When Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, said that the company had experienced two years of digital transformation over the course of two months, he was talking from the perspective of a company that was already considered a leader of innovation.
Management consulting firm, McKinsey, gave this trend a term – “The quickening ” because it has been ubiquitous to business over the COVID period. Some experienced as much as ten years acceleration, and that rate of disruption can cause real problems for businesses if it is not managed carefully.
McKinsey recommends that, as transformation is ongoing, organisations should focus on nine key themes:
- Speed up and delegate decision-making
- Step up execution excellence
- Cultivate extraordinary partnerships
- Flatten the structure
- Unleash nimble, empowered teams
- Make hybrid work, work
- Field tomorrow’s leaders today
- Learn how to learn
- Rethink the role of CEOs and leaders
The need to address these themes going forward, even as businesses look towards the post-disruption recovery, is critical. Smart businesses do not roll back from transformed environments, and they are now looking at how they can take these newly transformed environments and continue to innovate.
Ben Johnson, General Manager at Dicker Data, highlighted in a fast study on post-COVID working environments, that face-to-face meetings are (and will) return, but we are not going to forget the value of online collaboration.
“It’s not about eliminating face-to-face interactions but to focus on enhancing how we virtually collaborate and build unified and inclusive experiences,” Johnson said.
“Digital is the default in the post-COVID world,” he added. “Success will depend on how well people are equipped with technology that is agile, robust and secure. Our digital capability needs to support easy connection and accessibility.”
What these technology investments have meant is that organisations are now highly flexible in how they approach IT and work – work is no longer a place that we go to but a thing that we do. Similarly, technology is not something that facilitates work, and as digital becomes the post-COVID default, success is determined by companies that equip their people to work with agility and security. In short, the focus will shift away from IT in the abstract to become about delivering outcomes. As noted in the fast study, “The continued rapid evolution of collaboration platforms and deployment of new technology has been important. But the most successful transitions have been the one where the business outcomes have been the most significant priority.”
Changing how people work
The theme about outcomes becoming the priority applies to people, too. Events of the past 18 months have not just been disruptive to office environments. They have also disrupted personal lives, with children studying at home and social lives being put on hold. Workplaces have had to understand that the 9-5 working day became a relic overnight.
“The steady rhythm of working nine to five was replaced with a more outcome-focussed approach as people balanced children learning at home, limited travel and other shifts,” Jaimie I’Anson, Sales Manager from Leader Computers, said in the fast study.
Technology needed to shift to accommodate these new ways of working – data from IDC  shows that shipments for laptops will rise while desktop shipments will fall – and organisations will need to continue to find ways of providing employees with the systems, data and services that were previously supplied over local networks. Achieving that, l’Anson said, requires a re-think to how IT itself is managed within the organisation. “Managed service providers have become central and not peripheral for businesses that were slow to make the move,” he said.
Much of the last 18 months has been a scramble that has focused on enablement and answering the question on how organisations can keep the lights on and their people working. Now, as the Microsoft fast study shows, the conversation is shifting, and IT leaders are becoming forward-thinking again. There is an opportunity to convert the reactionary investments made into enabling remote work and collaboration into a strategic advantage, for those companies that want the edge in the new digital future.