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The business world is changing: How to harness digital transformation now, for the future

(Image credit: Image Credit: GaudiLab / Shutterstock)

When the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK, businesses were generally in a good position digitally. According to Xerox’s global research, the UK was actually amongst the most prepared as digital technologies had already begun filling the gaps left by face-to-face interactions.

As we look to the new year, digitization will continue to be vital as companies evolve their initial work from home policies to create a longer-term hybrid workforce that meets both employee and business needs. But with only a third (33 percent) of UK businesses planning to allocate more budget towards technology despite the pandemic, progress could quickly stall.

The pandemic exposed a need to embed flexibility into every part of a business. This includes providing staff the ability to work securely and without interruption from any location and enabling a quick pivot of products and services in support of new opportunities.

This flexibility can only be delivered through the automated, digitized and cloud-based capabilities that digital transformation offers. Revenue and efficiency are two good reasons to make the jump but there are also others. Companies that keep hot on the digital trail will race ahead to become trusted sources for customers challenged by the new normal. We no longer have the luxury of waiting to transform. The time is now.

The potential to transform revenue

Research has shown that digitization benefits extend far beyond supporting a hybrid workforce. Transforming your business can offer significant revenue opportunities. In 2018 alone, the World Economic Forum (WEF) found that those lagging in their digital strategy missed out on potential revenues by 15 percent, with this figure expected to grow to 46 percent of annual revenue by 2023. The Forum also predicted that digital ecosystems will produce 30 percent of global corporate revenue by 2025.

And companies with a robust digital component have indeed found it easier to weather the unexpected. WEF outlined some big gains for digital-forward industries even amid the pandemic. For example, there is a 160 percent projected increase in the frequency of digital purchases and 20 percent annual growth in telehealth forecasted through 2024. In the UK, the online fitness content provider Wexer has seen a staggering 780 percent growth in user uptake since the onset of coronavirus.

Meanwhile, with many businesses being hard hit by the pandemic, the impact on companies that are underdeveloped digitally is starkly apparent. Not every company can operate solely online. Still, these examples show what can happen when digital mechanisms are in place that allow them to scale and/or pivot in response to market forces.

Efficiency that focuses resources

For most companies, efficiency is one of the significant benefits of digital transformation. But too many see it like going to the doctor: they put it off because it’s painful. But much like that long-delayed check-up, business after business is glad they did it in the end.

By automating and digitizing processes, businesses can save themselves time, allow teams to reallocate people to higher-value tasks, and underpin that essential revenue growth. What’s more – in a pandemic era, it also supports business continuity because having those systems in place can ensure companies don’t skip a beat.

While nearly half of UK businesses (46 percent) will be investing more in collaboration software as a result of a prolonged period of remote working, over a third (37 percent) also told us that in-person communications will remain paramount to personal development and accessing talent. The time gained from automating processes can be funneled back into these essential processes.

Building better team communications, maintaining positive and meaningful relations within the workplace and welcoming new joiners ensures that the best bits of working in person are embedded in the hybrid model.

Finding solutions and seizing opportunities 

When businesses begin to lean on their digitally-updated services, they free up room for growth and creativity.

HM Land Registry is a good example of this. For over 150 years, the government department recorded every change in property ownership in England and Wales amassing enormous amounts of data from more than 25m titles on its books.

With upwards of 2,000 paper-applications per day, HM Land Registry needed to modernize its document workflow, transferring its paper-based catalogue and document submission process to a digital system. However, it needed to do so in a way that maintained the high quality and legal admissibility of the records.

AI and machine learning are essential to this process, automatically capturing and validating the information from more straight-forward applications without the need for any manual intervention. Through its work with Xerox, HM Land Registry successfully took its first steps to becoming fully automated, with 99.9 percent of scans achieving specified standards for imaging, document classification and indexing. This means that important data is processed and stored in the correct places, but also frees up HM Land Registry’s customer service team to focus on the more complex applications, and deliver on its commitment to providing excellent customer service.

Why digitally transformation should be a priority

It’s not surprising to hear that some companies haven’t used this time to speed up their digital transformation goals. It’s a challenging time for business to simply maintain operations, let alone take steps to improve them.

No matter the organization, there’s inevitably a substantial amount of work that comes with the question “Can we digitize it?”. But the answer is very nearly always yes. Almost every process can be digitized and automated in some way, making it possible to do so much more for so much less in time and money – visualizing and addressing potential customer experience gains and employee perspectives leads to competitive advantage.

Today’s workplace is changing rapidly, and so far, UK businesses have been ready to adapt. But we need to ensure that digital transformation remains front of mind or we risk getting left behind.

Ultimately, if your question is still, “How can I afford to drive digital transformation during a pandemic?” Well, quite simply you can’t afford not to.

Peter Mann, Digital Strategy Lead, Xerox (opens in new tab)

Peter Mann, Digital Strategy Lead at Xerox.