The global pandemic has dramatically refocused business priorities for businesses across the UK . In a life before Covid, businesses prioritised factors such as increasing operational productivity, communicating better with other departments, and gaining better control over day-to-day financial processes.
Post-pandemic, however, the outlook is very different.
According to a new survey of UK finance leaders, the top priority now is being able to adapt to Digital Transformation.
The technologies of old simply can’t cut it in today’s agile working world, and businesses simply have to invest in better support if they’re to grow in the future.
Twinned with a new reality of hotdesking between home, office and remote locations, the strengthening of cyber security practices has also climbed to second in the ranks of business priorities.
But how do businesses protect files, data and private records while people are on the move and out of sight?
Business priorities have changed. Both of these factors were never really a priority before. Both reflect the challenges businesses face in a future full of long-term changes to working practices.
Technology, not processes, a priority
One just needs to look at the rising stock of companies such as WeWork, Zoom and Slack to see that the old way of working simply isn’t working any more.
The majority of Europe’s workforce want a flexible working environment, which only increases the amount of, and demand for, new technology. Employees are dotted across the world now, and tech investments are set to soar to accommodate this greater flexibility. A McKinsey report states Covid-19 has accelerated digital transformation by seven years, yet we’re only really seeing the start of it.
Gartner predicts global IT spend will increase by 9% in 2021, driven by companies' needs to accelerate their digital transformation as businesses switch from survival to growth mode. Everything from data centres and software systems to new hardware and IT services will grow exponentially as businesses top up investments already made to support staff during office closures.
Priorities have shifted. Increasing productivity, internal communication and financial control are second to putting in place the technologies that keep us operational. Being able to shape the future of the business around this new environment is an issue which could spiral out of control if not dealt with quickly.
The future of work
With the majority of staff planning to work from home for at least two or three days during the week, this delivers its own challenges for businesses now having to provide digital solutions to at least two separate working locations, potentially more. A recent survey of nearly 9,000 business leaders and employees, 75% said flexible work was a must-have, while 65% said they would change jobs if it meant greater long-term flexibility.
As transitioning to remote working or a hybrid setup, businesses need to explore the new tech options available to them. Companies are responding to this by looking at digital solutions that provide better agility and flexibility, such as Cloud technology and Software as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions.
The likes of Microsoft Teams and Google Docs have become indispensable over the past year, but a new look remote workforce will need tools that go beyond this. Financial platforms that integrate artificial intelligence, email systems that automate workflows, and even virtual training sessions via augmented reality are becoming part of a new-look working environment.
But cybersecurity is an increasing concern and priority, as this new remote workforce will need secure access to files and data wherever they are.
Providing staff with easy, consistent and secure access to systems wherever they work in the future is easier than it seems. Technologies that enable two-factor authentication, encryption and VPNs will help, as will cloud systems that provide you with the sense of security and peace of mind that cyber attacks won’t cause long-term disruption. Prioritising digital transformation and cybersecurity will map out what the future of work looks like. Say goodbye to ‘business as usual’, and hello to ‘business wherever, whenever’.
Businesses can't gamble on further disruption
Businesses were unprepared to deal with the disruption caused by the global pandemic. Will they be ready for the next wave, created by these changing priorities?
Two-thirds of businesses already don’t believe they’re ready for another major business disruption, with many citing a lack of new technology holding them back. Those that stick with inadequate tech infrastructure will inevitably witness further disruption down the line, something that businesses simply cannot afford in a time of financial uncertainty.
Many have swept the problem underneath a rug in the meantime, hoping it will disappear if they hide it for long enough. But eventually it will all come back to haunt them, with the threat of operational disruption, staff abandonments and damaged client relationships too much to gamble on.
Dealing with digital transformation post-Covid
The game has changed. Staying competitive in this new business and economic environment requires new strategies and practices. Change, either in digital transformation or in the type of working environment, is being demanded by employees, but it’s still very much driven by the C-suite.
Listen to your employees. As the life and soul of the business, and the ones who have maintained smooth operations during the pandemic, they deserve to be rewarded for their efforts. Flexible working and providing technology that enables them to get the job done, no matter where they’re physically located, is a start - but there’s more to it than that.
Business leaders need to sit up and take notice of the importance of technology and its role as a vital component within the business, not just as a cost. Technology adoption and digital transformation have accelerated, keeping business afloat, minimising disruption and optimising mobile workforces.
But the pace of change will need to continue if businesses wish to stay on a path towards growth. It’s time to explore, refine and enhance the way we use technology to reach new opportunities and a better future. Angle and references used in this piece can easily be changed to give a more European or different country focus.