- Half of executives cite greater digital agility as the best opportunity to sustain resilience in a post-pandemic business landscape, according to the Global Business Barometer survey by The Economist Intelligence Unit and supported by SAS.
- The pandemic caught companies off guard, evidenced by the 39% of respondents who said "more informed strategic planning, beyond growth" is their greatest opportunity for resilience. The ranking is fourth on the list of post-pandemic opportunities, which is "worrying," according to the report.
- Ranking eighth as a post-pandemic opportunity, one-third of respondents say better end-to-end integration of technology systems is the greatest opportunity for resilience, followed by more nimble operations.
For executives, the economic rebound of the pandemic is uncertain at best. The "survive, adapt, recover" phases are easily threatened by states reopening or backsliding into lockdowns.
"The uncertainty is crushing confidence for U.S. companies right now," said Michael Gold, managing editor at the Economist Intelligence Unit. Companies enlisting more digital capabilities can alleviate tensions or "pitfalls," especially in how they engage with customers. A recent white paper by DHL said investing in digital transformation is one key to shoring up firms during the current "pre-new normal" phase.
Respondents to The Economist survey rated the global economy as "somewhat worse" in June, an upgrade from "much worse" in April and May. Executives were waiting to see how the pandemic shaped their industries, after April's outlook was similar to March's, in terms of V-shaped recoveries. However, North America's outlook "barely budged," in terms of how executives see the economy moving in the next three months.
Pandemic scenarios are often included in contracts, but there was a sense of unpreparedness leading up to COVID-19. "This often resulted in a scramble for ad hoc solutions — digital of course being chief among them — rather than a methodical, step-by-step response," according to the report.
Companies will reckon with who drove digital transformation efforts in 2020 — the CEO, CIO or COVID-19. In the interim, 58% of digital transformation efforts are led by the CIO but 35% of CEOs set the budgets.
"What we're witnessing now will persist, but whether companies maintain the breakneck pace of change is rather more uncertain," said Gold.
The highspeed transformation witnessed since March comes with a caveat: The budgets set at the beginning of the year were geared toward innovation only to shift to business continuity. Two-thirds of decision-makers are focusing cost on optimization, while the remaining third are prioritizing operational efficiencies.
"I don't think digital transformation is by necessity a reactive process," said Gold. Digitally native companies influenced how companies view digital agility.
"The key lies in the execution, which can often be hamstrung by legacy systems, conservative mindsets among the top brass, and a lack of available talent," said Gold.