When COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in early 2020, companies were compelled to accelerate their digitization and digital transformation efforts in order to address new business needs.[foot]Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, for instance, remarked in Microsoft’s April 2020 quarterly earnings call that “we’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” Similarly, a McKinsey executive survey indicated at the end of 2020 that COVID-19 had expedited companies’ digitization efforts by three to four years and the share of digital products in their portfolios by seven years. Jared Spataro, “2 years of digital transformation in 2 months,” Microsoft 365 Blog, April 30, 2020, https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/blog/2020/04/30/2-years-digital-transformation-2-months/; “How COVID-19 has pushed companies over the technology tipping point—and transformed business forever,” Strategy & Corporate Finance Insights, McKinsey & Company, October 5, 2020, https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/how-covid-19-has-pushed-companies-over-the-technology-tipping-point-and-transformed-business-forever.[/foot] Demand for online services and sales had increased globally,[foot]“Global e-commerce jumps to $26.7 trillion, COVID-19 boosts online sales,” UNCTAD News, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, May 3, 2021, https://unctad.org/news/global-e-commerce-jumps-267-trillion-covid-19-boosts-online-sales.[/foot] curbside and contactless pickup had become a necessity, and much of everyday life—from work to education, healthcare, and social engagements—had become virtual. In response, companies took advantage of digital technologies to create and enhance solutions that could fulfill these new demands.
Doing this quickly meant that companies’ reliance on their organization chart and established ways of working gave way to empowered teams that crossed functional silos to lead the way forward. Teams identified root problems and customer needs and then collaborated to develop solutions that delivered results at speed. Yet with approved COVID-19 vaccines now being rolled out across the globe, the return of business as usual (and with it, a slower organizational pace) looms large. In this briefing we address how companies can sustain the momentum of empowerment that has helped them operate and innovate faster during the pandemic.