Coronavirus Diary: accelerating digital transformation from the epicentre

Digital transformation is clearly the business opportunity of this generation, with a $7.4 trillion investment expected over the next three years. And running a company like ServiceNow, whose core functionality resides in the epicentre of digital transformation, I have seen it become less of a buzzword and more of a critical business evolution.

This is further shown by the 90% of CEOs with a digital-first strategy. So, if you are providing that service, you’re in a good position right now. We have seen customers, both old and new, dive in to truly immerse themselves in technology’s potential. Tech has been crucial in helping businesses navigate through the highly cited and somewhat clichéd ‘new normal’.

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The beginning

Speaking from our own experiences, we have over 11,000 people in our company, while we serve other companies with over one million employees. At the start of this pandemic, the responsibility fell on us to make sure our staff and customers were fully functional digitally and that those yet to take the leap could transform straight away. Remote work highlighted inefficient processes which needed to be dealt with and rectified as soon as possible.

It became clear that businesses needed help. So, in March, we came out with a customer care plan including a suite of COVID-19 emergency response apps, free of charge, to support their fight against the pandemic. This included an Emergency Outreach app, where employers could request a response to confirm if employees were safe; an Emergency Self Report app, for employees to notify their company that they were self-quarantining with their date of return; and an Emergency Exposure Management app, to help an employer identify who may have been exposed to an infected employee based on their meeting history and job location.

These apps were quickly downloaded by nearly 6,500 customers in a number of industries including local, state and federal agencies, hospitals and healthcare organisations, and financial institutions. By putting technology in the hands of people, we wanted to make it easier for businesses to navigate through the crisis.

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The middle

It’s scary to think that we released the customer care plan almost three months ago. We know places where the apps have helped, which makes the work worthwhile. But circumstances have changed throughout this pandemic in ways we could never have expected, and as the situation has evolved, so too have the technological requirements. The responsibility falls on companies like ours, among others, to meet these requirements, keep businesses going and help employees stay safe.

We had to ask ourselves, what are CEOs and business leaders having to think about right now? They’re probably considering a number of questions: are people ready to come back to work? Are they healthy and do we have the proper screening applications to determine their wellness? Do we have the PPE inventory management process under control in all of our locations and offices? On a workplace safety management basis, do we have all the necessary tools and social distancing measures in place to make sure people are safe?

For leaders running a company, they need all of this information displayed to them clearly, so they can see into their business to make sure the wellness, safety and productivity of their people around the world are secure, as they drive growth and take care of their customers in these uncertain times.

With all of this in mind, we created a secondary suite of apps and dashboard – this time, with the focus on the return to work. You look at certain industries, like manufacturing, utilities, or airlines, for instance. Employees in these industries don’t have a choice: they have to go back to work. But they need to be kept safe. We now have more than 7,000 companies globally running these apps with this goal in mind.

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But will there be an end?

Navigating through the worst with the emergency response apps is now hopefully in the past. The next thing to consider, and something that’s a hot topic of discussion, is what the future might look like.

There’s no definitive answer for this, but a work from anywhere environment will emerge. Many people are concerned about childcare or elderly care, or they don’t always have the environment at home to be productive. They’re looking for a place to work and certainly want the office to be one, but not as the only option. The next steps will see us consider what needs to happen for this to emerge.

The Mandarin word for ‘crisis’ means both ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’, and businesses that have used this as an opportunity to embrace digital will be prepared for the remote working revolution set to come. Whether in the office, at home, or anywhere else, having the right technology in place will be the deciding factor.

At the start of this crisis, only a handful of companies were able to pivot to work from home within 24 hours, but now, many more would be prepared to do the same. Years’ worth of digital transformation has happened within three months, and we’re proud to have been a part of that. But as this ever-changing situation continues, the commitment to transforming digitally cannot reside if we truly want to emerge from this pandemic stronger.

Written by Dave Wright, chief innovation officer at ServiceNow

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