Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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Covid-19 has caused permanent changes in the way individuals live, businesses operate, and the Governments provide services to citizen.

The suddenness, the spread and the severity of the pandemic caught businesses unaware. A select few organizations that had better digital infrastructure to support a remote workforce, virtual marketplaces and were able to deliver uninterrupted brand experience through digital touchpoints to the anxious consumer, managed and even advanced their growth agenda. However, most organizations have been struggling with the unprecedented disruption to their supply chains and a caving in of critical business systems with their workforce ending up disconnected and losing the trust of their customers.

But now, as the economy has begun to unlock in a phased manner, the situation demands a rethink of the way that businesses and technologies work together. Companies must relook at their value chain, reduce portfolio complexity, and optimize functions.

How should businesses prepare for recovery?

“COVID-19 has underscored the value of technology and digital transformation. Companies that are more digitalized were able to predict, manage and recover better from the downturn.”

– Sumit Malhotra, CIO, Times Internet.

While the recovery process will be long and uneven, building confidence and trust will be critical differentiators. Some of the key imperatives for businesses during this un-lockdown will be to adopt agile digital strategies for key stakeholders including the customers, employees and suppliers. This will require a robust framework. To prepare for this, we see three imperatives:

  1. Connectedness: The need to collaborate among employees, teams, functions and external stakeholders and act on a single version of truth will have to be prioritized to ensure a sustained telecommuting environment. Companies appear to exercise a low focus on integration.
  2. Visibility: Business leaders and operational teams require complete information to take key decisions. An integrated view of data is important for quick sensing opportunities and efficient utilization of resources. Indian enterprises even today have inadequate focus on operational, strategic, and predictive analytics across the enterprise, even though the trend does seem to be reversing
  3. Actionability: The third imperative is to have the ability that allows for action by people to support agility and efficiency. The current preparedness against this imperative also seems to be quite low.

“Agile business systems driven by vibrant digital ecosystems are not kosher anymore, they are survival essentials. Incompatible, inflexible legacy systems are costly weaknesses that the resilient organization can ill afford. Keeping customer and employee interests front and center, while embracing technology at speed and scale will provide organisations with the right guiding lights. The global lockdown being a big inflection point, analyzing customer behaviour at this critical time will enable the rethinking of the product and service portfolios in the medium term while throwing open short-term opportunities, as the organisation’s focus rightly moves to the strategic priorities of the next and beyond phases of their growth journey”, said, Pinakiranjan Mishra, Partner and National Leader – Consumer Products and Retail, EY India.

Digital transformation and a focus on the long-term will create incredible value

COVID-19 has accelerated two trends driving change in business models: digital transformation, and the enterprise shift to long-term value. With virtual and digital replacing physical in a big way, adoption of scalable cloud, automation, AI, and AR/VR will surge. The ability to deploy computing power, bandwidth, the cloud, and cybersecurity will define winners. Success will depend on continuous business model innovation with agile, open collaboration.

Why are companies accelerating cloud-based digital transformation?

After an initial surge in IT investment in communication and collaboration solutions, companies are now focusing on accelerating digital transformation using highly secure cloud-based platforms. This will help deliver solutions that accommodate remote work and provide reliable, secure accessibility. Cloud technology and artificial intelligence help unlock new capabilities to extend the power across endpoints, networks, data, applications, and infrastructure to improve productivity and collaboration. We must also be empathetic to the end-user experience during times of constant disruption.

“Many start-ups have had the benefit of starting in the cloud, which gives them an edge over large companies that invariably find it difficult to transition out of heavily invested IT systems that invite substantial annual maintenance and are prone to security risks. For data dense and highly sensitive sectors like Financial Services, scalable and secure cloud technologies that constantly upgrade and evolve with little or no interventions by enterprise IT, provide the highest level of cyber trust while enabling a faster hassle-free experience to the credit seeker”, said Ramesh Laxminarayan, CIO, Crisil.

“As businesses have responded to the crisis and are rebounding to jumpstart their growth, it is critical for technology to meet them where they are. In a world of remote everything, organizations now need to support users who need to stay connected from new locations and devices. In many cases, that includes remote and secure access to corporate desktops and important applications so that employees can be productive immediately. That’s where a comprehensive desktop and app virtualization service like Windows Virtual Desktop with its inbuilt security and compliance features can help organizations deploy and scale Windows desktops and apps on Azure in a matter of minutes. Connecting, collaborating and keeping employees engaged while working remotely can also be a challenge for organizations across industries. But with collaboration solutions like Microsoft Teams, which is a true hub for teamwork in a secure environment, we’ve seen instances of improved employee productivity in the new normal”, opined Rajesh Rege, Executive Director, Technology, Cloud and Solution Sales, Microsoft

Why is this the right time to migrate to the business cloud?

A recent SAP – Coeus Age Business Cloud Readiness Report reveals that 80% of Indian enterprises have low business cloud readiness. About 58% of Indian enterprises are in immediate need of business cloud for accomplishing business transformation and regrowth. The recent Black Swan event has only drawn greater attention to the unassailable value of the Business Cloud for growth-seeking businesses.

Create long-term value with Business Cloud

Amidst the disruption, the emerging reality requires an increasingly interconnected ecosystem of internal systems, customers, partners, government, and resource markets.

A business cloud is one such digital fabric that is automated, integrated, and has an autonomous applications layer. Being inherently built for the Cloud makes it scalable, agile and data-centric.

“Migrating to the cloud gives companies access to more data power, which enables digital transformation at every level. As data points proliferate, companies will inevitably need the computational power and the advanced technology levers of the business cloud to crunch data, make strategic decisions, innovate at scale and create experiences that are unique and relevant for customers”, said Krishnan Chatterjee, Chief customer officer and head of marketing SAP India subcontinent.

The pandemic provides a good opportunity for organizations to reinvent, reshape and resize to augment resilience into their operations”, said Sandeep Deshpande, CFO with Biba Apparels. He further added “Finance needs to really partner with the business and with the technology partners, and solution architects proactively to really come up with the right digital transformation solutions for the business.”

As organizations transition to this new phase, they must also consider what is to come beyond. The new normal will entail revenue planning based on real time business performance monitoring, dynamic scenario planning and NextGen boardroom. Organizations will require accurate and fast financial closures and compliances. Employee experience will have to be enhanced by way of sentiment tracking, planning, re-framing KPIs and performance thereof, including learning interventions for reskilling and career development.

Connectivity, continuity, collaboration will be the hallmarks that will define business resilience and growth. Transformative technology like enterprise cloud, advanced analytics and AI that enable businesses to efficiently deliver services, exchange information and store critical business data with minimal dependencies on physical space and the associated costs and risks will be the key enablers to agile business.”

Moushumee Basu Roy, Partner, Consulting Services, EY India.

All these elements need to be powered by robust back office core solutions that are made to fit the specific needs of the enterprise. Empowered IT teams will lead the way as organizations need to dynamically change business models, with systems based on consumer focused innovations.

Three essential keys to unlock growth in the next normal

There are really three big things that can set business ecosystems on fresh growth trajectories.

First, is to respond.  Technology can solve global challenges and connect the world virtually, so as to get through these difficult times.

In terms of recovery, great efficiencies must be unlocked. For instance, if it looked good to get out of your datacenter pre-COVID, it looks really good to get out of your datacenter now. The growth of the cloud is still very important to helping customers achieve these economic goals, and find new growth through innovation.

Reimagining the future will be an imperative for every business in every industry. Businesses large and small and around the world must embrace the digital future that will help this get done. If you think about it as an ecosystem, more digital transformation has happened out of necessity over the last two months than we’ve seen in the last two years alone.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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