COVID-19, Pandemics and the Accelerated Need for Digital Business Transformation– March 13, 2020 by Jim Boland

With presidential primaries fighting for news coverage during the rapidly evolving coronavirus pandemic, it feels like we are at a transitional moment for society and business. Public gatherings are being cancelled, schools are switching to online curriculums and the impact to political voting turnout is substantial. As business leaders, we are faced with market uncertainty, disrupted supply chains and a sudden and immediate need for an effective work from home policy.

While today a larger number of companies have a work from home workforce, the vast majority of companies we see have mostly traditional work at the office setups. Albeit more modernized than years past, most companies still rely on a core business system, hosted on the corporate network, with key supporting files also hosted on a network file server.

In just a short period of time, COVID-19 is testing our plans to run our businesses with an entirely remote workforce. While some may argue the appropriateness of that response, the reality is breaking news continues to cite company after company going that route.

So are you ready?

It’s a question for all of us. Our firm is testing our readiness as well, beginning with testing rolling work from home weeks for our Assurance, Tax and Advisory Practices. While we hope the current coronavirus disruption is short lived, it may be the next pandemic that necessitates a formalized ongoing response. Whether today or “tomorrow,” being “work from home ready” is something that should jump to the top of the priority list for CEOs and board directors.

How You Can Be “Work from Home” Ready

Providing stable and secure access to your enterprise architecture and collaboration tools is essential. Even beyond a pandemic, business as usual should be supported by the following technologies to streamline your employees’ work.

Enterprise Architecture
Gone are the days where every employee works out of one centralized monolithic ERP system that’s locked down on the corporate network. Specialized applications now offer enhanced features for your industry and business model. Connecting those applications with the right technology interface and standard data models provides better enterprise insights with a lighter technical footprint. Hosting these in the cloud improves mobile access to systems and data, with better, faster and more secure connections.

Collaboration Tools
Remember the days when you had to log into the company VPN to access your business emails? It felt great to eventually remotely share project plans, financial models and reports on the file server. Skype and other communication tools further connected us with our laptops and phones. That evolution hit overdrive in the past few years. Strategic initiative tracking, cloud file sharing and video conferencing are enabling better collaboration than ever before, requiring no in-person presence.

In addition to mitigating business risk, investments in these technologies will equip your business to participate in the gig economy and satisfy the working style of millennials. Everyone is looking for ways to attract and retain the best talent; this is a positive step.

Looking at the Bigger Picture of Digital Business Transformation

Digital is a hot topic, and represents various potential processes and technologies. Work from home enablement is a part of any larger, thoughtful digital plan.

>> Read “Efficient Processes: Setting the Stage for Digital Transformation”
 
Below are a few thoughts John Cavalier, a fellow Cohen & Company partner, has offered in previous blogs as he leads the digital transformation efforts for companies of all shapes and sizes.

Hardly New
Digital transformation isn’t new. We’ve seen investments in ERP implementation, large-scale custom systems, workflow automations and reporting tools over the past two decades. However, these were often rigid in nature, designed without the end-user/stakeholder in mind, and thus failed to deliver on promised value.

What’s Changed?
Rather than focusing on discrete functions and individual tools, a new frontier of digital technology is capable of supporting the enterprise-wide ecosystem. And it’s reinventing the workplace at this very moment.

Leading organizations are focusing on decoupling growth with human capital needs, and these organizations are making investments to ensure their resources are being optimally deployed with a focus on high value work.

>> Listen to our podcast on “Using Technology to Transform Your Back Office”

What are the Opportunities of Digital Transformation?
The possibilities are seemingly endless regarding how deploying thoughtful digital strategies and tactics throughout your company can enhance the business:

  • Agility & Efficiency
    • Enhancing the customer experience by delivering products/ services real-time and on-demand
    • Streamlined and digitalized processes
    • Hyper ability to manage selling, general and administrative (SG&A) costs
  • Integrated Community
    • Streamlined communication and interactions across the entire enterprise
    • Closer interaction with customers
    • Growth and development centric employee culture
  • Differentiating Capabilities
    • Integrated, holistic decision making ability
    • Building the culture and processes that seamlessly support the integration of the human and digital resource
  • Better Decisions
    • Enhanced ability to solve current and future business problems
    • Ability to accelerate idea incubation to execution

By-and-large, enterprises have invested more heavily in transforming their customer facing systems and processes. Their success has been limited due to a lack of similar investment in the back-office. The biggest opportunity, and the key to success, is to focus on designing and executing digital solutions that seamlessly integrate customer-facing and back-office processes. Below outlines the full spectrum of digital transformation.

Elements of Digital Transformation
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The challenges you are likely dealing with today as an employer operating in the face of uncertainty can serve as a foundation for learning and exploring new ways to protect your business in the future.

Contact Jim Boland at jboland@cohenconsulting.com or John Cavalier at jcavalier@cohenconsulting.com to discuss this topic further.


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Cohen & Company is not rendering legal, accounting or other professional advice. Information contained in this post is considered accurate as of the date of publishing. Any action taken based on information in this blog should be taken only after a detailed review of the specific facts, circumstances and current law.