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One of the major impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the requirement of a new level of change management.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, enterprise leaders quickly realized they had to change the way their organizations did business. Existing business processes and even formal business models had to be adapted to a new normal where the bulk of operations — involving employees, partners, vendors and customers — now happened virtually.

IT managers scrambled to ensure their resources were geared up to support the sudden increase in remote working. Let’s examine significant impacts — positive and negative — the pandemic has had on the state of digital transformation.

COVID-19 and the Digital Transformation

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed significant gaps in the existing business processes and IT resources. Organizations, for example, typically have very limited number of applications that can handle large amounts of data as is needed by a mission critical application or department.

As the demand for ever-more real-time data grew and gained momentum, this became more of an issue. As a consequence, business processes began to have to change. Traditional workflows were no longer adequate, even though they had been used in all business situations before.

At the same time, the IT sector has done little to adjust to the challenges posed by the rapidly changing market. One of the major impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the requirement of a new level of change management.

The Impact of the Pandemic on the Future of Business

The COVID-19 pandemic helped push the whole of society in a new direction, forcing a change in the way business is conducted — and how the whole of society conducts its business. There are many examples of how businesses are evolving as a result of the pandemic. Example:

● Technology is a vital tool for public health. It improves the world’s health and makes important epidemics and pandemics easier to diagnose and contain. Cyber security has become a key aspect of today’s work and technology allows unprecedented levels of access to critical medical data.

● Technology is opening up new opportunities for financial organizations. Digital assets are not just connected, they are now under the control of people at the global level and are available to any entity that makes a request.

The Positive Impacts of COVID-19

The most immediate impact of COVID-19 was the demand for the ability to communicate with customers, partners, employees and vendors virtually. But the demand was not just for speed and agility. The market was demanding a whole new way of interacting with customers, and companies needed to re-think how they interacted with customers.

And no customer journey was too small to be overhauled. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have transformed how the world’s consumers conduct their business. Apps have become the defacto go-to platform for business, powering modern sales processes, personal banking, employee recruiting and management, customer loyalty programs, customer support and numerous other functions.

It has led to a rise in remote workers

One thing is for sure, if a disaster does hit, there is no doubt employees will leave work and go home. When this happens, a company may need to reassess its workforce and/or human resource strategy to be prepared for what the workforce will be capable of doing.

The U.K.’s National Health Service has long accepted that its workforce is made up of a number of geographic locations and remote working is common. Not only are employees more mobile with a majority working in the countryside, but we now have the plethora of online chat, phone, messaging and other social tools available that enable the potential of much greater flexibility.

Most businesses understand this, but until the latest outbreak of the viral disease pushed this into the spotlight, most were not changing their ways.

It has led to an increase in productivity for some employees

Many employees have been able to spend more time working at home than they otherwise would have, using their own devices and now relying on common, shared cloud applications. Not only has this facilitated working remotely, but it has also allowed for new opportunities to be explored — both as individuals and in the office.

For instance, non-business-facing employees have been able to get a lot more out of their lives while working from home. Many are starting to use their time productively by keeping fit, reading, watching TV, catching up on entertainment programs and discovering new hobbies.

Business leaders can see that a focus on personal well-being can have a positive effect on a company’s productivity. In turn, this should free up corporate resources to be spent on more vital areas.

It encourages innovation

While the pandemic may have slowed some leaders’ plans to reinvent themselves, it’s also spurred businesses to embrace digital transformation. Rather than sticking to tried and tested ways of doing business, these companies are realizing it’s not enough to have the latest technology.

What’s needed is a constant stream of new and emerging technologies — from the very latest mobile tools, through to predictive analytics, blockchain and cloud — that are changing the face of business. It’s no longer enough to have a nifty new app or device. Organizations need to be a source of innovations, rather than simply players in their industry.

The Negative Impacts of COVID-19

Many businesses were left feeling left behind as new technologies took hold faster than they could fully implement them. IT managers admitted they were spending too much time “chasing ghosts” and not enough time focusing on the needs of the business.

Some major organizations even missed significant sales opportunities as they dealt with emergency and business continuity challenges. Other important impacts include: A sharp decline in IT staff commitment.

By the end of the COVID-19 outbreak, many employees and companies faced reduced staff commitments due to the effects of the pandemic. For some businesses, it took much longer for them to recover and fully implement their planned IT changes.

It has lead to increased costs for businesses, due to healthcare expenses and lost wages

Every time we prepare to interact with a highly infectious agent, a cost — in terms of worker productivity and reduced productivity of the infected — is involved. Employees working in high-risk areas are asked to do so with strict safety guidelines in place.

If they have contracted the flu, they are confined to home and often unwell for several days or weeks, which has been estimated to cost the U.S. economy $2.8 billion. In the UK, more than 75 million sickness absence days have been recorded.

The introduction of the Pandemic Emergency Operating Plans (PEOPS) in Britain during the 2013-14 flu pandemic has led to a similar shortage of working days as a result of worker absenteeism. That same year in the U.S.

Businesses are forced to play catch-up with competitors who adapted promptly to new circumstances

In the months and years after the initial introduction of the pandemic, health care organizations realized that for the long term, they needed to make their companies more flexible to enable staff to work remotely.

So, before the CDC released its first live case, hospitals around the country and the world started offering telehealth services. These offered remote consultations and remote diagnosis, and brought healthcare directly to patients, as well as to staff who couldn’t otherwise travel to provide care.