Trust in the digital world - In a few weeks we transformed more than in 10 years

April 15, 2020

by Achilles Georgiu
CEU iLab mentor, Head of MS Technology and Innovations Program

The pandemic situation has boosted not only the Digital Transformation of the companies but also the Digital Reinvention of their mode of operations. Start-Up organisations who were born in the new era and most of the multinational organisations, primarily the technology driven ones, have already introduced many of the emerging technologies into their daily business activities. They have been using the collaboration tools for many years now. Working from home, or even working from anywhere is part of their culture. These companies didn’t have to educate their employees, they only had to increase the digital resources, something that could be easily done since most of the platforms are available in the cloud.

What about those companies, which have not yet developed these capabilities? They had to transform their business just within weeks and technology wasn’t the most difficult thing to be changed. Many of the solution providers have immediately reacted to the situation by offering their services even for free in the belief that once a company chooses their solution for this interim period, they will stay with their solution afterwards as well.

What is the biggest challenge then? Educating the people? I believe not, many of the employees are curious to learn new things and they will invest time and efforts in developing their skills, and others will force themselves adapting the required skills since they do not want to lose their job.

The biggest challenge in my view is the lack of trust!

Many employers still build their leadership culture on close-up monitoring of their employees. This is very much truth for SMEs as they do not have such proper monitoring and incentive systems in place as many of the multinationals have – the only measurement of work is the working time and the availability and utilisation of the employee. Only those employees are supposed to be working who are in the office and for as long as they are there. The current situation has enforced within a few weeks the need for change, even the most sceptical leaders had to become e-leaders and start empowering and trusting their employees. This is, I believe, one of the biggest successes of the current situation – in a few weeks we changed more than in the last 10 years and the best thing is that these changes will last beyond the end of the pandemic situation. In the future, e-leadership and digital working environments will not be an advantage anymore, but they will be a must. Those who will not adapt most probably will not even survive the wave caused by COVID-19.  

The winners of the current situation are definitely those start-ups who are already being driven by e-Leaders and have an open culture of transparency and trust.

These are the ones who could quickly adjust to the new needs, which in reality can also be considered as opportunities. Many of the start-ups do not have the burden and the inability caused by the size and the history of the company so they can be flexible enough and even leapfrog the big players by taking advantage of the situation and going to the market much quicker with their new products and services.

Once we are over this crisis, companies will definitely need to reinvent their business and a big part of the reinvention should be done by adapting to the new digital world. Digital Transformation is focusing primarily on the digitalization of business activities by leveraging new technologies in order to increase customer experience and understand their individual needs better. In the future this will not be enough to succeed…

Disruptive technologies are just enablers, they become transformative only if new business models are applied.

Which are the new ways of creating value? Which actions will help companies reinvent their business? Which are the most suitable roles for the organisations in the surrounding ecosystem?

Companies will need to change their focus, new business models and new ways to create value are needed by applying advanced analytics across the organization and ensure full transparency to every direction. They will need to develop new expertise, capabilities built through a culture of openness, innovation and collaboration. The new ways to work will become permanent by digitizing business operations built for efficiency and customer centricity. The ultimate goal of the digital reinvention is to redefine the experience for the customers but also for the employees of the organisation by introducing those new products and services.

What shall the first steps be after the crisis? Shall the companies go back to the old ways of doing business or are there elements we could embed in their future mode of operations? Have they developed a culture of collaboration and trust? Were the chosen technologies the best fit? First of all, everybody should look back by reviewing what worked well and what did not. By understanding that, e-leaders will at least be able to better define the needs and they should definitely need to explore the alternatives to find the best fit for them.

As every cloud has a silver lining this pandemic situation might also help us solve another big problem of the current era. For many years now the whole world is lacking digital skills and competencies. Taking into consideration that the digital jobs are less vulnerable than any other job that require on-site presence and can only be measured by time of work, we can expect an increase of transitioning of people towards these job roles. This might take more time, but it is definitely happening as even our kids had to move to e-learning platforms and on-line education just within two weeks and they could easily adapt to it…

After all, we can clearly state that the impact of the crisis will last longer than the crisis itself – companies but also each of us on individual level should take advantage of this situation by defining our future role in the digital ecosystem.