However, any formal digital transformation initiatives that were in place in January were undoubtedly put on the back burner, thanks to the various COVID-19 lockdowns around the world.

While some companies may resume their digital transformation initiatives as they go back to the office, others will be forced to take a different approach. They may, for instance, have realised that having a fully remote workforce can help them save on overheads and be more resilient in the face of external crises.

But what implications does going fully remote have for an organisation's digital transformation initiatives and how can it ensure they're as effective as possible? Here are three such ways:

1. It can accelerate the shift

One of the most important points about this type of transformation is that it's not about the technology. It's far more about a shift in mindset and ways of doing business. While technology is important, its primary role is as an enabler of digital transformation.

In that respect, a shift to remote work can help accelerate the transition. With no choice but to meet and collaborate in digital settings, people are forced to change their way of thinking.

For example, someone who may have not liked the idea of online meetings or collaboration on projects will quickly see that interactions can be just as effective as when they're done in person.

That, in turn, may make them more open to embracing digital transformation across other aspects of the business. This includes its products, offerings and marketing strategy among others.

2. It enables the environment

In order for remote work to have this accelerated effect on digital transformation, the organisation has to create an enabling environment.

When doing so, organisations should consider the following:
  • Visibility of information: With people more spread out than ever, it's critical that all kinds of information are stored centrally that employees can access it from anywhere.
  • Security: The early days of lockdown, in particular, highlighted how much more of a concern security will be going forward, with phishing attacks rising dramatically. It's, therefore, vital that the organisation has proper guidelines and controls in place and that it continually educates staff on the latest threats.
  • Ease of use: Going remote may require a different set of tools and systems to those used in the office. It's critical that these are easy to use and intuitive, otherwise they will be bypassed.
  • Speed of response: In an office setting, getting feedback on an important question can be as simple as walking up to someone's desk. When everyone's remote, that's simply not possible. It's important, therefore, that feedback and collaboration be fast (organisations should communicate what they consider reasonable timeframes), so that no one is wasting time waiting for information.
  • Convenience for customers: When everyone in an organisation is remote, investing in a great support system that caters for multiple channels of communication, but keeps information in a central place is pivotal.
These are all things that are critical to digital transformation anyway, but in a remote setting extra attention needs to be paid to them.

3. It begins the process

While having a fully remote workforce can accelerate digital transformation, it is important to remember that it is a process. As is the case with its onsite equivalent, digital maturity won't happen overnight.

In fact, trying to achieve instant the results you want will likely result in resistance and pushback, ultimately hampering an organisation on its way there.

The best place to start this process in both onsite and remote settings is with digital communication (both internal and external). It's something that is generally simple to understand and which can be standardised relatively easily.

Implemented properly, it can set all organisations, remote or otherwise, on the path to digital maturity.

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