An important lesson as COVID-19 sweeps the world: Go digital

“There are decades when nothing happens; and there are weeks when decades happen.”  -Vladimir Lenin

COVID-19 has sent a new wave of learning through the world across societies, businesses and governments. To use the acute wisdom of Lenin, with COVID-19 a few weeks have passed when decades seem to have happened. There is also a major difference between past disasters and COVID-19: The pandemic is changing business structures and processes, ensuring that when they come out on the other side of COVID-19, they emerge much stronger.

At ITC Infotech, we experienced the disruptive change brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic up close – and we were able to respond swiftly. Organizations were forced to create a distributed workforce. Processes that were weakly linked had to be integrated and strengthened. Collaboration tools that everyone had access to but barely used, were brought in to create seamless processes with clients, employees, vendors, partners and entire ecosystem. As a technology provider, we realized that all of us may not be in the same boat, but we all faced the same storm. Working closely and building trust became the single most important objective. We ensured that our customers across the world could have their teams work from the safety of their homes, bring their system back online, and continue to serve their end customers. We know that the dividends of the effort we put in will become visible in the months to come.

At a time when globalization appeared to be broken—people could not travel, the movement of goods and supplies was restricted—it appeared that the only thing that worked within and across borders were digital systems. In fact, without digital, we may have been much worse off than we can imagine. With digital, despite the lockdowns, we could continue to share our knowledge of COVID-19 across the world, order takeaway and groceries, complete zero-touch transactions, and stay in touch with friends, family and colleagues.

The implication of this unforeseen global pandemic is profound for corporates. Many organizations will need to optimize and divert costs as demand shrinks and a long-drawn economic downturn begins to take shape. However, recent events tell us how important it is to continue to invest in digital, in mobile technology, cloud, analytics, machine learning and automation. If anything, investment in digital transformation must be increased and businesses must explore the areas their transformation strategy may have overlooked—from online recruitment to training, transactions and customer service.

In the months to come, technologies driven by our experience with COVID-19 will gain traction such as touchless processes, facial recognition, voice, gesture control and loyalty driven value needs. These will become the new norm, creating new opportunities in industries such as CPG/Manufacturing, Hospitality, Travel, Retail and Logistics. Hard robots will be deployed in increasing numbers in warehouses, in retail, the travel industry and in transportation. Fundamentally, a whole new world of opportunity is brewing for IT organizations and IT consumers. Technology will witness a new level of innovation, where creativity, need, safety and investments will intersect.

It is therefore extremely important for organizations to start putting their short-term plans in place, along with a long term view of the future. How will the short-term plans look? Will it be to ensure that a distributed workforce becomes the default norm? Will the push for digital transformation be on top of the agenda of corporate leaders? Will the ability to collaborate with partners, governments, institutions, analysts and investors become a boardroom priority? Will companies be able to address security and privacy issues with greater resolve? These are questions that will find different answers, depending on the industry and region in which a business operates. But a common thread will run through these decisions: Investments in strengthening IT will increase in the long run. Businesses that don’t do this will remain vulnerable to unpredictable disruptions. IT has established itself as core to business, an enabler which has kept businesses running during difficult times. With use of IT, now enterprises need to come closer to the consumers, built trust and create loyalty programs that are aligned to current needs. The value created now will ensure that organizations begin to grow as soon as the COVID-19 crisis abates.

In these times, compliance will get more closely integrated with the DNA of the organization. Where BCP has been invoked by organizations in the wake of COVID-19, data, application security and related compliance is becoming a pre-requisite for winning contracts and new businesses. Regulatory compliance and compliance to standards like ISO 27000, ISO9000, CMMi, Data protection laws such as GDPR and country specific data protection regulations are becoming a way of life and small and mid-size companies, startups are required to embrace such standards in their business processes in order to get an entry to a given market segment.

We will also see new business coming from within countries and governments utilizing the economic slowdown as an opportunity to encourage budding and innovative startups. With lot of migrant population leaving A class and B class cities (specifically for India), Manufacturing segment has a golden opportunity to build units and establish demand based supply “factories” in small towns and villages, which will then become an integral part of a country’s economic growth.

Industry and corporates will go through a revival much faster by increasing the digital components in operations and processes to transform the core businesses of physical goods / transactions industry.  The core operations will have a high component of digital thread coming together to differentiate in the operating market and environment. The end result will be a growth in the IT industry.

Reetesh Agarwal
Head – Corporate Planning Function & Data Protection Officer

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