THE disruptions caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic on daily business operations are undeniable. Due to the guidelines placed by the government to check the spread of the disease, businesses implemented work-from-home arrangements and virtual meetings were favored over face-to-face collaborations with colleagues and clients.
In the construction, logistics, and health care industries, physical presence and appointments were still required because of the nature of their products and services.
However, for businesses that involve professional services, digital transformation became integral to overcoming the challenges that come with pandemic-caused disruptions. It is in this vein that adopting a digital transformation strategy, focused on business continuity, comes in as a measure to vastly improve operations.
Investing in digital transformation
At P&A Grant Thornton, we are no stranger to challenges. Even before the health outbreak has set in, the firm has had to roll out business continuity measures to address issues that surface in the workplace. I, along with my team, think of business continuity as a plan similar to an insurance policy where you invest in it, save it and bring it out once a critical event happens. The operative word is “investment.” Companies should not just acknowledge that critical events happen; they need to invest in measures to counter the disastrous effects of such situations.
Indeed, business continuity is at the core of P&A’s operational strategy such that we went above and beyond in gathering insights about it. According to P&A Grant Thornton’s survey entitled “The Impact of Covid-19 on Digital Transformation Agendas,” 17 percent of respondents composed of Filipino business leaders said the pandemic was the main driver, which pushed their companies to accelerate their digital transformation projects. They identified process automation and digitization, cloud infrastructure, e-commerce and workforce mobility as their focus areas. On the other hand, 63 percent of respondents cited that they already had ongoing digital programs prior to the lockdown.
However, with the rapidly evolving business landscape, organizations are now keener on putting digital solutions and strategies high on the agenda. The prioritization of customer-facing innovation and expansion in many companies have caused administrative processes to take a backseat, creating the need for digital solutions that can accurately deliver back-office tasks. This begs the question about the availability of digital services and the readiness of Filipino businesses for these changes, given that the government is still in the initial stages of implementing its nationwide digitalization programs compared with other countries.
Feasible digitalization initiatives
Although the Philippines’ potential as a hub for digitalization is yet to be realized, there are some feasible business continuity initiatives that could lead to a strategy that organizations can implement. One of the easiest is remote access, which allows a workforce access to company networks, applications and data from outside the office. If your company is not yet ready to adopt cloud-based infrastructure, implementing a virtual private network (VPN) is the next best thing. Firms can establish remote access to data through a secure connection. Using this method, it is recommended that all application and data be centralized to make private data easy to manage and protect.
The second initiative is digitalization of processes. This requires management discretion and directive to implement automation programs that can maximize the use of the human workforce. Administrative tasks, including approving documents, can be automated using workflow management tools. To determine which processes and operational activities can be digitized, it is recommended that companies create a digital transformation strategy road map that helps you assess the overall operations by identifying the current state and determining the future state of your processes. Some of the little-known advantages of automation include higher work production rates and increased productivity. For some companies, automation has become the catalyst for enhanced product quality and shorter work weeks for staff.
Another digital transformation initiative entails the maximization of online collaboration platforms. With little to almost no face-to-face interactions, collaboration on various projects can be challenging. Many office applications have built-in collaboration platforms, such as Microsoft Teams. What sets each platform apart is how users choose to maximize these platforms’ features and capabilities. Companies are encouraged to give their respective workforces tips on how to use their collaboration platforms.
A fourth and popular initiative is making meetings and events virtual through videoconferencing. By this time, everyone has familiarized themselves with platforms such as Skype, Google Meet and the ever-reliable Zoom. Many organizations have been offering different webinars and conferences online due to ease and convenience of use, making the competition among event planners even more challenging. Knowing which video platform is the best for your company is the first step to successfully using this strategy.
The next initiative on the list involves online file sharing. Since many companies have policies in place designed to ensure security and prevent cyber threats, online file sharing platforms that allow secure transfer are in demand. In relation to this, using professional cloud-based services can increase accessibility and strengthen data security protocols in an organization. Business owners should consider availing cloud services especially if the nature of their firms require heavy data usage.
The last initiative is empowering your workforce and engaging them in the entire digital transformation process. The adoption of technology and acceptance of the changes in operations are necessary for a successful digital transformation. How people think, work and collaborate must be reestablished and aligned with the objectives for digitalization.
As the global economy slowly recuperates from the effects of the pandemic, companies should consider investing in various digital transformation initiatives and projects and by developing a digital transformation strategy. This could lead to more innovation among business leaders, paving the way for economic growth amidst challenges that may arise in the future. The potential of digital transformation does not start and end with the pandemic. There are a lot of possibilities once the Philippines becomes fully digital. The imperative is on organizations in the public and private sectors to invest on business continuity measures driven largely by digital transformation.
As published in The Manila Times, dated 12 May 2021