Pandemic Mode is one of the benefits of the pandemic (if you will allow me to use the terms “benefits” and “pandemic” in the same sentence). Pandemic Mode is the way some CIOs are describing the newfound alignment between Information Technology departments and their colleagues throughout the rest of their businesses.

This phenomenon has occurred across many industries, including, healthcare, manufacturing, and education. It started with the rush to enable remote-work technologies across the workforce. It has continued into many areas of the business. Nowhere is this more visible than in retail. Online shopping has exploded. Curbside pickup, once rare, is commonplace, even for grocery stores.

Consumers Driving Digital

A recent article from the Wall Street Journal Pandemic Speeds Americans’ Embrace of Digital Commerce, quotes a study from the McKinsey Group that the pandemic condensed the adoption of e-commerce from what would have taken 10-years to only three-months. Consumers will never go back.

Healthcare has seen a dramatic increase in the number of telehealth visits. This increase has been brought about, in part, by insurance companies recognizing the need to pay for these visits at the same rate as face-to-face visits. Providers are seeing the benefits by seeing more patients and reserving in-person visits to the most critical needs.

There is now a rush to digital that was only hinted at prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. In the McKinsey study How COVID-19 has pushed companies over the technology tipping point—and transformed business forever, the findings are summarized, thusly;

To stay competitive in this new business and economic environment requires new strategies and practices. Our findings suggest that executives are taking note: most respondents recognize technology’s strategic importance as a critical component of the business, not just a source of cost efficiencies.

Here at the Institute for Digital Transformation, we have long believed that true digital transformation is a business transformation. McKinsey’s survey underscores that belief. Companies whose digital strategy is their corporate strategy reported revenue increases above their plan almost two to one during 2020 over those whose strategies are not aligned.

Pandemic Mode can best be described by the change in mindset identified in the survey. Just three years ago almost have of the executives surveyed identified cost savings as the number one priority for their digital investments. Today, that number is 10%, with almost half investing in technology for competitive advantage or focusing their business on digital.

Tipping Point?

The challenge, if we are truly at the tipping point, is maintaining this newfound alignment and focus. One CIO I spoke to recently put it this way,

In the early days of COVID, we had established a crisis team to deal with all of the complexities we needed to deal with. I can remember distinctly one of the leaders saying “Are we going to go back to the way it ways? This has been good. How do we keep this going, bringing more people to it?” That’s what we’ve been working on and evolving towards, how do we make it repeatable, scalable, and sustainable? You can’t stay in crisis mode all the time, so how do you keep that mindset and that agility? When the old culture is still there, trying to pull us back, we say “How would we have done this in Pandemic Mode?

Dave Breedlove, VP Customer and Distribution Services at Cook Medical

Culture. One of the foundational areas required for digital transformation and a key component to the Digital Transformation Readiness Framework. It can take years to change the culture of an organization. It seems this too may have been compressed, if so, will it last? It won’t if you don’t have a plan.

Culture Plan

The good news is creating a culture plan is much like creating any other sort of plan: you have to know where you are, where you are going, the steps to get there, and how to know when you’ve arrived. In other words:

  1. Know where you are (the “as-is”)
  2. Know where you want to be (the “to-be”)
  3. Develop the steps to get you from the “as-is” to the “to-be”
  4. Identify success factors
  5. Identify risks
  6. Define the metrics to measure progress
  7. Put a governance structure in place
  8. Execute

We are in a very unique position. Because of the compression of the advances we have seen this year, you may have experienced parts of the new culture you desire. It will be easier to communicate it to others, if they, too, experienced it. You may also be speaking of the “as-is” in the past tense which may it easier to talk about without ruffling feathers. You will be speaking from a position of shared experience, “How would we do it in Pandemic Mode?”, to requote Dave.

Are You Ready?

Dr. Frank Granito’s book, Are You READY for Digital Transformation? provides some great insights into the type of culture required to transform your business and continue to transform your business. Transformation, digital transformation, is a journey, one that never ends.

Having the right culture is so vital to the success of the digital enterprise, Dr. Granito weaves culture throughout three of the four dimensions of the Readiness Framework. Those three dimensions are Organizational Sustainability and the culture of operating within the bounds of good operational and business processes, Organizational Agility and the culture of continual service improvement, and Strategic Agility and the culture of customer-centricity. I dare say some of what you experienced as Pandemic Mode crosses parts of all three of these dimensions.

But, as Dr. Granito points out, there is a fourth dimension required to enable transformation into a digital enterprise. The fourth dimension is all about culture, a Disruptive Culture. A culture that is willing to challenge, continuously challenge, the status quo. Companies with a Disruptive Culture embrace innovation, experimentation, and the concept of “failing fast”.

A Taste of Pandemic Mode

Congratulations to those who experienced Pandemic Mode, you’ve had a taste of what it is like to be a part of a digital enterprise. You’ve made significant progress in 2020. Remember that feeling. Remember the accomplishments. Remember the alignment. Keep it going. Define your culture plan, and execute it. Create the culture you need to be successful!