Become a digital-first organization: Making the most of crisis-driven digital transformation

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Companies are using digital tools and automation more than ever. Now, as leaders reimagine and reset their businesses for the future, those who focus on purpose and culture while they seek to make the most of technology will be in the best position to thrive.

Companies are using digital tools and automation more than ever. Now, as leaders reimagine and reset their businesses for the future, those who focus on purpose and culture while they seek to make the most of technology will be in the best position to thrive.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, every company has had to adapt the way it works, and most have become much more digital. The latest Fortune/Deloitte survey of US CEOs revealed that 77% say the pandemic expedited their digital transformation. Full-time virtual workers in the United States went from less than 4% to more than 50% in a matter of weeks. Digital banking, online grocery ordering and delivery, and telemedicine have also seen step changes in growth.

Some companies were already highly digitally dexterous before the crisis and didn't miss a beat. Others, whose digital transformations were partial, unconnected, or stalled, have had a harder time adapting to the sudden requirements for remote, contactless functions. Now, companies have an opportunity to build on the digital gains they made, however haphazardly, over the past few months. Indeed, many executives are patting themselves on the back for virtualizing their business. But the technology side of digital is the easy part. The real prize is becoming a digital-first organization: one in which technology and culture are interwoven to enable a greater level of agility. Achieving this goal will require leaders to take a step back and truly reimagine the business and how it operates. They will have to champion digital technologies and mindsets while leading with empathy and purpose.

To start, executives must take stock of their company's starting point the progress they made through the crisis and the gaps that remain. Then, they can focus on building technical skills where needed in parallel with embedding a digital mindset in the organization by investing in leadership and culture. These efforts, like everything else companies are doing in the wake of the pandemic, should be guided by a renewed sense of purpose for the business, its leaders, and its culture. Executives who do all this thoughtfully will put their organization in a better position to thrive in the long term.

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