Digital transformation is no longer just a competitive edge, but critical for business resilience

This past year has fundamentally changed the way organizations evolved—had to evolve. Digital transformation, once an imperative to gain a competitive edge, is now a key to business resilience and transformation globally.

No one could have predicted the pandemic, so when the world stopped in its tracks, ensuring our customers were supported was front of mind. We’ve helped them navigate the response, recovery and reimagine phases—helping organizations adapt and build digital resilience in the most trying of circumstances. We have expanded our Microsoft Cloud industry solutions to help you navigate and thrive in the transformed economy through innovation.

To better understand the implications of COVID-19 and the role technology has played as a catalyst for change, we partnered with The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Released Thursday, The Transformation Imperative: Digital Drivers in the COVID-19 Pandemic underscores the importance of needing to be digitally prepared, and shares insights into how COVID-19 has altered business and digital priorities.

Much of the results validates what we’ve been hearing from our customers, but I found a few findings interesting. First, we’ve seen businesses that had already begun their digital transformation journey feel better equipped to respond to swift changes. More digitally prepared organizations had an advantage in navigating the upheavals and challenges presented by the pandemic.

As the pandemic began spreading around the world, the digital infrastructure these industries put in place allowed them to not only remain competitive from a business perspective, but also to respond to societal disruption in a nimbler way.

Take the retail industry, for example. Buy online, pick up in-store was not a new concept before the pandemic, but it went from a “nice-to-have” to a “must-have” feature for many retailers to survive. In manufacturing, remote operations capability was largely lacking and proved to be a significant business continuity program. Digital twins technology is enabling businesses to not only support COVID-19 safety protocols and mitigate unnecessary risk of contact, but it also enables remote predictive monitoring, optimizes production lines and improves supply-chain visibility.

While operational efficiency and productivity were major factors driving digital transformation in the past 12 months, one of the core findings from the study is the rising importance of employee engagement amid the pandemic. Every industry in the survey selected it as a top area seeing an increase in technology use, elevating employee engagement from a nice-to-have into an essential priority.

As employees around the world shifted to remote work, organizations were forced to maintain team dynamics and positive human relationships—remotely—while also helping employees stay productive, develop their careers and most importantly, look after their wellbeing.

For example, to help its service technicians more efficiently repair and maintain its models, Mercedes-Benz has been using mixed reality and remote assist technologies to empower frontline technicians to diagnose and fix vehicles with expertise and efficiency. A problem that might have taken days of phone calls and emails to sort out can now be resolved with a 10-minute conversation.

As companies continue to balance in-person and remote teams, business leaders are looking for solutions to foster the social capital, cross-team collaboration and spontaneous idea-sharing that’s been driving workplace innovation for decades.

We’re also seeing an increased and much-needed focus on empowering frontline workers who have played such a critical role in our global economy and societal wellbeing this past year. In retail, Marks and Spencer has made Teams available to all employees, enabling stores to connect with their frontline employees, fostering two-way communications and best-practice sharing.

As the world recovers, there is no going back. Flexibility in how we work will be key; enabling organizations with the tools and technology to help their employees thrive in this new era of work will be crucial.

Industry-specific solutions are the key to ensuring business resiliency and accelerating growth

Fifty percent of EIU study respondents cited cloud computing as the technology that factored most prominently in their transformation efforts. Although that’s great to see, what the research demonstrates more broadly is that every industry has its unique set of priorities and needs when they’re thinking about their future and what their business needs are.

We have worked closely with leaders across numerous industries with technology and tools to accelerate their transformation, get return on their investments and become more agile. We have expanded our industry investments with new industry clouds for health care, retail, manufacturing, financial services and nonprofits.

These vertical offerings speak the language of each industry, breaking down silos to improve time to value, increase agility and reduce costs. Our industry clouds are designed to be modular and extensible so organizations can start with what they need today and adapt as they grow.

Our industry clouds will enable businesses to make faster and more intelligent decisions— providing better experiences for their customers and employees. By bringing together the depth and breadth of Microsoft’s integrated, end-to-end cloud solutions (across Microsoft Azure, Microsoft 365, Microsoft Dynamics 365, LinkedIn and Microsoft Power Platform), Microsoft’s industry clouds can deliver a more seamless cloud experience with new capabilities, customizations and standards unique to each industry.

And we’re putting the power of these solutions into the hands of the people closest to the problem. This helps our customers act faster and make more intelligent decisions, and ultimately provide better experiences.

The digital investments organizations make today will define growth and performance over the next decade.

Explore how we can help through industry-specific perspectives.