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So, the Pandemic Sent Your Digital Transformation into Hyperdrive. What Now? Most companies have had to accelerate technology adoption due to the pandemic. So where do we go from here?

By Priya Merchant

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Yuichiro Chino | Getty Images

Prior to Covid-19, business leaders readily discussed the necessity of digital transformation and how it would change operations around the world. And while they saw these shifts as inevitable, many still took a cross-that-bridge-when-we-have-to approach.

Now, though, the bridge has been thrust underneath our feet. Entrepreneurs and executives find themselves facing a new reality where over half of all employed Americans (51 percent) are working from home in response to the pandemic. Digital transformation plans that were on the shelf or intended for later went into hyperdrive, and many were forced to put technologies into action in days when they'd been planning on having months -- or even years.

Related: Why Digital Transformation Is An Effective Crisis Response

What now?

Every company has to approach any kind of large shift with its own goals and resources in mind. But all leaders should employ the following four core strategies to build a future-forward environment and tackle accelerated digital transformation head-on.

1. Act like a startup

The it-has-to-work, no-frills way of thinking that allows entrepreneurs to get ventures off the ground is just as effective during major periods of change. Readopting the startup mindset will let you reevaluate your company through fresh eyes and with a healthy sense of greater urgency.

Startup leaders focus on lean thinking/operation and quick product cycles. They also treat relationships as critical. They tap existing connections, but they also get out of their familiar networks and echo chambers, because they know they'll need additional support and advocacy from people in a wide range of roles to reach their goals. So, cut as much as you can that's not necessary, reach out, and don't mess around.

2. Adapt ahead of your competition

Shifting early can provide better long-term gains because your entire team has more time to reasonably prepare, practice, analyze, troubleshoot, and understand how to deliver the best service under the new circumstances. But perhaps most importantly, emerging as a disruptor allows you to be the one to establish new standards and best practices across a range of industries. Rather than fitting what others have already created the framework for, you get to build the framework yourself and pull others into a specific mindset and way of work. This kind of innovativeness and risk-taking is an important attribute of first movers to stay ahead of other firms as well as an important mechanism for companies to achieve a competitive advantage.

3. Transform your culture

Digital transformation isn't just about getting different technology systems or establishing a new infrastructure solely for the sake of efficiency and profits. The deeper purpose of digital transformation is to use that technology system or infrastructure to explore, do new things, and enable the best ideas to come to fruition for your customers' end benefit.

Roughly half of professionals (51 percent) view culture as holding them back when it comes to digital transformation, with 26 percent identifying issues like entrenched viewpoints as problematic. The more your team feels supported, connected, and able to explore, the easier it likely will be for them to embrace digital transformation confidently as a pathway for turning concepts into reality together. Ask yourself if you're creating an environment that continuously sparks new ideas, delivers new skills, and promotes collaboration.

4. Navigate the new normal and define new ways of working

People can't deliver or adapt well if they don't even know that the expectations are. Clarify exactly what you want, what it means for both your company and industry and how that affects the typical workday. At the same time, make sure you give your team the resources and directions necessary to take each step. They should feel challenged rather than lost, and they should understand how to navigate the difficulties that might arise.

Related: Why You Should Speed Up Your Digital Transformation During the Crisis

Additional tips for a successful (and accelerated) digital transformation

Looking at the above four points, getting through a rapid digital transformation is much easier if your business structure, goals, people, and other elements support taking risks and moving at an accelerated pace for innovation. Some perspectives on this offer the following five best practices:

  • Start from the top. Leaders should show they're on board with the shifts and demonstrate faith in the team's ability to adapt successfully.

  • Make sure the change is necessary and desirable. Proper analysis and testing your ideas can ensure that they are fully discussed and make good business sense. That, in turn, makes shifts easier for your team to support.

  • Minimize disruption. Workers are more likely to feel good about digital transformation if they can continue to perform their daily roles successfully throughout the changes.

  • Promote communication. Transparent, candid conversations help people feel valued and understand next steps.

  • View change as the norm, not the exception. Change is an ongoing process, so don't try to give it a defined beginning or end.

All companies are technology companies to some degree. Leaders who embrace this fact are the ones who are in the best position to guide their businesses through digital transformation and, ultimately, to shape the world. So don't be afraid to see that the digital future is already here. With a good plan and logical approach, you'll come out more robust and influential than ever.

Priya Merchant

Digital Transformation Leader at Genpact

Priya Merchant is a digital transformation and innovation expert with nearly two decades of experience in financial services and insurance with top global organizations across the U.S., U.K., Canada, India and Latam.

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