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Why Experts Say You Should Invest in Digital Transformation During a Recession

So, it’s official. We are in a recession. But some experts say investment in digital transformation during a recession should remain steady.

The National Bureau of Economic Research declared on June 8 that the recession began in February. It’s an unusual recession, by all standards — one not caused by macroeconomic financial mechanisms as in 2008 with the housing market collapse or in 1981 on the heels of tight monetary policy and an energy crisis. No, this recession has less to do with financial triggers and can be attributed largely to an unprecedented global pandemic.

It’s left the business community to make some tough decisions. Where can we cut costs? How should we shift resources?

From an IT perspective, while remote work efforts may in some cases increase the adoption of digital technology, investments in tough economic times are often approached with a more cautious mindset.

The Impact of a Recession on the Digital Transformation of Organizations Globally

In October and November 2019,  executives worldwide seemed to state that should a recession occur in 2020, investments in digital transformation would either increase or remain the same – with very few saying that would decrease — this according to research from Business Insider Intelligence (BII).

 

It would definitely be interesting to see whether their answers held true in today’s climate. In any case, many experts suggest that defunding digital transformation during a recession might not be a wise idea. At a 2019 Gartner IT Symposium keynote, Gartner Senior Vice President Val Sribar posed the question, “Globally, many economists and CFOs believe we are heading towards another set of economic downturns. If they’re right, how would you respond?”

According to Gartner and IT executives that were interviewed, the answer is for CIOs to prime their organizations for uncertainty, driving forward with digital initiatives while remaining agile and flexible enough to adapt to major changes — either in the direction of the economy or the marketplace.

Sribar continued by drawing an analogy to race car drivers that must learn to accelerate and brake around the same time — meaning that CIOs must figure out how to cut costs and invest simultaneously in the midst of an economic downturn. He added, “You have to analyze and execute, cut and grow.”

The crisis could even serve as an “accelerant” for IT initiatives. Firms that are on their own digital journey — whether that’s investments in robotic process automation or cloud-based information management technology — are persisting in those efforts, according to Bhushan Sethi, Global People & Organization Leader at PwC. Sethi said, “The focus remains on productivity and tying investments back to a business case, but new spend is harder to get approval for.”

But not all organizations are heeding the call.

E-Consultancy and Marketing Week conducted a survey of more than 2,200 marketers, which discovered that the majority believe that the COVID-19 pandemic has already heavily impacted business operations in areas like R&D and digital transformation.

Despite most agreeing that there is a sharp increase in demand for online and digital services, many are pulling digital transformation investments, when they should perhaps be investing in digital transformation, which serves to future-proof businesses. Transformation allows companies to focus on improving the customer experience, bolster digital offerings and develop brand equity.

Information Management as a Key Facet of Digital Transformation Built to Withstand an Economic Downturn

We can attest anecdotally to the fact that our customers — those that had intelligent information management as a core piece of their tech stack — fared well when it came time to send knowledge workers home to work. They had the same access to business-critical information remotely as they had at the office and thus continuity, productivity and efficiency did not suffer. Greg Fulk of Valeo Financial Advisors explains:

Ultimately, the key to minimizing the risk that disruption inherently poses is in future-proofing the organization. And one way to guard against disruption risk is with information management technology that, even in a recession, allows businesses to:

  • Streamline projects, engagements and client interactions
  • Minimize labor-intensive tasks
  • Automate client services and business processes
  • Improve the customer experience
  • Make information security a fortress

When all is said and done, the earth will continue to spin, the pandemic will pass, and the economy will recover. The question is: Will you be ready, better equipped, and wiser? Will you use this time to plan and prepare, priming your business to face the future?

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