16 February 2021

How the pandemic accelerated digital transformation to enable a remote workforce

Smart Living

by Christine Horton

Digital transformation has been a boardroom buzzword for some time, with organisations keen to deploy technology to gain a competitive advantage – whether that’s increasing productivity, lowering operating costs, improving customer service or any other metric through which success is measured.

In many instances, however, these endeavours remained in the planning stage. That was until COVID-19 forced the rapid adoption of digital technologies, bringing about years of change in just a few months.

One McKinsey executive survey reports that companies have accelerated the digitisation of their customer and supply chain interactions, and of their internal operations by three to four years. Moreover, the share of digital or digitally enabled products in their portfolios has accelerated by seven years. Separate research shows the number of digital initiatives that IT departments must deliver has increased by 21 percent in the UK alone.

Organisations called on their IT providers to help roll out new remote workforces overnight. We saw that reports of the ‘death of the PC’ were greatly exaggerated, and those companies that could get devices like laptops and notebooks into the hands of employees were heroes.

Similarly, cybersecurity became an even greater priority among organisations with the coronavirus leaving UK businesses exposed to an unprecedented level of cyberattack.

However, there has been an interesting – and unexpected – side-effect of the huge demand for connected devices: a boost to sustainable IT.

Accidental boost to circular IT

Of course, sustainability is an increasingly important factor when sourcing technology today. However, the events of 2020 inadvertently caused a surge in demand for circular – or refurbed – devices. This is because the overwhelming need to equip working-from-home employees with IT meant any pre-pandemic preferences (or snobbery) for new devices disappeared.

Compounded by supply chain problems with some manufacturers, suppliers saw an increase in demand for PCs, laptops and notebooks – of any description. (Necessity is, after all, the mother of invention.)

“We saw an explosion in demand for circular equipment in the early stages of the pandemic,” said Leon Timmermans, CEO of circular IT specialist, Flex IT. “In February, March last year, a lot of large enterprises needed 20,000 – 30,000 notebooks instantly, otherwise people wouldn’t be able to work from home. Everybody was asking for a notebook, and they didn’t care anymore if it was new. The acceptance of circular IT was no longer a discussion on pricing – customers wanted to know, ‘do you have it in stock? Can you ship it?’”

The pandemic has certainly accelerated digital transformation, but it has also forced organisations to ‘do more with less’ where they can. These developments, along with new ways of working and collaborating with colleagues and customers, may provide other unforeseen advantages to our working lives moving forward. That could be making it easier to connect with people. Or even just setting our expectations a little differently to what we may have in the past, which may be a positive thing, too.

Photo by Diogo Ascenso on Unsplash