Much has been made of digital transformation in recent years, with some businesses quick to embrace, others having plans in place but yet to execute, and some firms choosing to put it on the back burner.

Thanks to the global pandemic that is COVID-19, as well as differing states of quarantine and lockdown in a number of countries across the world, digital transformation has come into even sharper focus.

This as remote working has become the new normal, forcing businesses to leverage digital solutions to retain the same levels of efficiency where possible, along with improving where it can too.

Acutely aware of this is Lenovo’s local arm, with GM for Southern Africa, Thibault Dousson (pictured above) highlighting the importance of digital transformation, and why it has become imperative in the COVID-19 era.

The way we work

“Consumers are engaging with businesses that are digitally astute now more than ever before. Those that are able to innovate, and to make their products and services available quickly, easily and reliably, are sure to succeed; those that aren’t sufficiently transformed will likely be left behind,” warns Dousson.

“This digital transformation drive has far-reaching implications: for how we work, for the tools we use, and for businesses’ long-term relevance. It is shaping the future of our working world,” he adds.

One specific area that digital transformation will have the greatest impact is where we work.

“For some, the transition has been easy. For others, it has brought with it a variety of challenges. But even for the latter, adapting to remote working has been relatively swift – so much so that many businesses are starting to reconsider how they use their office spaces,” the GM notes.

“During this time, we’ve learned that we can work productively and collaboratively without needing to be in the same physical space. And while some people need face-to-face interaction in order to conduct their work and others simply can’t work from home, this doesn’t mean that offices always need to be able to cater to a full staff complement. In the future, work spaces could cater for smaller numbers of employees at any given point in time, which would offer huge cost savings,” he explains.

Identifying inefficiency

While digital services and solutions have proved critical in this age, and some businesses have been led to believe they are adequately equipped in this department, Dousson says COVID-19 has also highlighted many issues that firms might not have realised were there.

“In a country like South Africa, the massive schism between those who can access technology and those who can’t has had serious ramifications in the COVID-19 era,” he says.

One technology that has been ramped up as a result of the inefficiencies that have been unearthed is 5G, with more networks looking to roll it out locally, and aiming to assist customers in the new levels of connectivity it promises.

“Many of our connectivity issues will be addressed through the deployment of 5G, which will also offer other benefits. 5G allows for the instant capturing and analysis of data, which, when combined with machine learning and artificial intelligence, can help businesses to make informed decisions that benefit customers immediately,” enthuses Dousson.

While we wait for such technologies to become available, the Lenovo GM says businesses in the country need to innovate from within too.

Internal innovation

“Businesses need to search for new opportunities to innovate within their existing ecosystems, develop better and more precise offerings that cater specifically to their customers’ needs, and ensure that the customer journey is smooth and pleasant,” stresses Dousson.

“Communication during this time is critical, and employees have to be businesses’ first priority. If the relevant teams don’t understand and support the digital transformation process, they’ll likely experience it as a threat, which could slow its success. Businesses need to take the time to explain the changes to come, what these changes mean for employees’ work, and how the tools they have at their disposal will help. Investing in digital training during this time will be key,” he adds.

Looking forward then, Dousson believes that while COVID-19 has brought many glaring issues for businesses to light, the most innovative and agile organisations can grow from this chaotic situation by embracing digital transformation and promise it holds.

“Digital transformation is a journey – but the current crisis has forced it to happen quicker than anyone anticipated. Although an initial resistance to this shift is to be expected, businesses that implement the necessary changes quickly will benefit from the profound value of digital transformation and reap its many rewards,” he concludes.