It’s time for companies to re-evaluate their digital business models

The massive scale to remote work has called for businesses to renew their focus on operations online.
13 April 2020

More collaboration are done online amid the pandemic. Source: Unsplash

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has pushed businesses to see how critical online systems really are.

When the physical world is experiencing a ‘downtime,’ migrating to the digital world seems logical. 

For those who already have their digital offices set up, the transition comes with only a few minor hurdles. However, for some remote workers new to the digital sphere comes the danger that they could unwittingly open a Pandora’s box of configuration and cybersecurity nightmares.

Our shift to digital platform during this time isn’t just a temporary shelter. Yes, it’s a means in maintaining a lot of business operations, but thinking of it as only that would be missing out on the bigger picture. 

Digital transformation is nothing new; it’s been happening since the emergence of next-gen technologies. However, it was the emergence of Industry 4.0, where manufacturing and processes met automation and data exchange, that provided the necessary foundations for these sophisticated technologies to take hold. 

In the midst of this digital industrial revolution, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to change the way businesses operate. 

Once solid business models are no longer enough in the face of widespread disruptions. As workplaces change dramatically across all industries, each will feel the impact differently, but the pain of a downturn global economy is shared. 

While economists and experts lay out their forecasts of not-too-distant-future upheavals, predict results in the upcoming US elections, and speak of alarming unemployment rates, enterprises are forced not only to strategize and prepare for a possible global recession, but also to re-evaluate their digital business models. 

Brave New World

A significant shift towards digital businesses is an inevitable step as society moves on from brick-and-mortar facilities and operations. 

Observing this pattern and a growing dependence on a digital platforms for business continuity, Jeremy Burton, has said: “The smart businesses are going to be able to function in an environment such as this, and that’s going to be playing on everybody’s minds.

“Now, more than ever, a digital business is a necessity,” the CEO of Observer Inc told SiliconANGLE.

As companies migrate their operations online, they may be enticed by or have experienced themselves the perks of embracing digital operations, whether in terms of productivity or costs.

Both IBM and Sun Microsystems were reported to have saved more than US$110 million in real estate costs after they implemented a wider company policy of remote working. 

Even so, it would be dangerous to assume the benefits of embracing digital operations would flow automatically. Instead, businesses need to understand that having a holistic view of digital infrastructure is necessary in order for remote working to be a fruitful ground in the current climate.

Companies need to pay more attention to the way their businesses operate ‘online’ and deploy the necessary policies to promote collaboration, inclusiveness, and innovation across all levels of the organization. 

Staying connected

The first step in enhancing digital operations is to have the necessary collaboration tools in place.  

Now more than ever, collaboration and communication tools are not viewed as replacements for face-to-face interaction, but as the only viable method of contact at a time when lock-downs and social distancing are the new norm. 

Since the novel coronavirus outbreak, video conferencing tools serve as one of the main channels for daily office interactions. Zoom is one such platform that bloomed amid the crisis, with its share price going up 65 percent in recent weeks.

Other online communication tools have experienced a surge in popularity as well. Discord, an app often referred to as Slack for gamers, possesses a suite of in-app functions that business operations would find useful, practical and relevant.  Among those features is a free voice function.

By late march, the app had reported a 200 percent increase in account sign ups, with organizations taking note that many of the program’s functions and user interactions served a purpose beyond gaming. The majority of the recently registered users on Discord originated from countries hit particularly hard by the pandemic, including Italy, France, Spain, and the US.

Remote working is experiencing an unprecedented boost from a growing arsenal of online tools to communicate and systems that facilitate collaboration online. For those who stand to benefit from a digitized workplace. either through efficiency or lack of office overheads, it’s likely that these practices will endure beyond the novel coronavirus spread and integrate seamlessly as part of business operations.

The change in communication inevitably paves the way for more flexible and ‘nomad’ office spaces.

In this aspect, Ryan BarnettIPSE economic policy adviser, remarked, “We may see some firms moving towards having one smaller central office and more flexible workers, either self-employed people or employees working remotely.”