How COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation – and how to stay ahead in 2021

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The disparity between digital haves and have-nots has never been greater, but it’s never too late to innovate.

The mounting pressure for businesses to fast-track their digital transformation journeys was kicked into overdrive in 2020. While the bell has long been chiming for businesses to rapidly adapt, harness the power of data and streamline their digital processes, COVID-19 reprioritised the need for these capabilities. It made these elements of digital strategy essential, and at a frightening pace.

There is little doubt that the climate of 2020 has been challenging, but we are left with a clear picture of what’s needed from a business perspective. The events of last year have reinforced the immense value of engaging a trusted technology partner.

The arrival of the pandemic forced us to reconsider the capabilities we had at our fingertips and adapt them to the circumstances we now face daily. Take video conferencing, for example. We’ve had this capability for years, but we never quite realised its full potential. Now, video calls are an essential part of our day, proving their worth far beyond hosting meetings remotely.

Patients can have a video consultation with their doctor and have their prescription made available at their closest pharmacy. It benefits the doctor, the patient and everyone who may come into contact with the patient. This highlights the rapid acceleration of digital transformation out of necessity – but also how the right technology can enhance employee and customer safety.

On a much greater scale, US brand Frito-Lay is a great example of a business that is currently reaping the benefits of past technology investments. The business has a hugely mobile workforce that engages with customers on a daily basis, working out what’s on shelves and what needs restocking. This service – built on Salesforce – is a cloud-based solution where internet connectivity is a must; which means that limited signal in the back of a stock room or patchy coverage in remote locations are big problems. But, by building in a solution that can work in an offline environment, Frito-Lay has cut through the issue, prioritising customer service, employee safety, and highlighting what’s possible when you combine IBM’s Salesforce consulting team and Salesforce’s technology to advance a business’s digital transformation.

Companies that invested in Salesforce technologies years ago are no doubt finding the pace of change slightly less challenging than those that rely on a patchwork quilt of applications. When the platform is able to be built on, businesses have so much more freedom to innovate, rather than needing to work out where the holes are and then shoe-horning the solution in. This is where we see the digital haves and have-nots emerge, with the disparity made even clearer due to COVID-19. The haves are reaping the rewards of establishing these agile ways of working with the platform; the have-nots are grappling with the limitations of working in a very traditional tech world.

These rewards for the haves are far-reaching and have the potential to revolutionise the way we do business. Looking to retail, with COVID-19 impacting how much time customers spend in bricks-and-mortar stores, the right technology can help businesses seriously upgrade their customer experience model, to support a difficult environment today but that will still be valuable once we return to shopping in store.

Let’s say a customer has looked at a pair of boots on the website of a department store but abandoned them before checkout. The next time the same customer visits the physical store and taps into the wi-fi, the shoe department could be notified of the intent to purchase and have a pair of boots in his size ready at the counter. The convenience of the whole exchange leaves the customer with a positive feeling and increases the rates of customer loyalty.

The secret to pulling this off seamlessly all comes down to the sophistication of the employee experience – whether the brand effortlessly pairs the customer with their purchase, or shows its hand and reveals that a machine told them they were interested in – say – a pair of boots when they entered the store. With the right technology in place, businesses have the foundations for serious innovation, but training is an essential part of the equation for unlocking its full potential otherwise this level of insight being used by the retailer could feel intrusive to the customer.

But all is not lost for those who are on the back foot with their digital transformation, provided they engage the experts. When you partner with IBM, you tap into the agility and useability of Salesforce, combined with the incredible heritage of IBM managing the services and implementation. Even if you’re burdened with legacy applications, this is where IBM excels – stitching together the contemporary technology with existing elements to create an agile solution.

It’s not too late to innovate. The time to invest in the tools to keep pace with the drastically accelerated digital transformation is now, and collaborating with trusted digital partners like IBM and Salesforce ensures that your business won’t be left behind.

To speak to a business partner about how IBM and Salesforce can help your company, click here.

To learn more about the ‘State of Salesforce Annual Survey’ watch here (<1min)

Partner - UKI Leader IBM Salesforce Practice

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