numero Uno priority for businesses and organizations around the world. This meant switching to platforms that provided the most reliable data security option for business operations - cloud computing. Businesses have moved their digital platforms and databases to the cloud and are actively integrating cloud computing into their software ecosystem.
- With millions of workers working from home, the need for a safe remote access platform became evident as data security became a key issue. Using WiFi routers in our homes with minimal security and home computers susceptible to malware became a risk for businesses. As such safe remote access for employees became a priority.
- AI and machine learning became the center of everything as businesses dealt with a sudden increase in user numbers. The amount of data generated and harvested becomes useless without a competent analytics platform and thus, the importance of data analytics has grown exponentially as businesses look to cut down on costs and improve efficiency throughout the supply chain to cope with the economic damage done due to COVID-19.
- The exponential increase in cyberattacks made organizations realize the importance of data security in the digital age. Without reliable and sturdy data security measures, hackers can cripple organizations, steal data, and demand a ransom that can cripple your business.
- The mobile app sector saw a huge increase in users as people flocked to apps to kill time and for leisure activities. User-friendly apps that enhanced consumer experience became a priority. These apps could be used to provide services as well as collect valuable customer data further to streamline operations, consumer experience, and app performance.
- More and more organizations are looking into the viability of blockchain as a sure-shot method of increasing the security and reliability of supply chains. Blockchains also offer great data security options and are virtually impervious to cyberattacks.
- The pandemic also saw an increase in Robot Process Automation and Intelligent Process Automation applications. Since almost all of the workforce was working from home with no one physically available in offices, businesses deployed RPA and IPA to offload as many tasks as possible to automated systems so that the business processes can run smoothly.
- The importance of high-speed internet was laid bare for all to see as faster communication options meant higher efficiency and productivity. Instances of online conference platforms where people struggled due to connectivity issues have been rampant, and as such, the push for 5G and WiFi 6.0 has gained momentum, with China being the leader in implementing 5G across the country.
- Last but not least, 24X7 connectivity became the next big thing as people strived to be connected throughout the day through mobile apps, computer programs, and even their smart cars and homes. Connectivity has been a concern for a long time, and a global disruption like COVID-19 further emphasized the need to be connected to every part of your supply chain at any given time.
While the pandemic has caused a massive disruption in the normal scheme things and claimed millions of lives, the new normal has exposed glaring holes in our disaster response and readiness to deal with unforeseen situations. It has pushed the need for digital technology. Organizations worldwide have learned the hard way just how far behind they are in implementing digital solutions and delivering digital services.