The need for improved business resilience, customer service, and support for remote workforces is driving new technology investments.
Organizations once hesitant to embrace digital transformation are quickly finding themselves unable to avoid it any longer, as shifting business priorities and customer demands follow rapid changes to our collective technical and economic realities.
“The reality is that the more we get into a digital economy, it really is about adapting and responding quickly as an organization to disruption and the changes that are coming,” says Meredith Whalen, Chief Research Officer of global research firm International Data Corporation (IDC), during a recent webinar. “This idea of business disruption is not going away.”
Put simply: remote workforces and enhanced digital customer experience means that organizations will need to make strategic investments in business operations resiliency, customer experience programs, and reliable connectivity.
In some cases, organizations were forced to change priorities almost overnight during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, as their workforce left on a Friday and were forced into remote operations on Monday. Partnerships with network providers that could keep operations running, workers productive, and customers happy kicked into action immediately.
“We ended up with around the order of a 30% increase in traffic, but the network handled it,” says Rick Rioboli, Executive Vice President & CIO for Comcast Cable. “We had folks that were working some long hours to make sure that we kept adding capacity as we went, but in general, the network really handled the load really well.”
Perhaps the most impactful things to come out of the technology pivot were some of the glaring realizations around the extent to which resiliency was taken for granted before COVID-19 struck. IDC research shows that organizations have gotten the message and are working hard to meet customer needs. Following are some key findings and considerations.
Before COVID-19, organizations were focused on digital trust, infrastructure resiliency, and data programs to gain insight into operations, products, and ecosystems. Now, the focus is on resilient business operations, customer experience programs, and connectivity. “Oddly, connectivity is sort of taken for granted, and this has put a huge spotlight on it because the very first thing you had to do was move all your employees and get them working from home,” Whalen says. “One of the longer-term issues is a workforce that will be increasingly working from home. How do we create digital parity? How do we ensure that the people in the office, in the call centers, and in their homes, all are working off the same level of technology?”
Many organizations – about 65% – say they were happy with leadership, brand, and operational resiliency at the outset of the pandemic, but only 59% were happy with technology resilience, showing that there’s still work to do. Some 52% of organizations plan to make some improvements to the resiliency of their technology, Whalen says, as they look to adapt to new business patterns. “The idea is that we’re in this for a while and we’re going to need to be able to be agile and to pivot as an organization for however long we’re in this period, while still maintaining that general course,” she says.
Empathy was key to maintaining customer trust, as organizations were challenged to make real-time changes while events unfolded. For instance, as employees increasingly work remotely, in-person interactions among team members naturally dropped dramatically . Where once teams could be in a room together with whiteboards, those meetings had to be moved to an online platform. Maintaining motivation in an entirely online collaboration experience can be difficult, however, and organizations are increasingly turning to productivity and collaboration tools, as well as Unified Communications solutions, to help keep lines of communication open among colleagues.
The need for quick and decisive technology adaptations has forced some organizations to face some hard truths about their digital agility and will change the way they think about technology investments in the future.
In fact, some 65% of organizations reported that the pandemic exposed gaps in their analytic/artificial intelligence/machine learning models, according to IDC research, and as a result, some 56% of models were not sufficiently flexible to incorporate contextual business understanding of the current situation. In addition, almost half (45%) of respondents reported that their models were too reliant on rigid rules and therefore difficult to change and/or retrain rapidly.
The takeaway? The ability to change quickly—and keep operations running smoothly and securely—will be the keystone to business resiliency and continued success. Some key takeaways:
With the new digital economy revolving around“contactless” experiences, organizations will need to invest in technology to make customers and employees feel safe and comfortable.. “That’s now a new differentiator for brands, because feeling safe as a consumer as you engage with businesses is now important criteria,” says Whalen. “It’s important for them to pivot customer experience to take appropriate action for how customers are feeling.” Hybrid business models, with both remote and in-office employees, will also grow in popularity as organizations realize that while remote workforces can be effective, employees still need time in office to build personal bonds and collaborate.
With an increased remote workforce comes a proliferation of phishing, malware, and other online threats. As a result, organizations are looking to redesign security systems. As business and customer service operations increasingly migrate online, organizations will need to invest in network and endpoint security, as well as increased and regular security training for the workforce. From a technology perspective, organizations are turning to real-time system monitoring, unified threat management (UTM), DDoS mitigation solutions, and managed security services to help keep cybersecurity threats at bay.
Remote work has led to new labor models resulting in the ability for employees like =developers and service techs, once dedicated to the facility, to now work in remote locations. As a benefit, employers are no longer bound by geography when it comes to hiring and can tap into wider talent pools. “As companies get a lot more comfortable with the fact that they don’t necessarily have to be working together physically, you can start to tap into resources around the world,” Whalen says.
As the economy moves to a more digital landscape that will inevitably see a continuation of the remote workforce as well as customer demand for digital experiences, organizations will place more emphasis—and spend more money—on infrastructure that will help support and secure these trends.
“Companies that may have been skeptical of digital transformation now realize how important it is,” says Whalen. “They’re recognizing that there’s an opportunity to place strategic priorities on technology, so they’ll be ahead of competitors.”
The future is hardly set in stone, but as consumers demand more service with less contact, what is certain is that organizations will need to partner with the right providers to ensure the resiliency of their business operations, in good times and in bad.
For more information on how businesses can use technology to navigate new work environments and expectations, explore the rest of our “Driving Digital Agility” blog series.