Many businesses have been forced to accelerate their digital transformation as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. There is no doubt that digitalisation is already presenting real opportunities for businesses, and should be a top priority for those that wish to remain relevant in the future.

The recent Business Day 4.0 LIVE digital dialogue, moderated by Joanne Joseph, put the focus on what a solid digital transformation strategy should look like, the challenges and solutions of digital transformation, and the steps that are required to accelerate the digital transformation journey to deliver maximum value to customers and stakeholders.

The pandemic has pushed the need for digitisation irrespective of your business sector, pointed out Alan Duncan, senior director of Manufacturing Strategy for the EMEA region at Blue Yonder. At the start of the pandemic there was a great deal of commentary around the extent to which supply chains had been exposed and the need for them to build resilience. What quickly became clear, he added, is that resilience is not only for the here and now but also for the future. Pointing out that both customers and the market were looking for agility before the onset of the pandemic, he said that selective agility needs to be built into supply chains. “Agility costs money so you need to be profitable first,” he cautioned.

Colin Timmis, country manager at Xero South Africa, agreed, adding that it has also provided an opportunity for businesses to re-evaluate how they approach customers, engage with stakeholders, leverage skills and technology, become more efficient and enable communities to grow small businesses to be more sustainable in the long term. Digital platforms have the potential to help SMEs engage and collaborate. In addition, digitalising can assist SMEs to rise above the bureaucracy they typically come across when accessing things like funding by providing a direct link to alternative lending platforms.

The pandemic has emphasised the need for all organisations to have a business continuity plan in place and embrace new ways of working, said Sandra Orta, the general manager for South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa at Roche. In addition to revising its business continuity plan, Roche has introduced a connectivity policy which provides an internet connection for each employee at home and provided mobile phones to all employees.

In addition, the company has focused on encouraging a healthy work-life balance which has included establishing clear working hours, limiting conference calls and introducing meeting free Friday afternoons to allow staff to catch up with their workload before the weekend. Greater tolerance for interruptions from children and pets has been encouraged.

Having lost key members of staff to Covid-19 the company has also been very cognisant of the need to provide for the mental health and wellbeing of employees through a number of different initiatives.

Khetho Mtembo, digital transformation architect at JumpCO, explained that digitalisation offers business value, allowing for more a sustainable business. He stressed, however, that a digital strategy not only encompasses technology but also people and processes.

When designing a digital journey for a business he said it was important to assess the company’s current situation as well as where it wanted to go and what it needs to do to achieve that goal, and constantly assessing progress en route. At the same time, risks need to be appropriately managed.

To watch the recording, click here.