The COVID-19 pandemic has completely transformed how businesses carry out their day-to-day tasks, writes Dinesh Sharma, as he explains how digital transformation in corporate firms can support the work culture and team collaboration during this period
The whole world celebrated 2020 with a bang and everyone had exciting plans for their personal and professional endeavour. Came March 2020, Covid-19 changed life for everyone starting with a sudden complete lockdown forcing everyone stay at home but ensuring that they work from home and deliver the best despite pandemic and challenges of operating from home.
While every business had a “so called” Business Continuity or Disaster Recovery plan in place but Covid-19 lockdown was the father of all. A situation never happened, never thought about in 100 years. Everyone was sitting at home trying to figure out how to maintain sanity of working while at home connecting with colleagues, vendors, suppliers, employees, manager etc.
What is digitisation
In the current pandemic scenario, it means every business process of an organisation requires immediate conversion to digital mode to stay in business. Say for example, if banking transaction were done through visiting banks, in Covid-19 situation banking transactions needs to be done using net-banking. Or if the business was preparing invoices physically and sending it by courier to clients, during covid lockdown all invoices required to be prepared using digital solution, digital signature and sending it through emails. Take another example, if business meetings with clients, vendors, internal team which were happening physically, come pandemic, physical meetings are no more an option, so use of digital meeting options is only way out.
How to go about digitisation
That’s an interesting topic. Struggling with lockdown, the CEO gives target to all business heads and CIO to digitise everything. That can be really disastrous. I would also like to caution here that digitisation has to be done in very systematic and gradual way. It is just not possible to digitise everything by approving a financial budget and giving mandate to all functions. Many companies burn their fingers losing lot of money, efforts and drive due to failed digitisation attempts. One must start with non-critical processes, function and implementation also to be done only for one or two division to start with instead of going across. Companies also make the mistake of building software in-house. Now, that’s a terrible mistake. Now-a-days there are many good Enterprise Product SaaS companies having products very much in line of specific business need which comes at almost at 5% of cost of building in-house. In addition, Enterprise Product companies are very focussed and come with best practices, innovative solutions, state-of-art technology, seamless product support and feature upgrades which is not possible for in building in-house or making tailor made product. It’s important to be very careful while selecting technology partner so one can do a reference check from existing client and ensure security certification (like ISO). It definitely helps in building trust.
While it is always good to subscribe to readily available SaaS solutions in the market, however, just to test the waters, there are free tools available for basic digital solutions which allow users to get a feel of the solution and whether it would really solve the problem. Many a times, a lot of businesses purchase a technology solution or build solutions, however, they end up not using the solution either due to the choice of wrong partner, not been able to spend enough time in scoping the technology solution or clear intent issue which means resistance to change.
Why technology fails
Some businesses use technology firms to build customised solutions like Invoicing Solution, CRM Solutions, Contract Management Solution which comes with its own perils like you end up spending 20 times money and ultimately realising the product which got build has taken into consideration an idealistic scenario with advance level of digitisation. Life does not really move that way. It is critical that a strategic initiative group should be formed for digitisation purposes with clear agenda, roadmap and responsibilities fixed. At times it happens that Strategy and Innovation along with CIO decides on one technology for a business function which do not take into account real life situation resulting in complete waste of money spent.
Managing stakeholders internally
Digitisation & Technology deployment in business can not be done by one person. Taking all stakeholders on-board and ensuring the product meets expectation makes a lot of difference. In any business, normally CIO, CFO, Business Head and Strategy & Innovation Head are relevant stakeholders for a high level decision making process. Once the business decides to go for technology solution, the real stakeholders are business users, technology team to ensure that the product is in line with business expectation and it gets installed within the organisation without any major change management. The whole process has to be coordinated and require acceptance from all stakeholder.
Another important thing is digitisation should also be done based on level of readiness. Say for example, if you plan for digitisation of invoicing function, it’s ideal and simple to remove print, sign and despatch steps. So you can make invoice as per normal process, use any of digital signing functionality using Digital Signature (Dongle) or Aadhar Sign feature to sign and email the Invoice from your official email ID. This is very basic process but will help the organisation reduce at least five days of time and cost of despatch and invoice printing to zero and improve collection time.
Globally, digitisation and using technology solution has been a way of life. For example, while in India many businesses still do not use technology for invoicing, contract management, CRM and business operations work-flow, in countries like US, UK, Europe and Australia, the level of digitisation has been very high. The reason for this is high cost labour, availability of skilled labour, value for technology and long term business vision. Globally, businesses go for ready SaaS products for CRM, Contract Management Software, HRM Software and ERP unless the business is fairly big and has complex processes, which require specialised technology solution. Even for those companies, they first start with basic level of technology solution and gradually move to moderate and advance level automation.
Covid pandemic accelerated the digital transformation journey
The COVID-19 pandemic has completely transformed how businesses carry out their day-to-day tasks. Every aspect of business is getting digitised and digital channels have become the sole media of communication for some. Every business was seemingly forced to accelerate itself as the digital strategy was still a part of the corporate world that had the potential to become a primary in the future. Businesses that were already thriving seemed to have seamlessly converted their channels of communication online after a point of time, yet most businesses are still struggling to keep up with the pace. Digital workplace has become the new normal.
This digital transformation in the coronial era caused businesses in almost all industries to leap over several hurdles in a short time. It demanded business owners familiarise themselves with the digital world as quickly as possible and forced them and their employees to learn new skills on an alien medium. This on-going process has led to several changes in the work culture and team collaboration of businesses.
Quick digitisation for maximum instant gains
It is important for businesses to make sure that the working of the business can continue smoothly. So certain ready solution which are useful for key business function and easy to deploy can work really wonders. For example, board meeting management software having video-conference facility in-built, provide several benefits to the company and help it to flawlessly communicating amongst one another. Using these services could prove useful to companies in these uncertain times and can also allow people to support other upcoming businesses. Same solution can be used to conduct senior management meeting or collaborative meeting with stakeholders from multiple businesses across geographies. These solutions can be customised according to the company’s specific needs, which can further improve the efficiency of the business.
Similarly, concerning the issue of physical documents and digital documents, digitising the paperwork is unavoidable. Replacing physical documents has been an issue for a while now, however, this is the perfect time for companies to shift to electronic documents. Using digital documents also help reduce the spread of covid and ensure a safer working environment.
To improve efficiency in this aspect as well, companies can use solutions such as Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) as they can be customised to fit the business and can greatly improve the working of the business by alerting the business for any risks in the contract. A CLM software allows an organisation to manage all its contracts on cloud and easily communicate with all its stakeholders in one place. Such software are not only necessary in this coronial era, but can improve productivity and profitability of a business.
Digitisation of businesses has significant positive outcomes for businesses. Digital businesses empower employees through transparency, learning opportunities, and open communication. If the communication channels are well organised and are familiarised with the workforce, it can allow everyone involved in the company to be informed about the decision with just one click.
Unlike the usage of emails as we did pre-corona, a communication channel allow information to be without any disruption. Employees can be anywhere in terms of location but they can collaborate and discuss using meeting tools like Zoom, Microsoft Team or Google Meet. The concept of office is slowly fading away. The cost elements have changed and spending is more into digital assets like software solution for business function, cloud storage, cyber security, data protection insurance cost is being replaced for earlier cost elements such as infrastructure costs, rental, office maintenance cost, travel cost etc.
Usage of the previously mentioned services involving board meeting management can also ensure that all members are kept up to date with the workings of the business. Moreover, to replace the informal interactions that took place in the workplace, workers can virtually talk in the middle of meetings to discuss their achievements and how they have been adjusting to the world after the pandemic. Since they are not in the physical workplace, they can also take breaks to interact with their family, which could ease their mental stress in between meetings.
The whole concept of digitisation has to be imbibed into the DNA of the organisation and should be embraced across. If senior management does not get accustomed to digital platforms and expects the whole organisation to adopt digital platforms to perform office work, it will be highly inefficient and ineffective. If businesses are successfully able to implement these changes and utilise this digital transformation, it can help them improve team collaboration and support the work culture.
The writer is CEO & Founder, Volody