The experiences of this year have moved the Digital Transformation debate to the top of the agenda. It’s no longer good enough for firms to simply think in terms of refreshing selected existing channels – they have to reflect, assess and embrace what ‘digital’ means for the future of business.

So, what are the ideas emerging for employee duty of care, public perception, customer expectation and regulation? What next for Digital Transformation?

How digital became a matter of survival for business

For years, leaders have talked up the need for Digital Transformation. Many of them have been happy to describe it as vital to their firm’s (and even their industry’s) survival. It’s doubtful they could’ve predicted the scale of how correct these words would prove to be.

The digitalisation process was already well in progress, with consumer expectation fuelling tougher competition and new operating models. For instance, we were already seeing the wholesale automation of manufacturing as machines took over tasks previously done by workers. This was a shift forcing businesses to reassess their operations – and that was before a global crisis began.

Now, we’re in the middle of a seismic change. Faced with the current situation, firms have had no choice but to accelerate their transformation plans. It’s why manufacturing firms are set to experience five years of innovation in the next 18 months – and other industries will face the same. In next to no time, we’ve moved from Digital Transformation to Digital Survival – a full-blown embrace of digitalisation as the social and economic situation drives everyone to reassess their way of life.

So, how can firms do more than guarantee their survival? And what impact will today’s crisis have on tomorrow’s workplace cultures and practices?

Watch the full Digital Transformation: What Next? TechCity Connect panel discussion on-demand

A fundamental shift in how firms see themselves

It’s easy to underestimate the impact that widespread digitalisation will have on firms and industries. Many view it as a tech-enabled extension of how they currently operate. However, we’re more likely to see businesses build out from a digital starting point as they go through a fundamental shift in who they are, what they deliver and how they do that.

Look at the situation in banking. Consumers have moved away from visiting branches, and banks have adapted to offer online services. However, the next step is to view the entire business differently – not as a collection of physical locations, but as a platform for financial services.

This will completely change the way banks interact with customers, employees and investors. For instance, think of the opportunity to deliver data-driven, algorithmic personalisation to customers in the same way that companies like YouTube and Amazon do. It’s just one positive outcome of digitalisation that firms were already targeting – and now there are fewer barriers to adoption within organisations and a greater incentive to act quickly.

Where next for firms on their journey to Digital Survival?

Imagine starting a banking firm today. Would you build it around a network of branches, or would your starting point be different? It’s likely you’d follow a model that’s closer to disruptive challenger banks, looking to create a living digital network for your customers to access. This shows how there’s simply no alternative to Digital Transformation – and why this has become Digital Survival.

The challenge for existing firms is that the shift to Digital Survival necessitates a rethink of every area of their business. For example, how are they looking after their teams, meeting customer expectations, and managing brand image? And how are they maintaining regulatory compliance? It’s why transformation projects were planned for implementation over years, not the months that organisations now have to react.

Also, what happens next? How will firms adapt to such a rapid change in how we interact with them? The impact of the COVID-19 crisis will extend beyond the confines of lockdown and ask questions of every business for years to come. So, what does your firm’s Digital Survival look like?

Discover more about the shift from Digital Transformation to Digital Survival. Watch our expert panel at the TechCity Connect industry event on-demand, exploring the challenges and opportunities created by the rapid widespread adoption of digital practices, here.