Business decision makers around the world have been collectively blinded by the scale and speed with which work environments have changed in the wake of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, a recent survey by MIT Technology Review Insights , in association with VMware, reveals that most had inadvertently prepared for the pandemic. More than eight in 10 North American organizations had already made significant investments in their digital infrastructure and related business processes, which enabled them to quickly take the massive global shift to remote working and online activities.
Almost two-thirds (62%) of North American respondents say they have business continuity plans in place, although for many organizations these focus on traditional notions of disaster recovery. “We are used to dealing with emergencies such as tornadoes and hurricanes,” said Debika Bhattacharya, vice president of global solutions at Verizon Business Group. The telecommunications company had a business continuity team that focused on getting the corporate network back online after an outage. That has changed since the pandemic. “It became more of a question, ‘How do we make sure that we care about the welfare of the employees who are now working from home? », Bhattacharya declares.
In response, Verizon has stepped up communication with its employees, with daily video recordings to determine what employees need to work from home, whether that is child care funding or office equipment. . If employees had poor internet service where they lived, the company would add extra capacity or otherwise find out how it could help. “The focus has shifted from just fixing the network to making sure employees are productive,” Bhattacharya says.
The Verizon experience highlights an important distinction between planning for a business disruption – typically a momentary event affecting part of an organization’s operations – and operating effectively in the long and widespread pandemic. While the majority of survey respondents had continuity plans, less than half (46%) of them said those plans were effective.
Yet, for a subset of respondents, there was no doubt about the effectiveness of their business continuity plans. The keystone is digital transformation – the incorporation of modern technologies into an organization’s processes or strategies to achieve business goals. Organizations that have fully implemented digital transformation projects – a cohort we’ll call “digital leaders,” representing about 15% of North American respondents – all report that their recovery plans have been effective, and nearly 40% say they have been very effective. These organizations invested in technologies that kept them adaptable and resilient before the pandemic, so they were well prepared for the disruption that was to follow. Now, at the forefront of an ever-changing business landscape where disruption is a routine, they are ready to succeed.
“We have evolved very quickly”
Digital leaders see their relatively smooth transition to fully remote work environments and digital channels as proof that their digital transformation efforts are working. “Our new CEO recently led our organization through a strategic planning process meant to see us through to 2030, and digital platforms were a big part of that,” says Mark Wehde, president of engineering at Mayo Rochester Clinic, Minnesota. “We envisioned the hospital of the future, moving from large complex care centers for routine care to community hospitals and even homes through the use of remote monitoring tools and AI. . “
When the pandemic hit, “there was a lot of interference,” Wehde says. The organization realized it needed the digital platforms it was planning immediately. “We need to be able to treat our patients remotely. We need to keep them at home as much as possible. As the crisis revealed that Mayo’s digital transformation was heading in the right direction, it was imperative that they step up the pace to be future-proof against the unknowns to come: “We thought we were bold enough with our 10-year plan, and what we realized we probably weren’t bold enough – that we actually need to speed things up even more. Our 10 year plan was now a two year plan. “
The survey results show that most organizations have pivoted their digital strategies with a similar split. Eighty percent of North American respondents believe the digital transformation of their organizations has been accelerated by the pandemic, slightly more than the global average of 75%. Almost all (93%) of digital leaders surveyed in North America say their digital transformation has accelerated. While there is a new sense of urgency in digital investment, these organizations are not starting from scratch.
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This content was produced by Insights, the personalized content arm of MIT Technology Review. It was not written by the editorial staff of MIT Technology Review.