Channeling the Chaos of COVID-19 into Building More Agile Organizations

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Click to learn more about author Steele Arbeeny.

If the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything, it’s that you can never be too prepared for change – fast-moving, come-out-of-nowhere change that transforms the way we run our businesses, manage our people, and secure the stability of our enterprises. 

Disruptive events in business are nothing new. As leaders, we have long invested in planning and processes that enable our organizations to withstand many types of disruption, be it social upheaval, unfavorable market conditions, supply chain breakdowns, or environmental disaster.

COVID-19, however, was leagues beyond what even the most risk-aware organizations could fathom, let alone plan ahead for in a specific, actionable way. Now, emerging from the pandemic and moving forward into a work landscape that is perhaps more flexible and adaptable than ever before, the COVID-19 wake-up call must be heeded in a thoughtful, intentional manner that prioritizes digital transformation, so that organizations can be nimble and adaptive to the next major, fast-moving disruption. 

CIOs Are Leading the Digital Transformation Revolution 

Many CIOs are already in go-mode, leveraging the lessons of the pandemic to push for more agile organizations and business and technology scalability. In fact, a March 2021 SAPinsider survey reveals that 62% of executives and leaders have identified process efficiency as a top business priority for 2021. 

With the pandemic forcing business to incorporate unprecedented agility into nearly every facet of operations, it’s not surprising that many leaders now see a highly customized and difficult-to-change ERP system as a liability during times of unexpected change. One CIO who has been leading their organization’s digital transformation project for the past year described the challenges of innovating on an antiquated platform as limiting their ability to do new and innovative things with SAP – and that implementing new functionality, or doing anything new, requires significant effort and testing. Those limitations don’t lend themselves to supporting the level of innovation CIOs are looking for, driving them to build new digital platforms with SAP S/4HANA.

This CIO is certainly not alone in their push for proactive, strategic digital transformation. Right now, CIOs around the world are advocating more forcefully than ever to migrate systems to the cloud and to streamline digital operations by integrating disparate systems and data. The SAPInsider survey backs this up, noting that many CIOs are finding that their pushes toward digital transformation are meeting less resistance these days. With the pandemic proving the irrelevance of location for labor forces and technical infrastructure alike, the realization that the cloud is king has crystallized. The pandemic has ushered in a new era of accord: IT partners, and the technology and innovation they make possible, are not behind-the-scenes vendors, performing tactical functions. Instead, strategic technology partnerships are foundational to most organizations’ livelihoods.

Many leaders are taking note – and taking action. Over half of executives in the SAPinsider study identified SAP S/4HANA as their most strategic investment in the coming year – despite the fact that SAP’s deadline isn’t until 2027 – and many have already committed to the budgets (66%) and headcount (36%) required to make the transformation goal achievable. With proper planning, S/4HANA can be a game-changing break from the complex, disparate systems that built rigidity into the essential fabric of your business. Is the unsorted data you’ve inherited or accumulated serving your goals? Most likely, it’s weighing you down without pulling its weight in terms of delivering trustworthy analytics. Digital transformation on the whole, and S/4HANA more specifically, provide a golden opportunity to assess your current data landscape and develop a proactive plan that will set your organization up for increased resilience and strategic innovation.

If ever there were a moment to advocate for organizational resilience strategies, it’s today. The pandemic may be easing up in the U.S., but if the past year has taught us anything at all, it’s to expect the unexpected. Preparation and agility are not virtues we can afford to forget as the pandemic becomes a more distant memory. 

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