COVID-19 has sped up digital transformation by 5.3 years, says study

Michele Grover of Twilio

A global survey measuring the impact and outlook of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses’ digital engagement strategies says the pandemic has significantly accelerated transformations. This is according to a study by cloud communications platform, Twilio.

Twilio enables communications technology for organisations across a range of sectors, giving it first-hand insight into the ways in which the pandemic has impacted customer and business communications. To better understand this impact, Twilio surveyed over 2,500 enterprise decision makers globally, to gauge the effect on their company’s digital transformation and communication roadmap. The COVID-19 Digital Engagement Report is a snapshot of how businesses have addressed the complex challenges posed by this crisis and how they will continue to evolve moving forward.

Twilio has been in the news for two other reasons lately. The company revealed last week that it has strengthened its IoT platform, by quietly acquiring IoT platform Electric Imp a few months ago. Electric Imp aims to securely connect customers’ IoT devices to their data centres and to third-party services.

In addition, the company has appointed its first chief information officer, Michele Grover. She will reportedly be responsible for “upleveling” the company’s technology systems and processes. Grover’s previous appointment was as SVP of software development at SAP Concur.

Digital transformation roadmap

“Over the last few months, we’ve seen years-long digital transformation roadmaps compressed into days and weeks in order to adapt to the new normal as a result of COVID-19. Our customers in nearly every industry have had to identify new ways to communicate with their customers and stakeholders – from patients, to students, to shoppers, and even employees – essentially overnight,” says Glenn Weinstein, chief customer officer at Twilio. “Cloud scale, speed, and agility are enabling organisations to innovate faster than ever. We believe the solutions being built today will be the standard for digital engagement in the future.” 

“In the UK, we’ve observed how businesses have rapidly modernised in response to the pandemic,” says David Parry-Jones, VP, EMEA at Twilio. “This has affected everything from the ways in which businesses talk to their customers, to how their workplaces function. We’re seeing how digital technologies are being used to completely reimagine the business landscape. Communications technology is at the heart of this transition to a flexible remote working model for employees, and a seamless, digital customer experience for businesses at large.” 

Key findings of the COVID-19 Digital Engagement Report include:

  • COVID-19 was the digital accelerant of the decade. COVID-19 accelerated companies’ digital communications strategy by a global average of 6 years, with 5.3 years the UK average. 96% of UK enterprise decision makers believe the pandemic sped up their company’s digital transformation, and of these 66% said it did so ‘a great deal’.
  • Previous inhibitors to innovation have been broken down. Almost four in five (77%) UK respondents say that COVID-19 increased their budget for digital transformation, of which 36%, more than any other country surveyed, said that it increased ‘dramatically’. UK companies report easing of barrierssuch as: lack of clear strategy (37%), getting executive approval (35%), reluctance to replace legacy software (35%), and lack of time (33%). 
  • COVID-19 propelled some industries further than others. Those accelerating their digital transformation most significantly in response to COVID-19 were tech companies (78%), followed by energy (77%), healthcare (74%), construction (71%) and retail (70%). Notably, however, the greatest acceleration in digital communications has been seen by construction businesses (8.1 years) and energy (7.2 years), while retail and e-commerce organisations report an average acceleration of 6.1 years.
  • Digital technologies have opened up ‘definite’ future remote work opportunities. Almost all (99%) of businesses surveyed agreed that digital technologies will open up a future of continued remote work. Four in five tech companies answered ‘definitely yes’ (80%), while for retail and healthcare businesses it was 69%, energy 68%, construction 65%, manufacturing and automotive 63% and professional services 62%. Finance was the least definite on this move, at 60%.
  • Digital communication is the new lifeblood for business. Almost all global companies (95%) are seeking new ways of engaging customers as a result of COVID-19. 92% say transforming digital communications is extremely or very critical to address current business challenges.
  • Omnichannel communication is taking on new importance. 92% of UK businesses say their organisation is very or somewhat likely to expand digital communication channels as the world reopens, with almost two thirds (60%) very likely. On average the UK saw 5.9 different channels increase in usage dramatically during the pandemic.
Glenn Weinstein

Twilio conducted a five-minute online survey of 2,569 enterprise decision-makers in June 2020. There were 300 UK respondents, and 225 to 300 survey respondents each from Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Spain, and the United States.

The respondents were Directors and above in Corporate Communications, Customer Experience, Customer or Technical Support, Data Analytics or Business Intelligence, Executive Leadership or Administration, IT or Engineering, Innovation, Marketing, Operations, Product Design/Development, Sales or Business Development, or Strategic Planning at companies with 500+ employees. The survey was designed and analysed by Lawless Research; respondents did not know that Twilio was the sponsor.

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