Digitalization accelerated

Photo by Marius Masalar on Unsplash

For all the human suffering and economic impact caused by corona, there’s one thing that has just surprised me over and over again these last weeks: companies and professionals just adjust and adjust quickly. Teams and departments that were stuck in old ways of working suddenly have found that it’s entirely possible to work in a remote setup.

During this week’s Software Center steering committee meeting, all the companies present shared how they kept the business going despite everything. Those developing software, meeting customers or doing administrative work were working from home, but things were progressing. Those that required access to complex machinery or worked in manufacturing were still at the company but had taken measures to protect against infection to the best extent possible.

All these new work setups required everyone to spend time adjusting, required some more infrastructure in some cases and gave IT departments a busy time. But after the first week or so, most people got into the groove and things seem to be moving forward at largely the same rate of progress.

Now, I’m not at all implying that the current situation is ideal. Some companies have shut down or are working at 40-60 percent of capacity. Many experience loneliness due to the lack of human contact. And for all the video conferencing in the world, nothing beats standing together in front of a whiteboard during a brainstorm session. My point is that we’re able to push forward, to conduct R&D, to drive sales and to keep things going to a much larger extent than what I’d initially feared.

And, of course, there’s the notion of digitalization. Changes in working behavior, interactions with customers, activities that were viewed as simply requiring physical presence have now digitalized at a phenomenal pace. Necessity is the mother of invention and it’s clear that things that were considered impossible or at least sub-par are suddenly entirely possible and will soon be the norm.

As a leader, you now have a choice to make. Either you change as little as possible with the intent of changing back to the old ways of doing things as soon as possible. Or you use this opportunity to drive as much change as possible and use this as a springboard for accelerating all kinds of changes in your organization, ranging from the business models, interactions with customers and the way sales is conducted to the way you conduct R&D, what and how you automate processes and where you use humans. As the saying goes: Never waste a good crisis!

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