Digital Transformation in the time of the Coronavirus
Digital and IT transformations are the only way forward. Before the on-going pandemic, technology adoption was the only way ahead and this will not change once the world emerges from this crisis.
Before the coronavirus emerged and turned the world on its head, there was still a percentage of the global population that was resistant to digital transformation. But when a third of the world’s population was asked to stay home; educational institutions, companies and even healthcare providers were just a few examples of those who were forced to adapt; with a significant number of people turning to digital solutions to help them carry on work, uninterrupted. In Pakistan alone, company employees saw an upsurge in the use of meeting applications such as, Zoom and Microsoft Teams, which have allowed colleagues to stay seamlessly connected with one another and their clients. Companies that already had the experience of allowing their staff to work from home on previous occasions were able to make the transition more smoothly compared to those who were still heavily reliant on the brick and mortar system.
If we look at the use of technology from the lens of the healthcare sector the example that comes to mind is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the initial days of the pandemic. We saw stories coming in for how different research institutes were joining hands and opening up their research to allow AI to find relevant drug combinations that might help in treating infected patients. In early April, EY, SAP and Qualtrics also announced a collaboration which has been helping provide resources to governments around the world. The solutions, which were made available in 90 countries, in eight languages, have not only been helping guide citizens through a pre-screening questionnaire but they are also helping governments monitor healthcare providers and flag high-risk patients early. Such software solutions have also helped connect hospitals in need of medical equipment with suppliers who are able to fulfil their demand on an urgent basis. Adding on to this, as an example, an SAP customer in the US, who is building a new hospital was able to find a supplier with 500 hospital beds in less than half an hour with the power of technology.
When organizations and individuals around the world scrambled to help those, who would be the worst affected by the virus, through the distribution of food and supplies, software solution providers, such as SAP, also rose to the occasion. But the company did not come forward in the way FMCGs and Telcos did. The company started off by offering a variety of free technology tools and platforms to both; customers and everyone else, across the different continents. The aim was to help organizations and people alike deal with pandemic related issues while determining what opportunities the crisis would bring to fruition.
The free solutions have been helping companies redesign their supply chains, as well as, finding new sources of supply when existing supply chains were disrupted. Another, very critical issue which is being addressed by these solutions, is the need for managers to check in with their employees on an on-going basis. While the world has been scrambling to contain the virus and find a vaccine, the impact of the situation on people’s mental health has been overlooked, which is why, making a software freely accessible to managers to be able to connect with their employees has been the need of the hour resulting in an increase in the use of this software to stay connected.
Another software solution is helping support the next generation of professionals and users with best-in-class digital learning. This is being achieved by offering students, professors, teachers, therapists and experts’ free access to online courses.
When the pandemic took the world by storm, overnight, millions of tourists, students and employees got stranded as flights were grounded. While countries have been working on arranging special flights to bring their citizens back home, employers needed to locate their travelling employees on an urgent basis. For this very purpose the SAP Concur software was also made available to businesses so they could take advantage of the ‘locate’ feature to track their colleagues who were stranded overseas.
These are just a few examples of how a global software solutions company has been able to step in and cater to needs that may have been overlooked or that may have taken too long to realize. Every individual and every company has a role to play, not just when things are normal but in unprecedented times as well.
Currently, no one can be a hundred percent sure of what the world will look like post coronavirus. In fact, at this point countries are worried about the possibility of a second and more devastating wave of coronavirus. There is no concrete timeline on these predictions. But one thing that is certain is that technology has played a pivotal role in helping keep the world connected during this time. There are already debates cropping up about how many services might just shift permanently online, once this is all over. This makes the path ahead quite clear, digital transformation is not only here to stay but it will transform the world as those previously averse to the change now see the benefits.
Written by: Saquib Ahmed, Managing Director, SAP Pakistan