Over the past year, we have seen and experienced many changes. Certainly when it comes to digitalisation, some organisations have had to adapt at a breath-taking pace. We are now anticipating putting all the corona measures behind us, but we still don’t think that all this will end anytime soon, at least not as far as digitalisation is concerned. Will we go back to the ‘old normal’? We suspect not, as a lasting evolution has been set in motion in recent months.
To put it simply, you can say there are two groups of organisations in the realm of digitalisation. One group consists of companies that were already far advanced and the corona period changed very little for them in terms of technology (it did on a human level, of course, but here I’m restricting myself to digitalisation). Employees could already work from any location, business information was securely available through an Internet connection and paper administration had already been phased out as much as possible.
I would dare to predict that organisations that were already thoroughly digitalised will go even further to operate in a completely ‘digital first’ way. They will review important business processes again and assess what can be done better. Working from home or flexible working will obviously stay in place for those who want it and HR will find new ways to communicate internally, promote teamwork and build team spirit. We must certainly maintain social contact and a good group atmosphere, so make time and a budget available to provide the initiatives needed for this.
Such organisations believe the important thing is for work to be completed. Here, there is full confidence in employees. Being physically present in the office to check on them is something you just don’t think about anymore. The way to monitor employees is by working with objectives and KPIs. However, one has to keep a close eye on the balance between work and private life. The challenge is not to lapse into excesses; employees often work more intensively and for longer when teleworking. Be on the alert for this, because in the longer term this will cause damage and make your organisation sluggish.
A second group of organisations was forced to start with accelerated digitalisation last year. They cannot go back to the previous situation. They are now going to quickly convert the measures they implemented into a permanent working method. The companies that took major steps towards digitalisation last year have a foundation on which they can build further. These companies will have to invest more in their IT department’s projects. It would be a good idea to include the IT manager in the management committee.
One could start with a project to digitalise all processes from A to Z and to automate them as much as possible. Stakeholders are also asking for this. Employees no longer expect to have to come to the office every day, or they expect the option of a satellite office. If they have the choice between teleworking or facing traffic jams, they know what they want. Customers and suppliers are also increasingly demanding that processes be run digitally and as efficiently as possible. They want to be able to monitor orders and deliveries in real time.
For many of this second group of companies, the past year has been an eye-opener. Perhaps for the first time, they saw how digitalisation could be useful and beneficial. They understood from their own experience why it is advantageous to make a budget available for IT projects. We are also feeling the impact of this. We are getting additional requests for redefining business strategy. Organisations want to link this to their digital strategy and we can only embrace this.
We are counting on organisations to think carefully in the coming months about closely managing all the changes. It’s a question of retaining and implementing the small number of positive consequences from the corona period in a lasting way, while trying to eliminate most of the difficult aspects. We also want there to be good times; the negative consequences of yet another change are of no use to anyone and certainly not now. Good support with change management, coaching and training will certainly help. Changes in HR policy, a modified go-to-market or a better alignment between business and IT can also be beneficial. I wish everyone a relaxed summer and then we will really dive into the work.
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