Over the past several decades, companies worldwide have been on the slow and inevitable march towards digitisation.
While almost all had come to grips with the Internet and mobile technology, none were truly ready for the great remote work experiment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Until the virus hit, most companies probably had a “digital transformation roadmap”, which would have seen them gradually shift more of their business to the cloud or embrace digital communication solutions.
That roadmap, which may have been a year or ten years long, became obsolete almost overnight. With offices no longer a viable option for many companies, what followed was a mad scramble to ensure that business could continue, even with the majority of consumers and workers in some level of lockdown.
Perhaps unsurprisingly then, COVID-19 has been a major catalyst in the realm of digital transformation.
Recently, the pace of that acceleration was quantified by research from leading cloud communications platform Twilio (NYSE:TWLO), which found that the impacts of COVID-19 have significantly sped up global businesses’ digital transformation initiatives.
To better understand the effects of COVID-19 on businesses, Twilio surveyed over 2,500 enterprise decision-makers in the US, UK, Germany, Australia, France, Spain, Italy, Japan and Singapore.
A key finding of the study is that COVID-19 was the digital accelerant of the decade. Specifically, COVID-19 accelerated companies’ digital communications strategy by an average of six years.
German and Australian companies, in particular, have accelerated their digital transformation to deal with the pandemic, according to the study. Over three-quarters of respondents from these countries (78% and 76% respectively) say the pandemic has sped up their digital transformation “a great deal”.
With regards sectors, the study found that technology, energy, and healthcare companies are the most likely to speed up digital transformation in response to COVID-19. Over three-quarters of companies from these sectors said that the pandemic has greatly accelerated their digital transformations.
Glenn Weinstein, Chief Customer Officer at Twilio, said that in the last few months Twilio has seen years-long digital transformation roadmaps compressed into days or weeks in order to adapt to the “new normal”.
“Our customers in nearly every industry have had to identify new ways to communicate with their customers and stakeholders — from patients, to students, to shoppers, and even employees — essentially overnight,” he said. “Cloud scale, speed and agility are enabling organisations to innovate faster than ever. We believe the solutions being built today will be the standard for digital engagement in the future.”
Another major finding of the study is that previous inhibitors to innovation have been broken down in the wake of the pandemic.
For example, over a third of respondents said that getting executive approval (37%), lack of clear strategy (37%) reluctance to replace legacy software (35%) or insufficient budget (34%) were no longer impediments to commending digital transformation initiatives.
The breaking down of those barriers has been even more pronounced in Australia across three of those four key metrics.
Almost half of the Australian respondents see getting executive approval (41%), lack of clear strategy (49%) reluctance to replace legacy software (41%) as major barriers, and a third are unconcerned about budget (33%).
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