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How the Digital Ecosystem Boomed During the Pandemic and Beyond

The ways people work and interact with businesses has changed forever, with emerging technologies driving that change since the start of the pandemic.

Times of crisis often force innovation and ignite change. The COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example. It prompted physical separation and, subsequently, a digital explosion that caused businesses to prioritize agility and digital solutions as key initiatives.

In fact, IBM research found that as a result of the pandemic, 60% of organizations accelerated their investments in digital technologies and more than half (55%) permanently course-corrected their organizational strategies. Today, ripple effects of the pandemic continue to impact inflation, the supply chain, and a reduced labor market, all of which shape the digital technologies businesses are investing in now and in the future.

Technology Misconceptions that Businesses Overcame

To adapt to and succeed in a changing marketplace, companies needed to overcome several misconceptions:

Misconception No. 1: Digital transformations require years to accomplish. According to a 2020 McKinsey Global Survey, executives stated that in just the first few months of the pandemic and initial lockdowns, their companies accelerated the digitization of their customer, supply chain interactions and internal operations by three to four years.

Misconception No. 2: It is impossible to enable digitization across a remote workforce. The pandemic showed that when employees were required to go fully remote, they proved their digital maturity, integrating technology into all areas of the business with little technical supervision. Decision makers, IT and developer teams strategized digitization, but the workforce across all departments was responsible for adopting those changes, new tools and technologies on the ground level, revolutionizing operations through individual adaptability.

Misconception No. 3: Going digital is a one-time phenomenon. Digital transformation is a continuous process that requires constant review and updates to stay on top of trends and ahead of the competition. Digital tools and technologies must be improved and updated to meet the constantly changing needs of customers in a highly competitive marketplace.

Misconception No. 4: Digital payments are not safe. During the pandemic, the desire to reduce disease transmission changed our relationship to cash and banking. Consumers quickly adopted Google Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and similar applications to prioritize fast, safe, and contactless payments, making digital wallets and point-of-sale systems a preferred mode of financial exchange. The new and venturesome cryptocurrencies and digital assets also proved to be of interest to individuals and companies alike for secure digital exchange.

Tech Advancements that Changed Lives Forever

Digital connectivity advancements are not possible without internet, broadband and Wi-Fi connections. The pandemic led to a drastic increase in internet consumption as lockdown orders increased dependence on technology for remote work, education, and entertainment. Internet service providers had to respond quickly to keep up with unprecedented demand, avoid outages, and maintain quality and speed for streaming and video calls. Telecommunication organizations such as Verizon, Comcast and AT&T responded to this evolving scenario by launching new initiatives such as unlimited data and low-cost or free service plans for low-income users. Companies and individuals alike continue to invest in the expansion of fiber broadband and wireless technology and infrastructure to maintain quality connections.

When brick-and-mortar businesses could no longer connect in person with their buyers, many created their own digital platforms to engage meaningfully with customers. Business-specific platforms include those in fitness, online stock trading, entertainment, healthcare and therapy, and large-scale conferences.

Omnichannel commerce increased as businesses sought a multichannel approach to sales that focuses on providing seamless customer shopping experiences, both in-store or online, whether directly via a company’s website or through a third-party provider. Consumer businesses furthered their accessibility through sites such as Instacart, Grubhub, and Amazon or through social media shopping on Instagram or Facebook.

Technology also changed the way we conduct business and education, with businesses and individuals relying on video software such as Zoom and Skype, as well as cloud technologies such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, Google Hangouts and Discord that allow for the easy sharing of information, documents, or other collaborative materials.

Implications for Business and Society

Gig and freelance work have become more prevalent as individuals seek to continue working at home and specialize their trades and expertise. Meanwhile, businesses hit by the Great Resignation are looking to fill positions abandoned during the pandemic.

The digital divide widens as underprivileged groups or those with limited means who cannot afford to pay for internet face exclusion. This digital divide impacts social equality as technology becomes a necessity to access fundamental resources such as health and education.

Online fraud and privacy concerns grow as users rely more extensively on digital resources, some for the first time, and become targets for fraud, scams, intrusions, and security breaches. As digital fraud is likely to increase, organizations and governments are required to implement complex security arrangements and protocols, along with extensive information campaigns, such as Zoom’s class action settlement and subsequent privacy adjustments.

Digital Transformation -- Not a One-time Event

Digital transformation has become a reality for businesses across all industries. In a competitive and open marketplace, it is more important than ever to make digital transformation an ongoing strategic effort. The question is no longer, “Should we adopt digital solutions?” but rather, “How?”. If anything, the pandemic demonstrated the ability to quickly pivot in business and society at large.