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Crisis forces companies to accelerate digital transformation

Robert van der Linden, CEO Thinkwise: Within a very short period of time, the coronavirus crisis has upended society worldwide. From one day to the next, people are working from home en masse and the delivery services of retailers are working overtime. For many companies, this will result in an accelerated digital transformation, albeit forced by necessity, which will ultimately help them to better recover from this crisis.

Although our new office was officially opened last June, due to the new Covid-19 measures all physical workplaces are now empty and the door of our office is locked. Nevertheless, all our employees are working as normal, but from home via their cloud-based software and online collaboration tools.

Before the coronavirus crisis, we could never have imagined how drastically the way we work and interact would change. As a company, we were fortunately well prepared from a technical perspective, but of course this is not the case for every organization. Many of them have had to suddenly change their entire way of working and find suitable IT tools to be able to continue to operate. This may feel very stressful and rushed right now, but these forced transitions could provide us with useful insights for the future. As I have seen with many organizations, in difficult times like these, they are forced to step out of their comfort zone and drastically change tack, in many ways.

New insights, new working methods

Every crisis, whether large or small, provides companies with new insights and ideas, enabling them to differently approach, change or improve things. It is important that we do not become discouraged and that we implement actual innovations that ensure that our operations will be more resilient against a prolonged period of quarantine, now and in the future. Consider, for example, the following:

Replacement of traditional ERP systems

Traditional ERP systems often do not have a standard web client, which means that they cannot be accessed by employees working from home. Under normal circumstances this would not be a problem, but if all your employees are suddenly no longer allowed to come to the office, your organization will effectively come to a standstill. This makes migration to modern web-based business software a no-brainer.

Replace and integrate local applications

Many organizations use a hodgepodge of applications that often run on site in their own data center. Apart from the headaches they cause, these applications are usually not very well integrated and are difficult to access remotely. It may therefore be worth considering gradually replacing these applications with an enterprise low-code platform. This will enable you to create a seamlessly integrated set of applications in one single, uniform platform that can be accessed remotely.

Optimize your digital infrastructure

Many applications are unsuitable for remote working, simply because their performance leaves a great deal to be desired or the architecture is unsuitable for web access. Of course there are many ways to get around this, such as the use of VPNs and virtual desktops, but these do not solve the central issue and moreover they increase the IT costs. It is much better to make sure that the applications themselves are web and cloud ready so that they do not overload the digital infrastructure and employees can work with them remotely at any time.

Simplify complex processes

As a result of this crisis, many companies are suddenly faced with the harsh reality of the complexity of their application landscape and processes. For example, when working remotely, it suddenly becomes clear how often you have to switch between applications and the number of complicated process steps you have to go through. It is especially difficult to take over the work of a sick colleague when crucial process knowledge is required of the business process. Is this process knowledge stored in the application or in your sick colleague’s head? Reconsider the process side of your organization, both in terms of application infrastructure as well as the logic, simplicity and documentation of your work processes.

From crisis to working smarter

We are currently dealing with a terrible crisis. However, it is important to remain positive in the knowledge that we must emerge from this crisis together. We must seize this moment to gain new insights into areas such as those described above. Digital transformation does not have to be one big project, it can also start in a small way. After all, there are many areas of improvement within any organization. Either in the field of remote working or on the process side. If I have to mention one bright spot in this period, it would be that we will start to work smarter. The digital possibilities were already available, but now this situation is forcing use to actually use them.