COVID-19: Proving the Case for Digital Transformation

Like all other companies across various industries, GlobalLogic is adapting to a new normal in the wake of COVID-19. As I write this, I am still “sheltering in place” in my home in California. Like previous crises, I expect that COVID-19 will expose many financial and other weaknesses that already existed. Unlike other crises, though, the novel coronavirus crisis is uniquely—or perhaps we should say “cruelly”—suited to exposing companies who have not pivoted strongly to digital. 

In this crisis, literally hundreds of millions of people have been forced by the pandemic to stay at home, for weeks and months at a time. Companies whose products and services are exclusively provided through physical channels—brick-and-mortar retail, restaurants, travel, personal care services like barbers and hairdressers, as well as many others—are being severely impacted.

While some businesses can never be entirely digitized, those that can (or have quickly figured out how) to provide products and services through digital channels have fared better. Digital pioneers like Amazon and Facebook are seeing enormous surges in demand, and restaurants that have been able to support food orders or even grocery items through the Web are far more likely to survive than those who have not.

Walmart has certainly benefited from the fact that their grocery sales allow their physical stores to stay open while many other brick-and-mortar retailers were forced to shutter. However, the retailer’s investment in digital technology to manage inventory, warehousing, and logistics are clearly key enablers to help cope with the fantastic up-tick in demand.

Even those businesses who already have a successful digital engagement strategy often have another digitally-related challenge: to scale fast enough. As people migrate their meetings and other forms of social engagement online, those conferencing and collaboration services that are able to scale with the huge surge in volume are the ones that are succeeding.

GlobalLogic traditionally used whatever video conferencing system our clients chose, so I’m familiar with them all. However, recently we’ve all found out first-hand that only a small number of these services work well in the face of the huge levels of demand they are now experiencing. Not surprisingly, the one that seems to be standing up the best (rhymes with “Loom”) claims that they use a cloud-first distributed architecture. In other words, they are the video conferencing solution that appears to be a “digital native.”

What is the lesson? In addition to the financial and other impacts of past crises, the COVID-19 pandemic also uniquely exposes weaknesses in a company’s digital transformation efforts. The ability to offer goods and services through digital channels is key to survival—while the ability to scale seamlessly to meet demand is equally necessary to prosper. These facts were true even before the pandemic, but this crisis has made it undeniably clear how much the world has changed. People now “live” online as much (or more than) they live in a physical space; this is true of your customers and of your employees.

The more your systems, business models, and products are aligned to this new reality, the better your company is probably coping with this crisis—at least relative to your competitors in the same industry. And even when we’ve beaten this scourge, having a digitally transformed company will make your business better suited to meet the reality of a changing world.

In the meantime—stay safe and stay well!

Dr. Jim Walsh

Author

Dr. Jim Walsh

CTO

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