Trust and technology: Critical success drivers during COVID-19 and beyond
Even as we move closer to the New Reality, we’re still navigating a rapidly-evolving landscape – and it can be difficult to distinguish temporary shifts from lasting trends. Supporting clients and charting our own path through COVID-19 challenges has helped us identify eight key COVID-related themes that will likely have enduring impacts.
- Ways of working: Will remote work remain the new normal and will office or business travel become the exception?
- Labor force: Will displaced jobs return? Will automation continue to accelerate?
- Digital commerce: Is this the tipping point for the dominance of the digital economy over the physical economy?
- Supply chain and manufacturing: Will existing supply chains return to normal or be reconfigured?
- Continuity and resilience: How will companies bolster Business Continuity Planning (BCP) to ensure resilience? Will “as-a-service” trends accelerate?
- Environment and climate change: Are ESG criteria central to business recovery? Can businesses maintain them while also sustaining desired economic outcomes?
- Debt burden: Will large debts slow down recovery from the pandemic?
- (De)globalization: Will countries increasingly look inwards for prosperity?
As organizations navigate these themes and position themselves for success in the New Reality, bringing trust and technology together will be essential.
Trust and technology were challenges, even before COVID-19
Even before COVID-19, organizations faced significant challenges around trust and technology.
Trust in organizations, government and media has been declining for several years. Many companies already viewed creating and maintaining trust across key stakeholder groups as a concrete challenge that required real attention and resources. Organizations have also struggled with significant trust gaps in technology with questions of algorithmic bias and a lack of confidence in AI-driven decisions. According to the Enterprise Reboot, a collaboration between KPMG International and HFS Research that surveyed enterprise technology leaders across nine countries, less than one-quarter believe people are ready to make decisions based on what an AI-driven machine says.
The impact of COVID-19
COVID-19 has exacerbated these challenges, thrusting this topic into the spotlight. Trust has always been essential for agility, transformation and resilience. These traits are even more critical now.
To effectively confront multiple obstacles at the same time, companies must now engender trust across key stakeholder groups. Stakeholders need to believe in a company’s ability to manage new COVID-related obstacles, as well as the “business as usual” hurdles they faced even before the pandemic. This belief depends upon the company’s ability to pivot and quickly execute new strategies.
For example, the surge in digital commerce and the disruption to traditional supply chains has intensified the need for trust in the financial and operational resilience of ecosystem partners. Will a company remain in business? How effectively can they pivot to meet new demand? How quickly can they tackle unexpected challenges?
COVID-19 has also accelerated technology adoption by many companies. In a recent survey of enterprise technology leaders, nearly 60 percent of respondents agreed that COVID-19 has created an impetus to accelerate their digital transformation initiatives.1 When confronted with new COVID-related challenges, many companies rushed to implement new technologies on condensed timelines. Many CIOs who had not yet fully embraced cloud suddenly had to scale and do so quickly. Emerging technologies that had previously been hyped but had not yet seen widespread enterprise adoption — like blockchain, AI, drones and AR/VR — gained interest.
In many cases, these rapid technology deployments led to successful innovation and directly helped companies deal with the challenges posed by COVID-19. But at the same time, they often increased existing concerns around trust and intensified questions around cybersecurity and risk practices.
In addition, many enterprises are now facing new challenges around trust. These range from navigating employee safety and privacy considerations as offices reopen, to developing entirely new client relationships in this environment.
Building a trusted organization by design
In today’s competitive landscape, where customers, clients and alliance partners have many options to choose from and can demand more from businesses, building a trusted organization is more important than ever.
Companies must create a new type of trust that will enable them to manage several challenges at the same time. A strong approach is thoughtful and intentional and considers an organization’s diverse stakeholder ecosystem. Companies should integrate trust, technology and governance consciously into organizational structures and overall enterprise strategies. But companies that take a piecemeal, reactive approach to trust and technology will likely trail their peers.
An effective trust infrastructure includes six key elements. Engaging these elements allows organizations to maintain trust and confidence while undertaking significant changes and pivoting to meet new challenges.2