COVID19 AND THE NEED FOR DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION
This image below has been traversing the web for a few months now, and it points towards the need for an extremely serious event in order for meaningful change to take place.
Most businesses have had a digital transformation roadmap in place for a couple of years, but only a few of them have actually completed it. With business becoming almost wholly reliant on the internet in order to continue operations, issues have started popping up that weren’t known before the onset of Covid-19.
It’s kind of like programming, you design and builds a piece of software, test it to the best of your abilities but when the day comes to present your work it gets a severe bout of stage fright. That’s exactly the phase businesses are going through with this accelerated growth in digital transformation, especially with regards to working from home.
The waters might be choppy at the moment but like with the programmer above businesses will calm down, acclimatize and find the best path moving forward, others however will not be so lucky.
There have been numerous writings on how COVID-19 will impact digital transformation in the long run, I will actually be concentrating on three entities I believe that will be impacted greatly by this issue,
Digital Transformation and Government
Let us now cast our eyes towards the bastion of ancient and archaic ways, the Government. In the world at large especially when it comes to ICT, the government paves the way for and drives national digital policies but at most times it is also the last entity to enact such changes fully. The issue of digital transformation within the government is a wholly different matter than enacting it within a private company, no matter how large that company is.
Government is like a forever shifting Rubik’s cube of uncertainty, especially in democracies where most countries do not have a set path towards achieving a certain goal. Every new leader that is elected wants to do things their way, and this chopping and changing of ideas and general direction makes for quite the muddled national policy; especially if the heads of the institutions responsible for such undertakings also suffer from a short life span in the job.
Digital Transformation and Human Resources
I believe that this pandemic should push businesses to upskill their Human Resources (HR) personnel. Their role is so much more and pronounced in times like these. Not only must they deal with the majority of the working staff working from home, but they must also be able to communicate effectively in an online environment. Keeping tabs on workers’ relationships and mental health in a person is one thing, doing that online is completely different and I believe new guidelines must be created to address issues like these. Another aspect of HR that is seriously frowned upon the whole world over is the tendency of non-communication between the HR department and prospective employees. With the ridiculously high levels of unemployment around the world coupled with the severe mental strain it puts on people, HR needs to evolve into a kinder process that actually treats people as humans. If the status quo is still in place after the pandemic slows down a lot of people are going to be driven into doing something that will have an unfortunate outcome. When it comes to HR and digital transformation the lines can be a bit blurred, as efficiency can override the need for a more personalized touch. An example could be the use of an ATS has dramatically increased the number of resumes an HR department can sort through but has also taken the human element out of the process.
Digital Transformation and Cybersecurity
While allowing the workforce to be flexible is only a small part of digital transformation, it carries with it the need to ensure that services are implemented securely. Securing a sprawling corporate network with thousands or sometimes hundreds of thousands of nodes across multiple geographical locations is not an easy task. Now imagine taking most of these nodes, (composed mostly of end-user devices) and having them tunnel into your corporate network from woefully unsecured home networks with the potential risk of having your corporate network compromised rising with each connection. Not having full control of the devices allowed to connect to your network is a nightmare for any ICT and Information Security department.
Devices need to be protected from many types of risks, including theft and interference; using full disk encryption, enabling strong multi-factor authentication, and using VPN technology to access data are just bare minimum considerations. On the issue of remote work, applications, and tools to enable remote productivity to need to be vetted and configured to protect customer data and sensitive company material. With regards to the human front, we always help up as the weakest link, but this is where businesses really need to educate their staff working from home about various cybersecurity pitfalls (which they should have been doing regardless). Employees need to be more aware of scams such as phishing and business email compromise, as these may be more exploitable among staff away from the workplace.
This pandemic will of course act as an accelerant towards the full utilization of digital technologies across different facets of many industries. It will also help us to find new ways to modernize the HR process and how it relates to the mental wellbeing of workers. I do think that there should be an abundance of caution moving forward. Many entities might use this brouhaha as an excuse to bring in and adopt even more invasive techniques and rules that will threaten the very foundations of personal privacy and its meaning and standing within the law and the wider world at large.
By Dorian Collier
Freetown, Sierra Leone