COVID makes digital a must rather than just an edge over rivals

Photo by Edward Jenner

Deploying digital capabilities will soon be a business imperative rather than a competitive advantage, having had a big role in helping large firms withstand the pandemic, according to a survey report from Tata Consulting Services.

The global survey engaged about 300 senior business leaders from large enterprises – 97% with revenue above US$1 billion and 44% above $10 billion – spanning 11 industries across Asia Pacific, Europe and North America. 

Six digital capabilities were identified as critical factors in companies withstanding the pandemic — end-to-end digital customer experience (CX), AI-based analytics to continually improve CX, core enterprise systems in the cloud, highly automated core business processes, digital sensors tracking products, and key partnerships in digital ecosystems.

In Asia Pacific and North America, about 25% of firms have these capabilities in place, compared to 17% in Europe, with Asia Pacific leading in using AI to improve CX, deploying core enterprise software in the cloud and automating core processes. 

Furthermore, Asia Pacific firms are actively investing in their less-developed capabilities, significantly outpacing companies in other regions in deploying digital sensors and developing key digital partnerships, and equalling Europe in developing end-to-end CX.

“These regional variations are significant because our study revealed that companies that embraced digital transformation performed better during the pandemic,” said Girish Ramachandran, president of TCS Asia Pacific.

“With good digital readiness pre-COVID and a strong commitment to strengthening their capabilities, companies in Asia Pacific are setting themselves up to be better prepared to face the realities of a post-pandemic world,” he said.

The survey found that organisations that had at least four of the six digital capabilities in place were less likely to report declining revenue due to COVID-19 — 64% compared to 73% of “followers” with three or fewer capabilities deployed or in development and 68% of compared to the “vast middle” companies with more than three in capabilities either in place or in development. 

Prior to COVID-19, the average company workforce primarily working from home was just 9% — now it is 64%. 

Firms have therefore been enhancing their capabilities in collaborative technologies (65%), cybersecurity (56%) and cloud-native technologies (51%).

Working from home is more likely for employees of Asia Pacific companies. On average, firms in the region expect 45% of their workforce to be working remotely in 2025, compared to 41% for European firms and 37% for North American enterprises.