COVID-19 has accelerated globally transformative trends in business according to senior industry executives we interviewed for our COVID-19 Disruption series.

Last week we asked Didier Bonnet, Affiliate Professor of Strategy and Digital Transformation at IMD Business School, Max Ryerson, the CEO of StratForce, and Korn Ferry’s APAC IT services VP Bridget Gray to offer their insights into the recent State of COVID-19 report published by Bond Capital’s Mary Meeker. *

Further reading: COVID-19 Disruption Series

Bonnet, who in addition to his academic work is the digital transformation practice lead at Capgemini Invent told Which-50, “With people isolated at home you have a certain amount of autonomy but you have to be fairly creative.

Didier Bonnet, Affiliate Professor of Strategy and Digital Transformation at IMD Business School

“The old saying that necessity is the mother of invention is becoming entirely true. We’re all at the bottom of the pyramid today, and we have to find ways to carry on our business somewhat normally, which is very difficult. So we’ve seen a ton of innovation. Restaurants that have been asked to shut down, suddenly turning into home meal delivery services. pop-Up stores appearing everywhere.”

“So this amount of innovation is amazing and it goes very far.  Ferrari, the Formula One car company is using some of their production lines in Modena to do ventilators. And we’ve seen the association of Google and Apple. I mean, who would have thought that these guys would talk to each other? So we’re seeing this huge amount of innovation happening,” he said.

Bonnet has also experienced this change first hand in the education sector.

“I work in education, so we’ve got to change.  The campus is closed. So we’ve had to go back to the drawing board and see how we can creatively deliver a week-long program in a couple of hours. So that requires a very different [thinking.] We’re seeing this massive innovation happening in pretty much every industry.”

According to Max Ryerson, the CEO, and co-founder of UK based StratForce, it is possible to identify a set of characteristics of businesses set to thrive in the current highly disrupted circumstances.

“The companies that have actually been working on digital transformation for some time are probably best placed to capitalise on the current situation. They will be much more nimble and [better] able to empower their staff, keep them working remotely.”

Mindset

And he says they also possess the mindset that’s required to thrive in an accelerated digital environment.

Max Ryerson, CEO StratForce

“I think obviously there are some companies that will fare a lot better from a product perspective. Clearly [a product] like Zoom, for example, has just skyrocketed.”

He said online businesses, and especially those that help with remote work are thriving.

“Then, when you look at the consumer side of things, we’re going to see a boom in e-commerce numbers. We’re already seeing it with Amazon saying, ‘we’re hiring another hundred and seventy thousand people to  meet demand.’ ”

Not every business meets this criterion of course, and the weaknesses of those that have lagged in their digital transformation efforts are being exposed.

Beyond a technology platform and the mindset, culture is critical, says Ryerson.  “You need to think about, ‘Who are your customers? How do you engage with them? Who are your competitors? How do you use data? How do you innovate? And then how do you actually know quickly create value propositions for your customers and [develop] the ability to generate those quickly. Any company who hasn’t been thinking this way, it’s going to really struggle. ”

“That’s an opportunity for people who are in the digital transformation space because the demand is going to increase significantly.”

Trust drives performance

Korn Ferry’s Bridget Gray also stressed the importance of culture and leadership.  “The reason I think this is important is that from the research we can see that digital leaders can navigate the uncertainty and they can deal with ambiguity. They can certainly lead teams through times where perhaps they don’t have all the answers or they don’t have as much knowledge to hand. So as you can imagine, given COVID -19, this has been a very powerful, and perhaps critical skill set within their workforce.”

Bridget Gray, APAC VP IT Services, Korn Ferry.

Companies that place a premium on trusting their employees are also finding their investment in culture is paying off, she said.

“We’ve been talking about for many years about externally building customer trust.’ But smart organisations have also invested just as much internally in that culture and making sure that people trust them and they trust their people, she says.

“That this doesn’t happen by accident, it’s quite easy to say.  These people have actually documented and clearly defined what the outcomes and outputs are expected of their people.

“And so in this time, where there’s a lot of uncertainty that teams know, whether it’s for the use of cloud-based collaboration tools or connecting with their leadership, that they’re doing their job and they know that being successful.

“If you can get the trust peace in your culture and combine it with really building upon your digital capability and leveraging that skill set that digital leaders have, you are going to weather this storm pretty well.”

*The Covid-19 Disruption video was produced in collaboration with Boardroom.Media

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