• Adrian Clamp, Author |

The winners will be the organizations that seize this strategic opportunity.

There are thousands of storylines associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, ranging from the heartbreaking to the inspirational. When it comes to what’s happening in the world of business, however, there’s one storyline to rule them all, and that is the absolute urgency with which organizations are rushing to digitize their operations.

It wasn’t that long ago that cyber security was the number one priority on the agendas in boardrooms around the world. Alas, it seems pandemics have a way of rejigging priorities at the top of the house. And while we suspected that digital investments would be high on the agenda, we were blown away with the sense of urgency throughout the responses to our 2020 CEO Outlook.1

KPMG commissioned Forrester Consulting to survey 780 digital leaders representing 12 sectors and 10 countries to explore the impact of COVID-19 on organizations’ digital transformation strategies.2 At many organizations, there’s valid reason for concern. Not only has COVID-19 tested traditional operating models, it has also exposed a number of critical challenges, including:

  • increased exposure to security risks,
  • the need to create and operate digital channels to meet new consumer needs,
  • the need to optimize core business operations across the enterprise, and
  • the shift to a predominantly remote workforce.2

As the business world continues to buckle under the strain of this pandemic, digital is having its big moment. Indeed, 46 percent of respondents say they view these digitization measures as critical to the survival of their organizations.2 Those leadership teams that ignore this massive shift to digital do so at their own peril.

This sense of urgency is also reflected in the time horizons most organizations are working with. According to survey results, 62 percent of executives report their companies’ recovery strategies are focused on a horizon of 6 months or less. Only 11 percent are focused on the next 1 to 2 years. And just 2 percent are looking beyond 2 years out.2 While these figures are telling, they’re not entirely surprising. At a time when much of the world is in “fight or flight” mode, our human DNA is kicking in, forcing us to deal with the situation that presents an immediate threat.

In times of crisis, the tendency to think short-term is understandable. The next big challenge for leadership teams, however, is to start asking tough questions about what happens next. How is our organization planning beyond the next 6 months? How will this short-term plan fit into our longer digital transformation? How will we ensure that short-term actions don’t prevent longer-term opportunities? Are we thinking big enough and on a long enough timeline to truly take advantage of this strategic moment in time? The leadership teams that can come up with answers to these tough questions will likely stand a better chance of positioning their organizations for success, not just over the next 6 months, but for decades to come.

Average leadership teams are using this time to focus on what’s right in front of them. Exceptional leadership teams are using this opportunity to look around the corner and prepare their organizations for continued disruption. Because if there’s one thing we can predict with any certainty, it’s that there will be plenty of these new normal moments down the road.

A future-ready, connected enterprise can drive competitive advantage as the new way forward continues to evolve. A digital organization will have the capability to quickly respond to those changes, prepared to face whatever comes next. KPMG Connected Enterprise is a proven approach to address this new way forward: using the framework and our diagnostic tools across the entire enterprise provides a strong foundation for digitally-enabled business capabilities and actionable plans. It is clear that organizations which accelerate their digital transformation and seize this strategic opportunity, will likely come up as winners.

Footnotes:

1 KPMG 2020 CEO Outlook COVID-19 Special Edition
2 A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of KPMG, July 2020