The COVID-19 pandemic will leave an impact on businesses so they need to take advantage of the unique conditions created by the crisis to prepare for the future, argue leading voices on digital transformation.

Some organisations are already taking advantage of the crisis, using it to reshape their operations and uncover new opportunities. This could be through adding a digital arm to their services or allowing staff to work from home permanently. 

A new report from McKinsey titled Reimagining the post-pandemic organisation argued bold experiments and new ways of working are now everyone’s business. 

The authors noted the COVID-19 pandemic has motivated many companies to “amplify and accelerate the small, fringe experiments that were often previously confined to digital and analytics teams”.

Gerd Schenkel, director and leader of Partners in Performance Digital Practice said he wants to turn this crisis into an enduring advantage for his organisation and their clients. 

Schenkel has a long history in digital transformation as the founder of UBank, NAB’s digital bank, and a former Executive Director of Telstra Digital. He is also the chairman of fintech CreditClear.

Some of the lasting impacts of the pandemic Schenkel identified include an increase in digital adoption, working from home, new and unique services, and additional health requirements for businesses. 

Digital adoption 

Schenkel called COVID-19 “a forced experiment” for all businesses where they moved many of their goods and services online. 

Gerd Schenkel
Gerd Schenkel, director and leader at Partners in Performance. Supplied.

He said, “We did some analysis for the rapid increase of digital adoption. Ecommerce for example or grocery delivery, all of a sudden, the traditional retailers are investing heavily in ecommerce.”

He said while the uptake in digital adoption may drop a bit, it will never return to the level it was pre-COVID. 

As businesses were forced online, so were customers and Schenkel notes now these customers who used to be reluctant to use online services will likely stick with them. 

“This whole experiment will cause some companies to make permanent changes to the business model,” he said. 

WFH

Many organisations have realised working from home is viable for the business after the pandemic. 

Schenkel said one organisation had 1,000 customer service agents working from home in two weeks when the work from home orders began.

Once the pandemic is over these organisations will continue to let their staff work from home, Schenkel predicts. He explained, “Instead of going back where it was sometimes offshore, they will stay working onshore from home.” 

He said these organisations would not have done a pilot of 1,000 people working from home but because these are extraordinary times these businesses had to. 

New revenue streams

Certain businesses that rely on foot traffic like gyms and retail stores had to close and began to expand their offerings to keep themselves afloat. 

Schenkel said people could be open to physical chains offering streaming options. For example, gyms are offering online classes for their members to do at home or movie chains offering streaming services. 

At CreditClear, Schenkel said they are offering an online debt collection service. 

He said, “A lot of clients were probably a little reluctant to switch from traditional collection for debt to electronic collection because they didn’t think it would work. 

“But when [our clients] haven’t got a big call centre to make all these collection calls, they’re forced to try us out. We then have a 100 per cent conversion from pilot to long term contracts, which means [our online service] does work.”

Schenkel said many more organisations were forced to try this outright and on a much quicker timescale than normal because there was no pressure in the past.

“We’re talking about this as an opportunity for us to massively accelerate the uptake of our offerings. I think most companies would go through some form of thinking about how this can be a lasting opportunity for us.”

Health requirements 

There will be additional requirements to create a COVID-safe working environment. Organisations will be required to have additional health-based routines to ensure the offices and buildings are safe for employees. 

For the foreseeable future employers have to have safeguards with respect to biosafety in the workplace, Schenkel said. 

“Perhaps every time employees enter the building you measure the temperature or test them for various pathogens,” he tells Which-50. 

He said after 9/11 access control became tighter and after COVID-19 new biosecurity measures might be added to security protocol. 

“It’d be the same with virus biosecurity so all of a sudden, there’ll be these lasting additional requirements to operate the workplace,” Schenkel said. 

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