COVID-19 was,unsurprisingly, the biggest story of the year. And within that, there has been a huge variety of stories about how business has adapted in response to the pandemic. It was as soon as the national lockdowns took hold that this was going to be an incredibly challenging year for business and technology - remote working, digital collaboration, security, customer engagement, supply chain management - all these capabilities were put under the microscope throughout the year.
Some businesses thrived, whilst others suffered. But the one key lesson we have taken away is that COVID-19 has accelerated investments across how businesses think about their operations. Resilience is key and all eyes are on employee and customer experience. It is worth checking out diginomica's dedicated COVID-19 resource hub for all of our content related to the pandemic, but we have picked a few highlights here, showcasing how businesses stepped up to the challenge.
To give you an idea of the scale of the operation at hand, Nestlé has thousands of applications, deals with over 1 million transactions a day, has 2,000 websites, more than 6 million IT support interactions a year, 5,000 IT professionals and hundreds of partners. This means huge scale and complexity.
To this end, Nestlé has been undertaking an extensive technology transformation programme, which was recently put to the test as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded
Why? This example from Nestlé highlights how those companies that had been thinking about their technology roadmap and operations for the years prior to 2020, were well placed to handle the challenges posed by COVID-19. It's worth noting that the company not only considers the role of technology, but also the behaviours of the organisation as key.
Bank of America, with its 66 million customers, soon found itself in the position, like many other banks, of needing to offer loan payment holidays and deferrals for homeowners on their mortgage. However, the speed at which the crisis escalated meant that the Bank needed to implement new processes rapidly to deal with customer enquiries and also make use of trusted sources of data to visualise and map how COVID-19 was impacting its customer base.
Why? This behind the scenes look at one of the largest financial institutions in the US provides insight into the necessary data work required to respond rapidly in a crisis.
On March 16th those leaders heard the instruction that the nationwide lockdown in the UK was highly likely and swung into action to protect as many residents as possible from the worse effects of the virus while being constrained by physical distancing.
Fortuitously the London council had digital and data tools already in place to help achieve that undertaking.
Why? It has been a consistent theme throughout the past few months that making effective use of data can significantly improve outcomes and service delivery. This is particularly true when looking at the public sector. We love this case study because it shows how local authorities took initiative, without waiting for orders from central government, to improve access to services for citizens during difficult national lockdowns.
This time has been an incredible change for many people in their everyday life around the world. We have been working from home. We have been giving education to our kids through digital tools at home. This has significantly changed the way that we think about our homes. This is an incredible opportunity for IKEA as a home furnishing retailer. We have been going with our customers on this journey, adapting to their needs and fulfilling what they're asking us.
Why? It has been a mixed bag for retailers during the pandemic. Those that have historically relied on the high street and footfall for sales have suffered greatly, whilst those that had invested in omni-channel capabilities have fared better. Some retailers - those that happen to cater to unique COVID-19 consumer demands - have thrived. IKEA is one such example, as it now works with Google to capitalise on the opportunity of people spending more time at home, and therefore investing in their homes.
The Nottingham has had a digital strategy in place for over three years, which served it well in the initial fallout from COVID-19. But as CEO David Marlow outlined at the Salesforce Live UK & Ireland event this week, the rapid changes in consumer expectations and the workplace are forcing the building society to go deeper with its transformation.
Part of this involves moving to the Salesforce Financial Services Cloud to completely reengineer the organisation's process for the digital, with the aim of creating an immersive experience for members.
Why? The shift to distributed working and the increase in expectations from customers during COVID-19 have forced the Nottingham Building Society to make deeper investments in its Salesforce implementation. The Building Society is adopting a process-focused strategy, which aims to introduce digital service features that require less human or manual intervention.
While many people are still working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, increasing numbers of employers are reopening their headquarters following months of lockdown in the UK. The return to the office is likely to be an anxious time for workers - especially with the thought of travelling on jam-packed public transport, where maintaining social distance is a challenge.
Why? This story of how Trainline - an app that provides train travel information - is an excellent example of how crowdsourced data can be used to provide informative services for users. The use of open source technology, data collection and alerts allowed Trainline to help commuters stay safe upon their return to the office.
The approach in Scotland was very much around the human expertise and the human aspect. This is different to England, which is focused on automation. We were very much trying to focus on the expertise and human element, with the digital system sitting behind that.
Why? Digital contact tracing around the world has shown that technology is not always the panacea that it is sold to be. Countries that thought app-based contact tracing alone could help reduce infection rates have largely seen poor results. Scotland took a different approach, using technology to aid human contact tracing efforts. This story gave us an inside look at one of the most challenging aspects of how a government is attempting to control the virus.
Accenture CEO Julie Sweet - how we're dealing with Coronavirus and how it's impacting our clients needs
We are deeply experienced in working virtually and already have deployed at scale in the normal course in our business collaboration technologies and infrastructure for remote working. For example, we are the largest user of Teams by Microsoft in the world and in the last few weeks as we rapidly ramped more people working remotely from home, Teams audio usage has almost doubled from our typical 16 million minutes per day to almost 30 million minutes per day. We are using our deep experience of working together virtually across Accenture and with our clients to help adapt how we work together from home.
Why? This was one of the most read stories on diginomica this year. And I think its success is down to the fact that Accenture CEO Julie Sweet gave a thorough breakdown of not only how Accenture responded internally to COVID-19, but also how it was working with its clients to adapt to the ‘new normal'. Some solid nuggets of advice were outlined and it is well worth a read.
Whilst the Coronavirus pandemic has created a number of significant and unique challenges for the enterprise - particularly during the lockdown phase - the HR department in particular has been thrust into the limelight like never before. And whilst there are technical and tooling obstacles to overcome, particularly with rapid changes in legislation (e.g. furloughing staff), Chief People Officers are also having to think about how to continue to invest in their business' biggest asset - its people.
Why? COVID-19 is a health story first and foremost, but it is also ultimately a story about people. And companies around the world have come to realise that they are nothing without their best people. Making these people productive, happy and safe were all top priorities this year. We spoke to some leading Chief People Officers to get and understanding of the work being carried out and what is driving investment decisions - including engagement and wellbeing, workforce management, coaching and development, and the future of work.
Delivering IT services in a pandemic - how the City of Seattle's IT team has risen to the challenge of COVID-19
For us in Seattle, the stay at home order came at the beginning of March, although we had been in planning mode for some time [on how] to handle a remote workforce. We couldn't really tell you how it would all go down, until one morning, the entire organization decided to stay home and log in.
Why? Simply another great example of how a terrifying test for the public sector has led to accelerated and considered digital thinking during COVID-19.