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How COVID-19 is Accelerating Digital Transformation 

COVID-19 has drastically upended life as we know it, with the pandemic rapidly accelerating digital transformation in many aspects of our lives and economy.

COVID-19 has drastically upended life as we know it, and it’s very unlikely that things will go back to “normal.” Many aspects of our lives and our economy are being rapidly transformed. It is impossible to know exactly what the world will look like post-coronavirus, but one thing is certain: The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation. 

Digital transformation has been a buzzword for some time now, with most companies saying that they either have a digital transformation strategy in place, or plan to have one in the near future. Unfortunately, organizations no longer have the luxury of waiting until the right time or playing it by ear. Almost overnight, millions of employees suddenly have to work from home. Supply chains have been disrupted. Live events are non-existent. 

And everything has gone online. When people want something, they order from the web or an app. Interaction with retailers has been reduced to contactless deliveries. In other words, businesses must complete their digital transformation or risk failure. 

As Gartner senior director analyst Sandy Shen said, “This is a wake-up call for organizations that have placed too much focus on daily operational needs at the expense of investing in digital business and long-term resilience. Businesses that can shift technology capacity and investments to digital platforms will mitigate the impact of the outbreak and keep their companies running smoothly now, and over the long term.”

While different industries are adapting to the sudden need for digital transformation in different ways, most organizations will see increased adoption of the following:

 

Telecommuting

The most disruptive change for many enterprises is the mandatory move to telecommuting. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only about a third of Americans were able to work from home before the pandemic struck. Now, companies must scramble to facilitate telecommuting on a mass scale and adopt proactive work-from-home policies. This means many organizations must quickly invest in and/or scale their technology capabilities, including videoconferencing, collaboration tools, document sharing, and messaging. 

With millions of people suddenly working from home, networks will be pushed to their limits, and capacity will likely have to be increased. Our current infrastructure is generally designed to accommodate higher levels of activity at certain times of the day, such as in the evening when many people return home from work and go online to access streaming content and video games. Now, internet use is constant all day, with millions of end users sharing the same internet connections. 

According to former FCC chief technology officer Jon Peha, “Lives depend on reducing face-to-face interaction, and the internet is perfect for that. But there is a risk that usage will surge and capacity will be inadequate and performance will suffer. This is new ground for all of us.” 

Network service providers will need to ensure they can supply the low latency and high processing power that this new distributed digital landscape requires. 

 

Automation

Covid-19 will spawn a lot more robots needing a lot more bandwidth and connectivity. Before the pandemic, it was widely believed that robots and automation would create a large-scale unemployment crisis. Now that we’re seeing massive job losses, people are asking if automation can save our economy and protect us from future pandemics. 

Automation not only keeps people safe, but it keeps industries running when people are unavailable to run them. Through automation, manufacturers can continue creating products with fewer on-site workers. Warehouse robots and semi-automated distribution centers enable packages and provisions to be delivered to customers at close to the same speed as before. Retail kiosks, e-commerce stores and digital payments allow us to significantly limit face-to-face contact. Given that the pandemic will also likely require supply chains to move closer to home, automation will be critical to greater efficiency and cost savings.

 

On-demand services

On-demand services have always been an important aspect of digital transformation. Businesses that successfully leverage mobile ordering and delivery apps are still able to continue operations in the face of social distancing orders. Restaurants, for example, have been able to remain open for take-out services, and many are using delivery apps like Doordash and Uber Eats. 

On-demand delivery of many types of essential goods may become the norm, rather than a cutting-edge service. Many businesses may even discover that this model is cheaper and makes inventory management easier. Companies like Amazon and Ocado already base their business on this type of operating model and have a significant head start on their competitors. Major retailers and grocery chains will likely ramp up their own service delivery apps and adjust their supply chains accordingly. 

 

Virtual events

The live events industry, along with the travel and hospitality industries associated with it, has been one of the heaviest hit. Sporting events, concerts, conferences, trade shows, theater, and even the Olympics have suddenly been canceled. Where possible, these live events are being re-engineered as virtual events. 

This can be difficult. Sales and marketing professionals rely on trade shows to network with industry peers, generate awareness of their brand and demand for their products, and move prospective deals further along in the buying cycle. Virtual event platforms are an absolute necessity for organizations that want to drive business from conferences during this time. 

We will likely see a huge increase in the number of people attending virtual events. And the more attendees there are, the more bandwidth you need. Online events with multiple presentations, chats, polls, screen sharing, and downloadable content will require a lot of bandwidth. And with substantially lower costs for attendees and promoters, and much greater flexibility in content formats, many events may remain virtual after the pandemic has passed.

All of us at Netrality are thinking of the many people and businesses affected by this ongoing catastrophe. As an interconnected colocation data center provider, we are in a unique position to help organizations of all types by empowering them with the ultra-low latency, high processing power and always-on connectivity required for digital transformation initiatives. By connecting at the edge – the periphery of the network closest to end users – enterprises can leverage technologies such as hybrid cloud, artificial intelligence, machine learning, IoT, virtual reality, and 5G to provide the services people need most. Contact us for more information.