Maintaining digital initiatives amidst a pandemic: the story so far

Maintaining digital initiatives amidst a pandemic: the story so far

Jack Gill

20 June 2021 - 6 min read

Legacy ITDigital Transformation
Maintaining digital initiatives amidst a pandemic: the story so far

Remote working. Legacy systems. Inefficient operations. We discuss how businesses have been dealing with these challenges over the last year. 

This article also looks at how you can future-proof your digital strategy after the Covid-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a substantial effect on businesses. There are many challenges among which include adopting remote working practices and social distancing regulations.

Many companies are rapidly undergoing digital transformation just to keep afloat. According to a recent AppDynamics survey, 74% of IT professionals said that digital transformation projects that would normally take over a year to approve were accepted in weeks.

Those businesses undergoing digital projects at a steady rate have questioned  the how. How do we adapt our plans? How do we maintain our digital initiatives during a crisis? And perhaps most pressing; how will we continue our transformation post pandemic?

This article explores some of the main challenges that businesses have been up against and how they have responded to them. We also consider how businesses can create ensure success with their digital transformation projects as they move forward.

A move to remote working

Perhaps one of the biggest changes to usual operations has been the transition from office to remote working. With in-business operations discouraged, employees were expected to work from home where possible. 

Those employers without flexible working arrangements in place were now under pressure to make adjustments that could support this process. 

But providing company laptops has been only half of the challenge. In a recent study by HP, 70% of workers admitted to using work devices for personal use. An additional 69% said that they have been using personal laptops to complete work tasks. In both instances, businesses and employees have found themselves vulnerable to rising security threats.

How teams collaborate and innovate has been similarly affected. Findings from Microsoft show that approximately 7 out of 10 employees have experienced some increase in their weekly meetings. This finding is evidence that businesses have attempted to maintain collaborative working practices virtually. 

Digital technologies such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams have proven an effective option for some operations. However, businesses should think about how they can provide resources to employees for frictionless operations across team members.

Remote working is likely to continue for many. A recent McKinsey survey revealed that 90% of executives envisage a combination of remote and office work continuing into the future. The details of this schedule remain less clear. 

The majority of those surveyed are unsure about how exactly this arrangement will work. It, nevertheless, remains important to ensure secure working both in the office and at home.

Companies should also consider how they can support those working from home. By providing appropriate office equipment, devices, and mental health support, businesses can create a comfortable environment for remote employees.

Legacy systems still casting a shadow

Unlike the pandemic, the threat of legacy systems has been long visible across industries and sectors. Last year it was reported that an estimated 80% of global corporate data was held in technology ageing over half a century.

As well as limiting growth and efficiency, legacy systems also come at a significant cost to maintain . A review of the tax authority's performance for 2019-2020 revealed that the HMRC spent £53.2 million on maintaining their ageing legacy systems. This spending was in opposition to updating these systems. With almost every major system being dominated by such IT, evidence of their dangers continues to trouble executives and consumers alike.

The initial release of the NHS test and trace system last October was an example of legacy systems' potential threat. In the widely reported incident, some 16,000 COVID-19 cases went unrecorded. The incident resulted from Public Health England using spreadsheets that were incompatible with their dashboards to record personal data.

Cases like this have been a wakeup call to businesses across the world. These case studies have shown the dangers of outdated software and encouraged many to invest in new, digital solutions.   

Accelerating digitisation

The pandemic has accelerated the rate in which companies are adopting digitisation processes, with Gartner forecasting that worldwide IT spending will increase by 8.4% in 2021.

Where some businesses survive, others thrive. British retailer John Lewis has been just one success case for digital transformation. The company effectively digitised their payroll system last year, which led to a 20% reduction in operating workload. Performance, overall, was significantly improved by this innovation. 

The company has pledged a further £1 billion investment into digital projects over the next five years. This investment highlights the growing importance of technology in today’s digital age.

Businesses are also looking to adopt specific types of technology that will allow them to succeed in this new working environment. Many sectors are now realising that experiences can be made digital using technology such as virtual reality and augmented reality.

Last month, fashion boutique Browns welcomed customers back into its flagship store in Mayfair. However, the store was now furnished with augmented reality technology. The new technology allows customers to virtually try-on a range of luxury products and complete purchases by using digital mirrors.

Internal operations may benefit from this software too. Technology has the chance to innovate everyday processes for the hybrid workforce. For example, technology that can simulate physical meetings may be highly useful in uniting distributed teams.

It is important that any new technology is integrated with business strategy and is informed by consumer demands.

Future-proofing your digital strategy

Businesses have faced many challenges over the pandemic. However, it is crucial that they remain focussed on the future and do not become stagnant. At the beginning of the crisis, it was those businesses that responded quickly who mitigated risk. 

But the time to respond is over. If companies want to maintain digital initiatives moving forward, they need to stay committed to initiatives of innovation and experimentation.  

While this might mean adopting new technologies to enhance solutions, oftentimes it starts by breeding a forward-thinking culture. This culture can be nurtured through continuous support and development. 

In practice, this means being responsive to consumer needs and continuously supporting development through prototyping and testing. Not only will this allow businesses to be ahead of the curve, but the internal support provided across the organisation will encourage employees to buy into future digital solutions.

Even before the pandemic, the journey to digital success was recognised as a long one. What the events of the past year have proven is that it is an often unpredictable one too. Adopting a flexible and innovative mindset will prepare your business for the next leg – whatever that may be.  

Audacia is a leading digital transformation and software development company based in the UK, with experience delivering large scale, complex, digital transformation strategies and software development projects to organisations across industries.

To find out how Audacia can help with your digital transformation projects, talk to us on 0113 543 1300 or at

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Jack Gill managed digital content at Audacia from 2021-2023. During his time at Audacia, he wrote on a number of industry topics, including technology trends, leadership and digital transformation.