Digital Transformation: How Businesses Can Thrive and be Ahead in the Post-COVID Age


Bruno Amaro AlmeidaPrincipal Architect & Technology Advisor at Futurice

Friday, September 18, 2020

As COVID hit, lockdown progressed, and digital transformation shifted from “nice to have” to a critical survival function, businesses started to fall into three distinct camps. Those that were already far down the digital transformation road were prepared to survive - and even thrive - when most of the world essentially shifted to e-commerce channels.

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On the other hand, businesses from small restaurants to giant retail chains that were only just beginning their digital transformation had no choice other than to move as quickly as possible to capture digital revenue streams.

The final group of companies - those that were on the fence - found themselves in a sudden rush to catch up with their competitors. Yet every day a company was unable to run their business on a resilient, flexible digital framework was a day where they fell further behind their competitors.

There is no time to organically build digital competences

Digital transformation is the process businesses undergo to leverage cloud, data, DevOps, and AI in their operations. In a volatile situation where things keep changing, most businesses are too busy manning the pumps to find the time to organically grow the competences they need in-house to undergo digital transformation.

Right now, most businesses need help to bootstrap transformation, yet push back is common when external help is mentioned. The fact is, businesses make the same sets of mistakes when undergoing digital transformation. These mistakes are teachable events, but it will just take too long to get to the point you need to be.

This is the time to work with a partner that has already solved these problems. The right partner will bring your critical business infrastructure up to date in the short-term and give your team the breathing space to receive the coaching it needs over a more reasonable period.

Cloud elasticity brings resilience at scale

Consumer demand, supply chain pressures and government restrictions have forced businesses to search for ways to rapidly scale in both directions, and the cloud is the place where people go to build elasticity. It’s simply not feasible to adapt traditional business infrastructure at the pace needed to meet current levels of demand.

In industries like groceries and consumer online delivery, massive influxes of online orders have occurred as people have stayed clear of bricks and mortar locations. With consumers reacting to current events in unpredictable ways, demand may spike for unforeseen products and services, while others are overlooked.

In the worst-case scenario, demand may all but disappear, as has been the case in travel. A fully operational cloud layer acts as a pay per use service for the businesses that use it. It enables businesses to scale operations up and down - to practically zero as demand dictates. It also helps businesses drive revenue to where they have resources by helping them understand and sell only what consumers demand, and they have the capability to deliver.

AI and ML models need stable data

For those companies using ML and AI algorithms, this period has represented a real challenge in training models from historical data. If they left things as they were, these models would use data collected from conditions and behaviors that are completely novel, so their accuracy would be poor.

There is an option to extensively retrain the algorithm, however, there’s no certainty that the new data will be useful or relevant going forward. There’s also no guarantee that we’ll return to something approaching normal conditions in the future.

Companies with solid data analytics and infrastructure will find it easier to cope. A strong approach will be to have access to near real-time data so you can make decisions relevant to what is happening today instead of relying too much on data from previous months.

DevOps - more focus on creating business value

Many businesses have focused on keeping the lights on while overlooking the need to consistently add business value in the development cycle. The need to step up software development practices is an industry-wide problem with a few moving parts that need to be tackled.

Firstly, alignment must be created between DevOps teams so they can focus on the right things and move in the same direction. CTOs and CIOs may struggle to do this if they don’t understand that a problem exists, so it’s critical the right people are in place.

Cloud and data governance is often forgotten when moving from C-level strategy to a fast execution mode, whereas change is extremely difficult to foster organically at team level when people’s day-to-day focus is on their own priorities. This is where external help once again proves valuable, as you can bring a partner in with a big enough mandate to help get things done while avoiding red tape.

Finally, digital transformation also means cultural transformation

It’s clear that our ways of working have changed, and will continue to do so. Remote first is becoming a real choice in many industries - and this will affect how businesses will treat their employees.

When the world’s talent is within reach, we may start to see pressure placed on high paid local experts. The remote option will accelerate the pace of global hires - we may see very different wage structures in the future.

Whatever the future may be, those that shake their traditional mindset quickest will be in the best position to succeed.

Bruno Amaro Almeida

Bruno Amaro Almeida is a Principal Architect & Technology Advisor at Futurice - an international software engineering and innovation consultancy. He's based in Helsinki and works in areas such as Cloud, Security, DevOps, AI & Data Engineering. Bruno is passionate about culture and digital transformation and has been involved in several projects from both the human (Leadership, Coaching, Mentoring) and technical (Cloud, DevOps, AI) perspective.


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