Article

Digital Transformation: Pandemic-led acceleration

Sanjeev Gulati,

EVP & Head of Digital and Operations,
Americas

Published: November 4, 2020

We are at a point in the history of mankind when technology has the potential to completely redefine the idea of life – how people interact with each other and how business is transacted. The coming together of disruptive technologies, such as artificial intelligence, internet of things and 5G, is expected to change business models, redefine processes and completely transform the concept of work and social behavior.

While the emergence of the ‘cognitive enterprise’ that leverages digital technologies has been a topic widely discussed and much debated, the pandemic has given it a boost that earlier was unimaginable.

After all, who could have thought that bustling subway systems in mega cities and metropolises across the globe would come to a halt? Offices of mighty global corporations housed in skyscrapers of New York, London and Tokyo turned empty with people working from the confines of their homes. Supply chains would be broken, businesses across industries changed forever. Some experiencing sudden booms while others coming perilously close to being wiped out.

Accelerated Digital Adoption

While a large part of the business world had started on their digital journey pre-Covid, the pandemic has brought a sense of urgency to this change.  Faced with a variety of challenges, organizations are turning to digital technologies to either redefine their businesses or scale up for growth. The last few months under Covid have seen levels of digital acceleration and adoption that could not have been achieved in several years of normal time

Pre-Covid, organizations seeking major transformations were typically either high performers ahead of the curve or those struggling. Covid posed existential threat to businesses forcing them to innovate and redefine their business model. It did not matter where these businesses figured in the performance bell curve pre-Covid. The only thing that mattered was if they could quickly adapt to changed business reality.

For many businesses, Digital Transformation efforts have, until now, been approached piecemeal or in a fragmented and uncoordinated manner, with different functions failing to work together to build a cohesive plan for the whole organization. In order to create an efficient, effective, and sustainable business that can weather future storms, digital plans should unite the front, middle and back offices, and align around the customer.

What drove the change?

  1. Consumers are using digital channels like never before – Video chats as opposed to meeting friends/relatives in-person. Streaming video as opposed to going to movie theatres.

  2. Rapidly changing buyer behavior that lead to a disruption in business models- Telemedicine as opposed to in-person physician visits, online/mobile banking as opposed to branch banking, online ordering of groceries, food for home delivery as opposed to in-store purchases, e-commerce as opposed to in-mall buying.

  3. Executives and business leaders have more time to think, collaborate and act with speed. No travel, no commute means a lot more time to think, act and digitize with a sense of urgency, or else risk becoming irrelevant.

  4. Adoption of agile has never been easier. Earlier, co-located team members was the pre-dominant and suggested method of working in agile. That constraint in our collective thinking has been proven to be a myth. With hyper-distributed Agile methodologies proving to be as effective, or perhaps more effective, delivery with Agile has helped accelerate Digital Transformation in a manner never before thought possible.

Challenges faced by enterprises as part of speeding up DT initiatives

  1. Concern around security – As Covid forced almost all employees to switch to remote working, and digital channels became the only ones available for commerce, enterprise systems were put under extreme pressure from the online security point of view. Thankfully, no major breaches were reported.

  2. Budget redeployment – Digital initiatives forced upon enterprises by Covid, required money allocation that had not been provided for earlier.

  3. Lack of tools for digital projects – Businesses scrambled as they had to prepare for digital initiatives at short notice.

  4. Lack of the right kind of digital skills – Talent issues came to the forefront as businesses rushed to putting together teams that could deliver against aggressive timelines

  5. Rushed into planning – Business leaders had to quickly identify the ‘weakest link’ in their business and address issues while dealing with unprecedented reality of 100% remote working

Projects that companies have had to prioritize

  1. Customer experience – Irrespective of the industry and product/services offered, businesses had to step up their game to ensure that the customer did not get disappointed while transacting on their digital channel. After all, it is the same customer who, perhaps moments before visiting their website, had spent time on the most evolved platforms like Facebook and Amazon.

  2. Data analytics – With all businesses jostling for customer eyeballs and attention, hyper personalization of offerings is a key attribute enterprises are fighting to achieve. Data analytics is fundamental to achieving that, almost like plumbing.

  3. Process automation- Removing all friction in business process to ensure speed at scale.

  4. Digital marketing and e-commerce implementation – With customers spending all their time on digital channels, marketing efforts must be reoriented to ensure maximization of ROI on sales and marketing spend.

Conclusion

Digital Transformation impacts how we work, socialize, and create economic value. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of digital platforms through online education, e-commerce, Zoom meetings, digital payment and telemedicine has gone up dramatically, thus allowing society to maintain essential economic interactions safely. The increased role of digital platforms in our everyday lives is expected to continue beyond the pandemic as more and more businesses, transactions, and interactions move to the digital sphere.

Sanjeev Gulati

EVP & Head of Digital and Operations,
Americas

Sanjeev Gulati heads Virtusa’s key strategic accounts for Banking and Financial Services globally, and is responsible for driving revenue growth and profitability for these accounts.

Sanjeev has had a 17 years long association with Polaris. Prior to this, he was head of the Americas business, responsible for all business development activities in Canada, USA, Mexico and South America. In an earlier stint from 2007 to 2011, Sanjeev was global account director for Polaris’ largest Banking and Financial Services client. Sanjeev led his team to more than doubling the business from this client in less than four years.

Sanjeev has a relentless focus on positively impacting business outcomes for customers. He is a strong believer in the power of collaboration across global cross-functional and multicultural teams. His core strengths include Business Strategy, Global Client Relationship Management and Commercials Management.

Prior to joining Polaris, Sanjeev worked with companies such as Madura Coats (Coats Viyella), National Grid and National Power (UK) in roles as diverse as Product Management, Consulting and Business Strategy.

Sanjeev holds a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering from IIT Delhi, and an MBA from Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.

Related content