Time to Go Digital or Go Dark

Faced with the storm of a global pandemic, remote working and Brexit, business leaders are struggling to identify the risks and opportunities as existing business models become stressed and over extended.

The need for companies to accelerate their digital strategy, to maintain commercial longevity during a mandated lockdown with restricted activity, has become critical.

Remote Working

For many organisations, their pandemic response, in March 2020, focused on an intense period of frantic activity sourcing remote working technology, to ensure their staff and critical business functions operated safely and securely from a home location.

In April 2020, demand for PCs soar, driven by remote working and e-learning requirements, coupled with severe supply chain delays due to the global lockdown.

As acknowledged by Satya Nadella (Chief Executive Officer, Microsoft) social distancing rules have led to “a world of remote everything”.  A similar trend can be seen with remote learning earlier this year, with the number of teachers and students using Google Classroom doubling to 100m users within a 2 month period.

Many organisations have quickly pivoted to conduct operational processes and workflows in new, repeatable, secure and scalable ways. Call centres, which were often considered a legacy, quickly rose in importance in maintaining the human connection with customers. Call centre agents were equipped with new operational processes, even updating the recorded welcome message, to assure customers that the sound of small children playing or a family dog barking was due to staff relocating to a home location.

Consumer Behaviour

With the majority of customer interactions taking place virtually, the demand for digital services has surpassed all previous expectations.

Digital adoption now includes the baby boomers, a generation that previously shunned the digital experience for key day-to-day services such as online banking and ordering groceries. The accelerated growth in digital adoption, which was achieved in just a few months, would have previously taken 10 years to reach the same level of acceptance.

Business Processes

Digital adoption is now penetrating the business to business (B2B) sector, which had traditionally trailed the business to consumer market for digital adoption. For B2B, with its entrenched business processes, adopting new revolutionary technology would typically takes years of heartache and heartburn, but is now happening overnight.

“With the massive shift to digital resulting from COVID-19, video and live chat have emerged as the predominant channels for interacting and closing sales with B2B customers, while in-person meetings and related sales activities have dropped (Source McKinsey).

This new level of digital adoption is going to stick. Consumers now have higher standards for their digital services, and the expectation is for this to rise further. People will no longer accept clunky manual processes. Instead, they require fast speeds, instant transactions and guaranteed uptime.


Government mandates and regulatory requirements have been quickly amended during the pandemic. One of the most notable changes has been the adoption of telemedicine, or virtual consultations, as an alternative of a face to face interaction with a healthcare specialist.

While the technology has been available for several years, the need for social distancing has accelerated this change, with many patients, who have experienced the digital service, being reluctant to go back to a traditional face to face consultation.


As part of the pandemic response, companies are being forced to move swiftly to assess the risk, key mitigants and potential opportunities, just to keep their businesses running.

Companies are having to pivot their operational processes and redesign their workflows for new ways of working, whilst at the same time, cutting costs to ensure their survival during what is potentially a sustained economic downturn.

While going digital is not a silver bullet in itself, it does offer a number of tools and levers to safely weather the storm and return stronger:

  • Enhanced Operational Efficiency: is a task which digital solution are ideally suited for, compared to traditional cost cutting, in sustaining businesses through financial turbulence and uncertainty.
  • Accelerated Automation: by far the biggest efficiency play is automation, preforming the same work faster and with fewer mistakes, enabling scarce team members to focus on high value-added activities.
  • Productivity Advantage: empowering employees to work remotely effectively and safely, leveraging collaboration tools to maximise employee productivity, engagement and mental wellness.
  • Customer Convenience: changing the customer experience to provide enhanced focus and engagement, with faster service times, instant transactions, guaranteed uptime and reliability.

For some businesses, the forces of disruption may be so great that the long-term strategic vision will need to be overhauled in addition to redefining their digital enablement.

Resources, both in terms of talent and money will likely be constrained, and digital initiatives may need to be reprioritised based on relevance to the current environment.


For many organisations, the digital future is rushing closer, creating significant and lasting impact, with the adoption of a wide range of new digital services and products.

The pandemic is pulling on all the main levers that affect the pace of digital adoption: remote working, consumer behaviour, business processes and government regulation.

The new digital processes, to support business longevity, are delivering significant and broad societal change that will become the new rails on which businesses operate. Customers will be unwilling to tear up the new digital rails once the crisis stabilises.

It’s now time to “Go Digital or Go Dark”.

Email: ian@IanAlderton.com

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