Here’s how digitization will spearhead COVID-19 recovery for UK businesses

The Coronavirus pandemic has resulted in rapid migration to digital platforms as the physical office becomes a virtual one. Now that Pandora’s box has been opened, organisations need to continue to evolve, rather than seeking a return to traditional business practices.

The last few months have signaled an unprecedented period of change for businesses across the globe. Due to the spread of the corona virus, companies across all industries have had to learn to navigate uncharted waters, with swift and dramatic organisational changes.

Among the most dramatic of these changes has been the switch to digital platform in response to remote working requirements. According to one recent survey, we have seen a five-year leap in business and consumer digital adoption in the last eight weeks.

Supermarkets have switched their main focus to online ordering and delivery; banks are making use of remote sales and service teams; schools are providing digital learning content; and many would argue that online shopping has now completed its takeover from the traditional high street.

Although the landscape is continuing to shift and we can expect many more twists and turns still to come in this particular saga, it’s fast becoming apparent that in a post-COVID-19 business landscape the new normal will have a heavy dependence on technology.

Recovering from the pandemic: a digital process

In an effort to cope with the changes brought on by COVID-19, businesses have launched themselves wholeheartedly into digital solutions. In many cases, whole organisations are already working remotely, new analytics have been launched and artificial-intelligence (AI) solutions have been put in place.

Never before have businesses had such an incentive to embrace new technologies, and so it is both unthinkable and counterproductive to think that these innovations and new processes will be discarded once things return to some semblance of normality. Instead, organisations will need to look forward and appraise how they can iron out any bumps in the road that have occurred in the rush to remote work, so that productivity can be optimized.

This will be of particular importance for those industries that have had to put a halt to work due to COVID-19 or have suffered substantial financial challenges. The digital process of recovery is something most businesses have already started, but will require continued effort in the coming weeks and months.

Changing customer expectations with new digital efforts

There’s no doubt that customer behaviors and preferences have changed in recent weeks. Research suggests that the surge in the use of digital services is here to stay, with 75% of people using digital channels for the first time saying they will continue to use them after the coronavirus crisis.

As well as digitizing services, businesses will need to reconfigure customer journeys based on recent changes. If you’ve recently provided more options for your customers, you don’t want to simply take these away once lock down lifts.

Setting up new e-commerce channels, refocusing remote teams for maximum agility and launching new digital offerings can create a smoother customer experience. Where face-to-face interaction was once the norm, businesses will need to look at how they can provide confidence, accuracy and peace of mind to their customers through technology.

Improving business operations with data and AI

In any business, hundreds of decisions are made a day. Recent circumstances have forced businesses to implement digital solutions to answering these questions, at a time when not all staff members are available.

Times of great change signal a chance to review forecasting and planning models. This was the case following the infamous 2008 financial crash, and it will be the same following the coronavirus crisis.

Over the next three months, businesses should focus on developing next-generation data sets and models in order to promote optimal performance within their organisation, applying AI solutions to streamline current services and highlight priorities.

Modernize tech capabilities

Technology has become even more vital to business success in recent weeks, and even those organisations that previously shunned digitization have been forced to incorporate it into their proceedings or else fall victim to the impact of COVID-19.

Going forward, businesses will need to place even more focus on how they cope with technology, including bolstering cyber security across all software and hardware and adopting automation. We predict that big winners in automation will be call center chat bots, account opening-procedures, loan automation technology and the automation of Know Your Client on boarding processes.

Making use of cloud-based data platforms and automating the delivery of software updates will also keep businesses in the running in the long-term.

Boosting productivity with new models of organisation

Before COVID-19, it was deemed to be an essential that most employees spent their average working day in the office. But having been forced to implement remote working, these organisations have perhaps come to realize that aspects of their business can work just as well, if not better, when home working is default.

Remote working promotes agility, so instead of simply calling workers back to the office once lock down is lifted, businesses should assess what kind of structure is best for the organisational velocity of their business. Developing new models can help companies accelerate in the digital world waiting for us after COVID-19 has had its day.