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How COVID-19 and Brexit sped up digital transformations?

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The past 12 months have seen a whole host of changes sweep across workplaces around the world – and a digital transformation within businesses are just one of them. The UK, as with much of the world, has had the COVID-19 pandemic to deal with, as well as the impact of Brexit filtering down to businesses at the start of 2021.

But, in amongst these changes, has been a digital revolution. With plenty of businesses being forced to send employees from the workplace to their spare bedrooms and dining rooms, they’ve also had to adapt and upgrade their digital capabilities.

Digital Transformation

The digital transformation that many companies have undergone are nothing short of ground-breaking. Where there were previously rigid systems and ways of working before, these have now given way to agile systems that allow for flexibility and different, productive processes.

Neuways’ Managing Director, Martin Roberts, has overseen a lot of digital transformation’s over not only the past 12 months, but 15 years: “It has truly been a transformational period for businesses. Having dealt with digital transformations and implementing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems within businesses, we are used to helping people adapt to a different approach.

While ERP is about ensuring processes are covered across the business and removing any kind of ‘silo mentality’, we’ve been applying this process-based approach to work and business to help companies adapt to the changing times.

While the digital revolution has been sparked by wider societal issues outside of any of our control, Martin sees businesses typically having three types of plans:

One thing we’ve learnt over the last 12 months is that digital transformations have been accelerated by necessity.

We see people as having plans: the immediate plan timeline, these are your things to do today and tomorrow, they’re at the forefront of your mind and you’re clear on what they are and how you’re going to achieve them. Then there is the mid-term, tasks that you must do but they require plans to be made in order to carry them out when the timing is right. And then long-term, which is more aspirational ideas and tasks that one day we hope to achieve.

What happened is those mid-term ideas, regarding changing business processes and improving communication, accelerated from the mid-term to the immediate as businesses realised the wealth of changes they’d have to make to continue to successfully operate.

COVID-19 and Microsoft Teams

Teams

Applications like Microsoft Teams have been invaluable during the COVID-19 pandemic. The collaborative tool has eased the workplace-to-home transition for businesses, by simplifying communication among colleagues, customers and suppliers. Software iterations have seen useful additions, ensuring Teams solidifies its place as an essential among every organisation’s suite of applications. Without technology that has been as capable, businesses may have struggled to continue carrying out business.

It’s something Martin is keen to emphasise upon, the importance of realising just how far we’ve come in a little under a year: “Credit to tech companies and Microsoft with Teams in particular. They have aided the acceleration required by being very responsive to people’s needs and problems and recognising what can be achieved.

At Neuways, for the last 9 months we’ve held almost all of our meetings online, as well as our internal company get-togethers, and even our festive party – to imagine that being possible even 12 months ago, would’ve been quite difficult! The way business meetings are held now has totally changed.

The expression, “necessity is the mother of invention”, has been proven now more than at any other time.

But will it, and can it, continue? Martin thinks so: “Absolutely. We will have this way of working for the next 6 months at least, and whilst we may return to some societal norms over the next 6-9 months, a lot of the innovations we’ve experienced will be kept as many of them have proven to be very efficient.

Brexit’s impact on a digital transformation

While COVID-19 has affected business in plenty of ways since it took over our lives in early 2020, the effects of Brexit haven’t yet been truly felt. But Martin remains optimistic, that technology, as it has done time after time, will help ease any teething pains businesses experience:

People are beginning to understand the forms and VAT implications that come with Brexit.

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There may well be two types of reactions to any difficulties encountered. One, most will probably say ‘I won’t bother’. They may source alternative products locally, which will then be bought or sold to the local  market instead. Or the second reaction would be to utilise systems which ease the new ways of doing things.

Eventually once Brexit has been fully understood and broken down, we will see a flood of technology built in response to the challenges that it may bring us. Tech will be created to make workflows including form filling and the passing of data from place to place faster. People will want to continue trading, and tech will be the answer to easing the problem.

Just as with the COVID crisis, things have been made better with time. Functionality has developed rapidly with Teams and Zoom, among others, to help and the same will happen with solving the Brexit challenges in this new world.

The Future

That all sounds promising for business who may have had sleepless nights with the uncertainty caused by Brexit and COVID-19. But as business continues to emerge into a slightly different landscape to what it has been used to, how does it look forward? Well, Martin suggests many could benefit from looking backwards, in order to move forwards!

Some companies have adapted quickly and have seen the possibilities offered by technology. Going back to Teams, we want to ensure that all are aware of the full capabilities of the software available to them. As much software has been iterated upon throughout a year full of change and challenge, some might not realise what their software is capable of.

In Teams alone this year, there have been whiteboards implemented, the ability to share presentations and hold interactive quizzes online, as well as creating a form to take votes on a subject. Even the ability to record a meeting and have the minutes transcribed into a document is staggering.

As we emerge back into the world, people should take a step back, look at these tools and remind themselves of what they can do.

With training resources, such as Nulia Works, aimed at educating businesses about what their systems can do for them, there is no time like the present for businesses to embrace technology. In doing so they could be setting themselves up a future like nothing they could’ve foreseen during 2020. As Martin says, it could be the making of some businesses: “Many of us now have these tools, it’d be remiss to not take the opportunity to accelerate: those who commit to these will be the ones that benefit from the current situation the most!”

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