It’s truly difficult to put into numbers just how enormous the change represented by COVID-19 has been to us all. Seemingly overnight, the ongoing pandemic (that we’re still firmly in the middle of) changed the way we work, the way we communicate, the way we collaborate and so much more. Even businesses that didn’t necessary lend themselves to remote work had to quickly find ways to adapt to this “new normal,” given the fact that bringing everyone back into the office was more or less off the table for the foreseeable future.
Thankfully, there’s finally an end to the pandemic in sight — even if it isn’t necessarily happening as quickly as we might like. Vaccines are rolling out around the world and it looks like there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel. Soon, organizational leaders will be turning their attention towards the idea of business recovery — that is, how do we use 2021 as an opportunity to make up some of the ground we lost in 2020, hopefully coming out all the better on the other side because of it?
Well, according to one recent study, the answer is clear: you embrace digital transformation, and you do it as quickly as possible.
The Role of Digital Transformation in 2021 and Beyond
One recent study found that in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, about 49% of CIOs said that their budgets had declined. Obviously, this makes a great deal of sense as in those fluid first few months, none of us were really sure how long the pandemic was going to last and what, if any, lasting changes would be brought with it.
The same study said that at this point, about 56% of CIOs said that their budgets had returned to pre-COVID levels. This is good, and the number one driver of that has been the universal need for digital transformation — something that 77.3% of CIOs said was a major priority moving forward.
This makes perfect sense as enabling remote work for employees is no longer a recommendation, but a requirement. Therefore, securing and empowering a remote workforce becomes of paramount importance — something that also requires significant IT development.
Of course, this has exponentially increased the amount of demand placed on even the most modest IT departments out there. It was already difficult to support a workforce adequately on a regular basis, to say nothing of how challenging things become when that workforce is now spread out in countless different directions.
Therefore, it should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody that one of the major focuses of this digital transformation-led business recovery in 2021 will involve leveraging both robotic process automation and artificial intelligence in any way possible.
A lot of companies already saw a great deal of success with workflow automation prior to the pandemic, and really AI and robotic process automation will simply take this one step further.
In addition to simply helping IT departments that are struggling to keep up, investing in digital transformation in these core areas comes with a number of other distinct advantages, too. In addition to helping address a nearly universal lack of workforce skills (meaning that even if you do have seasoned veterans in your IT department, you probably don’t have enough of them to go around), it also helps combat the ever-increasing volume of support tickets and help desk requests that remote workers are generating.
Another study revealed that about half of CIOs agreed that the average employee’s ability to solve work-related issues lags dramatically when working remotely as opposed to when they’re working in the office. This leads to an increase demand on IT department employees, which only takes their time and attention away from those matters that truly need them.
But if you can automate a lot of those tasks while also delivering more self-service IT solutions to remote workers, you free up as much of the time and attention of those human employees as possible so that they can return to focusing on activities that drive revenue for the business.
Depending on the size of your business, it’s likely you’ve already come up against some or even all of these challenges that the remote-driven, COVID-19 world has brought with it. The good news, however, is that you’re not going through this experience alone. It’s happening to businesses in nearly every industry you can think of.
The better news is that this is nothing if not an opportunity to address these challenges in a way that also meaningfully future-proofs your enterprise, and digital transformation is going to be a huge part of how you do it.