Long before the outbreak of the current pandemic, business was already in the throes of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and digitisation of most business processes and functions.

The pandemic has simply expedited the phenomenon known as digital transformation. Digital transformation, a marker of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, employs the use of digital technologies to modify existing processes or to create entirely new ones, which in turn affect culture and customer experiences whilst meeting the changing business and market requirements.

In recent weeks, I have found myself sitting in numerous meetings via digital platforms to delivering lectures via such platforms, doing various homework assignments to marking student assignments.

What struck me is the convenience and simplicity of it all – once one got into the swing of things.

However, there is the downside: I have also seen numerous snippets of videos where someone stands up before logging off such a meeting and they would be inappropriately dressed.

The most fascinating aspect is how most of these platforms were in existence prior to the pandemic but were greatly under-utilised.

Today, one does not even have to ask where a meeting will be held – the question is who will send the e-invite?

Welcome to the age of “e” – e-conferencing, e-workshops, e-meetings and increased e-business.

In all honesty, all businesses, big or small, need to adapt or perish.

The adoption of new ideas in teaching, training and development, disseminating information, sending minutes or even voting in e-AGM’s means that conventional roles and responsibilities in most organisations have changed.

The business terminology and standard business etiquette has also changed.

A whole new set of competencies and capabilities are required by both the business layman and the expert alike.

Digital transformation begins and ends with how you think about, and engage with, customers.

As the business world evolves, we have the chance to re-imagine how we do business — how we engage our customers — how we deliver goods and services by harnessing the efficiencies introduced by digital technology.

Thinking, organising, planning, and building new digital processes for our businesses sets you up to be agile, flexible and ready to grow as the world adapts to change.

There is a need, however, to consistently assess whether the organisation is really doing the right things.

The possibilities with digital transformation can be endless.

In the space of capacity development, we have done away with voluminous manuals and introduced e-documents and the virtual classroom.

It must be continuously asked, what more can technology do for the business?

How can we consistently deliver the value we are known for to our clients using the new media?

There is a need to adapt business to leverage digital transformation.

For example, there has been a shift in customer service approaches.

The standard practice was to wait for customers to come and find you through your advertising and web searches.

This has evolved with the rise of social media, with a number of companies offering customer support services via social media pages and instant messaging applications on their websites.

This has allowed progressive organisations to thrive in their service offerings by meeting customers on their platforms of choice.

Social media was not created to take the place of call centres, but it has become a pleasurable way for a customer to have their concerns addressed.

Adapting your service offerings to embrace the use of social media is a prime example of digital transformation.

The truth of the matter is that the modern customer has their expectations driven by digital innovations.

The fact that we are always online, receiving new information and sending valuable data to various data collection points means we will always be seeing new possibilities.

When a customer sees something new elsewhere, they will want and expect it from you as well.

When you fail to deliver as expected, they will find the one who can.

The evolving age makes it easy for customers to compare and move from one supplier/service provider to another with minimal effort required.

The digital transformation has impacted and will continue to impact every industry.

The doctor will send an e-prescription for chronic medication to the pharmacist who will then call the client to come and collect their already filled script.

Whether your business generates revenue through client services, digital media, or physical goods, technological innovations can transform your means of production, distribution, and customer service.

The perspective must extend to include your employees.

Employee expectations are further being driven by their own consumer experiences, even when it comes to digital innovation in the workplace.

A number of organisations in the First World have already indicated that they shall have their employees working from home on a permanent basis.

This has an advantage in that it cuts organisational overheads to a minimal once the need for physical office space or storage is eliminated.

For any business, building a digital business can be game-changing.

Not only is the adoption of digital transformation essential to meeting customer expectations and empowering employees, it will also help businesses do more with less resources.

In short, it is an evolution that is still happening, albeit at a slightly accelerated pace.

The most important thing is for all organisation’s, big or small, to be fully conscious of this and begin to re-model, re-engineer and re-strategise with a digital mindset for face certain failure.

Karen Manyati is the director of Zimbabwe Leadership Forum and writes in her personal capacity. She can be reached on [email protected]