You’ve probably heard a lot lately about digital workplace transformation and how it’s been greatly sped up by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet what is digital transformation, really, and what will its recent acceleration mean for the business strategies companies are adopting in the post-pandemic era?

The history of digital workplace transformation

While digitization got its start way back in the 1940s and 1950s, digital transformation (DX) didn’t even gain recognition as an industry trend until the decade of the 2010s. What’s the difference between the two? 

Technology Magazine defines digitization as “the conversion of analog technology into a digital format.” In contrast, digital transformation is characterized as “a cross-departmental effort to re-imagine how a company uses its people, processes, and digital programs to drive new business and revenue in light of changing consumer expectations.”

A pioneering article called “A Mathematical Theory of Communication,” written by Claude Shannon is credited with laying the groundwork for digitization in the 1940s. Watershed events in subsequent decades included the invention of the microchip in the 1950s, the transmission of the first message over the Arpanet — predecessor to the Internet — in the 1960s, and the introduction of home computers in the 1970s. 

As time marched on, automation entered the workplace in the 1980s. The 1990s saw the launch of the first commercial cellphones. By the 2000s, over half of US households owned a PC.

On the DX side, by 2014, the first projects were beginning to show success. The following year, MIT and Deloitte each published papers predicting that business strategy, rather than technology, would be the driving force behind digital transformation. The following year, Forrester’s Digital Transformation Forum suggested that DX should be “a never-ending quest for improvement.” 

Not everyone today concurs on the exact meaning of DX. For example, the Enterprisers Project provides this definition: “Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, fundamentally changing how you operate and deliver value to customers. It’s also a cultural change that requires organizations to continually challenge the status quo, experiment, and get comfortable with failure.” 

By talking about value delivered to customers, rather than consumers, the definition by the Enterprisers Project acknowledges that the impact of DX is felt in business markets, as well. 

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Digital transformation in the pandemic

The unanticipated advent of the pandemic suddenly pushed DX into high gear. For example, although better customer service has long been a driver of DX, businesses have previously tended to be cautious about how quickly they introduced new technology solutions and how advanced these solutions were.

Many companies were concerned that not all customers would be ready for change. At the start of 2020, 67 percent of CEOs in the US worried about migrating all their business to the cloud, according to a survey by KPMG. By giving businesses and their customers less choice about moving to new digital technologies, though, the pandemic has quashed earlier hesitations.

The pandemic has also shaken several previously held assumptions around DX, beginning with the belief that customers necessarily value a “human touch” over a digital experience.

Meanwhile, a survey by McKinsey affirms that, due to the onslaught of the pandemic, companies’ overall adoption of digital technologies had sped up by three to seven years within a span of mere months. 

What digital transformation strategy should companies pursue post-pandemic?

Companies will continue to focus on the customer experience going forward, but with an even greater emphasis on personalization and a new slant toward more “emotional” engagements.

Businesses are also paying increased attention to the employee experience by leveraging technologies that improve productivity, such as automation and machine learning (ML) for offloading routine tasks and augmented reality to enable the performance of work in ways not previously possible. 

Development is already underway of a more seamless customer experience as well as a new workforce model in which employees are being aided by automation and artificial intelligence (AI).

The pandemic has also fueled faster adoption of automation and AI. This is especially true in work areas with high physical proximity between people. These high-proximity arenas include customer-facing roles in retail stores, banks, post offices, and the travel and tourism industry, for example.

Among office workers, there’s been widespread adoption during the pandemic of remote work and associated collaborative technologies such as videoconferencing and virtual meetings. These trends will continue in the future. 

Many companies are already shifting to flexible workspaces after positive experiences with work during the pandemic. This shift lowers the amount of office space required by bringing fewer employees into offices every day. 

In another survey, McKinsey discovered that the highest performing companies during the pandemic made the strongest financial investments in technology and had the best overall technology capabilities. 

These same companies were also the most likely to answer “yes” to questions such as, “We have moved key elements of our technology to a modern architecture” and “We have made well-informed decisions about cloud adoption and infrastructure, both public and private solutions.”

How does a company like Yorktel support you with digital transformation consulting?

If your company is like many others, you’re likely to be looking to develop an enterprise digital transformation strategy that leans heavily to leveraging technologies such as automation, AI, the cloud, and collaboration to improve the employee experience.

Yorktel’s digital transformation consulting service provides you with the guidance you need to reach your strategic objectives. Our carefully designed digital workplace solutions and managed services empower your employees to achieve top productivity for the delivery of a consistently top-notch experience to customers. What’s more, our expertise in AV integration will bring your vision to life. 

We offer four types of digital workplace solutions. Intelligent Workplaces, for example, uses technologies such as AI, automated room booking, and sensors as part of the broader IoT collaboration ecosystem for creating groups of Intelligent Collaboration Spaces. The solution leverages IoT to learn when you enter a defined space and seamlessly transitions between space types when you’re mobile or remote.

Yorktel’s other digital transformation solutions include Modern Desktop, Modern Workplace, and Intelligent Communications. Contact us today to learn more about these winning digital transformation consulting offerings.