Over the last few months, business practices around the world have changed. Face-to-face meetings have given way to video calls. Homes have become the new offices. And technology is not just a utility anymore, but a lifeline.
To talk through some of the trends and new opportunities, ETCIO and Salesforce hosted a virtual panel discussion on The Side Effects of Disruption. Moderated by Varun Aggarwal, Editor at ETCIO, the session touched on digital transformation, remote working, innovation, and cost optimisation in the context of the pandemic.
The speakers included:
- Deepak Pargaonkar, VP Solution Engineering, Salesforce
- Kapil Mahajan, Group CIO, Safexpress
- Rajat Tyagi, CIO & CDO, PVR
- Sachin Gupta, President & Chief Information and Innovation Officer, Usha International
- Sushant Rabra, Partner, KPMG
Here are a few key takeaways from the discussion:
Digitisation is being fast-tracked
COVID-19 has expedited the move to digital. Organisations are now digitising aspects of their business that they may not have earlier.
KPMG, for instance, has set up digital data rooms and collaborative workbenches to ensure that its consultants can continue providing high-touch services to clients even while working from home.
Leading supply chain and logistics company, Safexpress is looking at making its entire ecosystem paperless. From shipment booking to delivery, the process will be digitised as much as possible to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 transmission, while also providing a unified customer experience.
Salesforce customers are also accelerating digital transformation in areas like employee and end-customer engagement. In fact, Salesforce Care solutions are specifically designed to help businesses stay connected with customers, employees, and partners through the pandemic.
A new wave of innovation has begun – powered by technology
In many countries, including India, lockdowns are ending. Industries are restarting operations. And businesses are reopening. But underlying this gradual return to life is the knowledge that things will never be the same. We’re entering a new normal where the success of a business will depend on how quickly it can pivot and innovate.
PVR Cinemas, for example, is rethinking the entire movie-going experience. Online ticket booking processes are being redesigned to ensure that no two customers are seated next to each other. Box office ticket counters are set to become contactless and paperless. Customers will simply need to scan a QR code to book seats, or to buy snacks.
Innovative measures like these, organisations hope, will strengthen customer trust, and make people feel safer and more confident about engaging with businesses again.
Investments are being pulled back in some areas, scaled up in others
Since the pandemic, business demand has dropped, putting organisations under immense pressure to cut costs. Those companies that have embraced the cloud appear to be at an advantage since they can easily scale down applications that aren’t currently in use. PVR Cinemas, for instance, has seen its cloud operating expenses drop almost 70%-80%.
At the same time, the company is aggressively investing in strategic initiatives around customer engagement, personalisation, and loyalty programs.
Other organisations are upping their spend on digital technologies like robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI). The objective is to ‘pandemic-proof’ their businesses. As one KPMG customer put it, people may catch COVID-19, but bots won’t.
Meanwhile, Salesforce is seeing that some customers—like edtech companies, which have experienced hypergrowth during the lockdown—are investing in more solutions to enhance agility and responsiveness. With this investment in digitisation, they are better able to manage high sales volumes, while also engaging customers and teachers.
Employee resistance to digital change has softened
When it comes to implementing new technology, one of the biggest challenges that CIOs face is boosting employee adoption of the new system. Faced with a new way of doing things, employees tend to be resistant to change.
That has certainly been the case with virtual collaboration tools. Even before the pandemic, many organisations had implemented cloud conferencing solutions and other collaborative technologies to help employees connect and work digitally. But the uptake of these tools tended to be slow and inconsistent.
That has changed over the past few months. Consumer durables manufacturer, Usha International has found that even the most tech-resistant employees are adapting to new ways of collaboration. They have realised that virtual conferencing and other communication tools can help them accomplish just as much at home as they would in the office, boosting their productivity.
That’s a silver lining for CIOs because it means that as more employees become open to learning and adopting new technologies, more digital implementations will be successful.
Employee productivity isn’t being measured the same way anymore
As employees continue to work from home, the challenge for organisations is to ensure that they stay productive. While there are lots of tools to monitor employees’ keyboard strokes, or to track how they spend their time online, these insights aren’t necessarily a measure of productivity.
Instead, more organisations are looking at outcomes. Are employees completing their tasks? Are they meeting pre-defined deadlines and targets? How does their output align with key result areas (KRAs)?
These metrics are more important than checking whether or not employees are at their laptops all day.
E-learning is also in focus. More organisations are leveraging platforms like Salesforce’s Trailhead to upskill their employees for a COVID-19 world.
Finally, with remote working models taking hold, trust has become essential. No employee likes to have their every move monitored. Managers need to believe that once clear tasks and timelines are set, employees will care enough about their organisation and their work to want to do a good job.
Find out more about how businesses are adapting to the global pandemic. Watch the webinar The Side Effects of Disruption.