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Reorienting digital strategy for the COVID-19 recovery phase

Sanjay Sachdev

Even in countries that seem to have successfully flattened the curve of the virus, COVID-19 continues to weigh heavily on the public consciousness. This awareness has rapidly accelerated the pre-pandemic trend of business being increasingly conducted online.

Retailers are beefing up their e-commerce infrastructure. Banks are using online channels to perform a wide range of services that were previously provided in person with a multi-channel seamless experience. The healthcare sector is investing heavily in telehealth. And, insurance agencies are migrating more claims assessments to self-service platforms.

Prior to the pandemic, many businesses were content to rely on the successful models of the past to carry them forward. Such complacency is no longer an option. Digital transformation efforts must be at the forefront of COVID-19 recovery efforts.    

While planning and executing the necessary changes, organisations should pay special attention to the following four areas:

  1. Supply chains

COVID-19 caused massive disruption to global supply chains. Many businesses and countries alike now see the need to diversify their supply chains, as relying too heavily on any single source is no longer viable – if it ever was.

Companies must also look to establish digital supply chains powered by robotic process automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and blockchain technology. These digitally-enabled supply chains will be far more robust in the face of future disruptions, as well as more flexible and transparent.

  1. Remote work

Before the pandemic, businesses could be forgiven for underestimating the importance of remote work. But knowing what we know now, there is no longer any excuse for ignoring this option.

Remote work can save significant sums of money, while contributing to the wellbeing of employees. Moreover, a fully optimised remote model allows companies to employ workers anywhere on Earth, across multiple time zones – effectively enabling round-the-clock operation. For example, employees in eastern Asia can be hard at work while their fellow team members in the Americas are fast asleep, and vice versa.

  1. Online selling

Consumers now prefer digital and self-serve payments over traditional in-person sales. And, a recent study suggests that 96% of B2B organisations have moved their go-to market strategies to remote selling during COVID-19. Companies across sectors would do well to pay close attention to these trends.

Online payments are now possible for nearly every type of product or service – from retail to B2B consulting. Whether through a dedicated e-commerce website, or simple payment gateway services such as Omise or Stripe, it’s imperative that your clients be able to pay you online securely.

  1. Data security

As companies establish their digital supply chains, remote work capabilities, and online selling platforms, data security and data privacy must become primary concerns.

It’s a simple fact that – along with myriad benefits – moving more of the business online increases the risk of cyberattacks and data breaches.

In the first quarter of 2020, 8.4 billion records were exposed through data breaches – a 273% increase compared to the same period in 2019. No doubt, mass confusion surrounding COVID-19 and correspondingly emboldened cybercriminals account for much of this. But companies must reinforce their security efforts in response to this worrying trend.

Those who make the right adjustments stand to be richly rewarded, as 84% of consumers say a strong track record on data security influences their purchasing decisions.

Aside from protecting against breaches, organisations must also ensure that they comply with all relevant data protection legislation.

These concerns should not scare companies away from digital transformation efforts, but data security and data privacy must be treated with the utmost care and diligence.

Finding the way forward

The coming recovery will favour those who are bold enough to commit to full digital transformation, with a particular focus on the four areas discussed above. A comprehensive digital infrastructure will enable informed decision-making, greater efficiency, and higher levels of customer satisfaction.

However, as we have noted before, digital transformation is not a one-time event, it’s an ongoing journey. In these challenging times, organisation-wide commitment will be especially important.

Of course, you need not undertake this transformation alone. Grant Thornton can guide your organisation through every step of this critical journey.