Why You Should Speed Up Your Digital Transformation During the Crisis

Here's why you need to change now, and how to do so on a lean budget.

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By John Boitnott

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Before the crisis, if your company depended on a physical business location and in-person interactions with customers, vendors and employees, it might have made sense to cling primarily to legacy systems and paper processes. Adding digital components like a website, mobile app or electronic payment processing didn't necessarily mean you'd undergone a complete digital transformation.

The current health crisis has changed the business community with guidelines and mandates on remote work and social distancing. Even if you're fortunate enough to continue operating, this radical change may mean it's time to take a deep dive into a digital transformation, rather than just baby steps.

Here's why you need to change now, and how to do so on a lean budget.

Related: How to Reward Employees in Uncertain Times

Crumbling legacy systems and paper processes

Not every business is adequately handling the volume that many financial institutions and state and federal organizations are currently experiencing for loan and unemployment processing. These are prime examples of the insufficiencies of legacy systems buckling under the pressure of increased demand. Healthcare and insurance systems are also struggling in this new environment.

Accounting

On a smaller scale, businesses and startups are also finding it difficult to continue using manual accounting systems that involve paper processes. For example, the new environment makes it difficult to process paper paychecks unless an employee can remotely access the payroll and accounting software as well as print checks. They must also mail all those checks and hope that their employees can somehow deposit them all while complying with shelter-in-place rules.

Payments

Perhaps your business can stay open but you primarily dealt in cash, in-store credit or debit card payments. It's difficult to continue serving customers without migrating to a digital ordering and payment process. While you might be able to incorporate curbside pickups, customers may not accept this option. If so, they'll go to a different business that lets them use an order and payment app.

Adding more digital solutions can help sustain your business during these uncertain times as well as maintain revenue and keep productive work flowing.

Related: 4 Ways to Determine If Now Is the Right Time to Launch Your Business

Discounted and free digital solutions

Cost may have been a factor in your earlier decision to delay a digital transformation. However, many companies see the current health crisis as an opportunity to help out potential customers and simultaneously attract a wider audience for their digital solutions. Many companies are offering their digital tools, apps and platforms for free or at a vastly reduced price.

There's a digital solution for every size and type of business, and these potential solutions are worth considering now. For example, companies like 1Password, which make it easy to store passwords digitally, are providing six months of access for free. Cisco Webex, which provides video conferencing capability for webinars and meetings, will extend a 90-day license to businesses whether or not they're current customers. And many LogMeIn products are available for free to companies for three months through Emergency Remote Work Kits.

Available products cover everything from collaboration and communication to HR and financial software tools, in addition to security and remote access solutions. You'll find numerous lists published online to help you assess your options.

Testing capability

Back when it was business as usual, you might have hesitated to implement new tools in case something went wrong or downtime diminished your customer experience. During the health crisis, however, you can grab this opportunity to test various digital tools and take the digital plunge.

Related: What You Can Learn From Freelancers Right Now

Many tools and platforms offer trial periods so that you can assess their solutions. You can see what works well and will integrate into your current systems to meet your specific business needs. If you are still open for business, both customers and employees will probably happily try the solutions you're testing.

For example, before the shelter-in-place guidelines, many customers had no experience using DoorDash or Instacart for restaurant meals and groceries. Now, however, these digital tools are becoming essential parts of daily life. It's a great time to see what works and what doesn't, and to get feedback from customers and employees about what works well for them. By the time a more normal business environment returns, you'll be ready with digital tools that are proven to work for your business.

A willing remote workforce

Prior to the ongoing health crisis, some team members might have pushed back on making radical changes to existing company technology. Given the new work environment, your remote workforce is likely in the right frame of mind to try new systems and processes. They also may have more time to train and practice working in our quickly evolving digital landscape.

Related: How to Support Introverted Remote Workers

John Boitnott

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Journalist, Digital Media Consultant and Investor

John Boitnott is a longtime digital media consultant and journalist living in San Francisco. He's written for Venturebeat, USA Today and FastCompany.

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