Powering through COVID-19 with digital: more than “just” IT

The COVID-19 crisis has revealed many things. One is that mass working from home is possible without losing productivity. Another is that multichannel and omnichannel companies were better able to adapt to the situation than single channel companies. But perhaps most significantly, it demonstrated the overall importance of digital for success.

It’s clear, as we work our way through COVID-19, that the importance of digital transformation has been, if anything, underestimated. Companies that were further down the road in their digital transformation journey have proved best-equipped to manage the pandemic – and set themselves up to emerge from it successfully. Back in March, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin urged employers to allow employees to work from home to prevent the spread of infection, a practice that wasn’t really very common in Russia. But it needed to be done.

The vital role of digital

Digital capabilities and communications have enabled companies to keep operating as close to normally as possible during the pandemic. And now, COVID-19 is accelerating the uptake of digital tools and thinking faster than I have ever seen.

Early digital adopters were able to switch to multichannel business quickly, because they could see the benefits it would bring. Contrast this with companies that just had a single channel to market, such as a shop or a manufacturer, who was used to dealing with distributors face-to-face. They immediately found that their only channel to market had gone away because of the pandemic lockdown.

Enterprises that already used multiple channels to reach customers, suppliers and partners were by default better placed to manage business during the lockdown. They were able to keep engaging and interacting with stakeholders using the Internet, apps, social media, email and other digital channels, as well as physical stores.

Even more effective were those that had already embraced an omnichannel business model to give customers a more seamless, personalized experience. All their channels were linked under a customer relationship management (CRM) system, and they’ve been able to continue operating more normally and relatively effectively.

As COVID-19 has progressed, we’ve found that companies just beginning to think about a digital transformation journey were suddenly pushing hard to get into multichannel.

And companies that were already multichannel were pushing hard to transition to omnichannel, because they quickly realized that they would need to have that ongoing conversation with customers, partners and suppliers as COVID-19 set in. And not just retailers, who are traditionally associated with omnichannel – it’s now vital to all kinds of industries.

Digital transformation in Russia

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of digital in Russia, as it enables a fast, agile response to both the pandemic and the lockdown, and the subsequent need for economic recovery in its aftermath. Russia has been slower than many other countries to embrace digital transformation, but the COVID-19 response presents an opportunity to possibly bridge the digital divide across all key government, industry and service sectors and promote a stronger digital culture among the population. Many areas of the country remain unconnected.

According to the World Bank, in Russia “The growing focus on digital transformation in Russia is a national priority,” and Russia is increasing activity “in data analytics, and is accelerating the use of emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and blockchain.” These are positive steps.

Strengthening security

As part of the new way of working, companies have opened up systems to cloud tools and social media use, which has meant a need for reinforced security. You’ve had to manage an increase in data and compliance issues created by the new customer journey and a massively increased remote workforce. A new cyberthreat landscape emerged that companies had to navigate.

A large European bank with presence in Russia found that it needed to respond to these challenges. We helped them by providing 24x7 monitoring of the new external perimeter in addition to all the event monitoring and reporting it received already from the Orange CyberSOC team.

The next normal

Digital transformation has become a strategic business imperative, rather than just an IT issue, and COVID-19 has underlined this emphatically. Issues like your security perimeter and communications channels, which were previously the remit of the IT manager, are no longer only an IT issue. They are now a fundamental business issue. Digital transformation has become far more than an IT issue: it is now the lifeblood of your company.

Another of our customers, a major international retailer, previously operated a basic dual channel play via its physical stores and website. It wanted to transform its operations and shift to omnichannel to allow customers to contact them using Viber or any other social media app. Orange worked with partner Genesys to deliver a turnkey contact center solution that now gives its customers a seamless, more personalized experience across all channels. Customers are happier, and the impact on the company’s brand is a positive one.

The drivers for implementing digital remain: companies still need to focus on customer-centricity while designing and implementing digital transformation strategies, as opposed to being technology-centric. Businesses need to drive digital transformation forward with a primary goal of enhancing customer experience and remaining resilient, even in the face of huge disruptive events like COVID-19. Whatever the crisis is, digital is increasingly becoming the answer.

Read more about how Orange Business Russia is helping companies with digital transformation and thriving through the COVID-19 emergency. Or if you’d like to discuss the topics covered in this blog or anything else to do with digital transformation, please drop me a line on: david.holden@orange.com.

David Holden
David Holden

David Holden is Chief Commercial Officer for Orange Business Russia. He has a wealth of experience in the technology industry, with particular focus on telecoms. Today David’s role encompasses the Internet of Things, digital transformation across multiple verticals and many other areas of digital technology. He enjoys traveling and the multinational and multicultural nature of his job.