[The #Rebound series focuses on various aspects of business that need to be reimagined for a post-Covid world.]
Of the various transformations that companies would need to undergo in the post-Covid era, a digital overhaul of business would rank at the top. Digital transformation strategies would need to cater to the drastically changed expectations of employees, customers and other stakeholders. To understand what that would entail, we reached out to Prasad Ramakrishnan, the Chief Information Officer at Freshworks. We were in for a surprise. While DT in the post-pandemic world would no doubt require massive leaps in technology use, Prasad is convinced ‘employee happiness’ needs to be among its primary goals. Not something you hear every day from a CIO.
Why digital transformation is a big deal
Digital transformation became the buzz phrase about two decades ago when traditional brick and mortar companies began moving to a digital mode of engaging with their customers. It involved changes to business processes, organizational models, and the various competencies required for increased use of technology. By 2010 or so, most companies were already digital or born digital. So now digital transformation refers to companies constantly enhancing the way they operate in a digital world.
But digital transformation is a process, not a project. You do not do seven or eight activities and say ‘I’m done with this’. It involves continuous evaluation of a company from a digital continuum perspective. In the modern era, digital transformation is the fuel helping companies reach their goals.
Digital transformation amid lockdowns
Most companies allow their people to work from home every once in a while. You opt for it when you need to visit your child’s school, attend a family function or run an errand. Now, companies have switched to mandatory work-from-home to keep their employees safe.
Think about what this has done from a mode of work perspective. Companies spend a lot on real estate, facilities, and security controls within the office. Now, many are working from their homes on public network infrastructure using cloud-based software.
Previously, there was a lot of anxiety about whether employees would be productive while working from home, about security checks and balances. In recent months, companies have figured how they can still keep their employees productive in a non-business-as-usual mode. We are going to see more and more people wanting to work from home.
This means, from a digital journey perspective, the associated technologies, processes and people issues that a company has to deal with will also be different. Demands from a public network infrastructure perspective will also increase.
Reprioritizing for a new normal
Companies everywhere had to hastily adapt to a forced event. But can we not make this part of our standard operating procedure? Businesses should begin reprioritizing their resources. Place more onus on securing the borders so your employees are able to work remotely. Incorporate extra checks and balances to ensure you do not have any IP loss or productivity loss.
Companies would also need to focus more on collaboration technologies such as Zoom and Slack. These will change the way we think about business. Previously, we thought collaboration could only happen when people are in the office. But now, we actually have people from all over the world collaborating and working together online.
So for the new normal, companies need to focus on these areas:
Assessing digital transformation in the future
In terms of measuring the effectiveness of digital transformation, first, there are the hard metrics. ‘Am I impacting the topline, the bottomline?’ These are easy metrics to track. We need to think beyond those and start looking at soft metrics in the new world. The happiness quotient of employees, the engagement quotient of how your employees are interacting with each other, with the company.
Here’s why that’s important. At Google’s Mountain View campus, you will see extremely vibrant walls painted in a particular way. You will see that in the Freshworks office in Chennai (India), too. That makes for an extremely vibrant environment. The barista making hot coffee as you walk by the snack counter gives you an aura of ‘hey, I’m home’. People are gonna miss that. People are going to miss that social element.
So apart from measuring the hard metrics, companies should start looking at ways to measure the soft metrics. Companies need to try and figure how to measure employee engagement, how to measure the happiness quotient. The human element, human interaction, the social aspect—this is one area where you are going to see a tremendous amount of investment in technology.
We will see a lot of transformation from the perspective of employee engagement, employee happiness, employee productivity. That is going to be the next level of digital transformation.
Human parent, verbal paraphasia champ, practising introvert, rediscovering music. Also Lead-editor at Freshworks.
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