A year on, and businesses are still dealing with the impact from the global pandemic, continuing to adapt to the evolving situation.

The pandemic clearly separated the “leaders” – early adopters of digital transformation technologies – from the “laggards”.

As the dust settles, we are witnessing a K-shaped recovery pattern not built along the fault lines of industry verticals, but those who have been able to adjust to the abrupt shift of life and business online and those who could not cope with the new reality we are in today.

And it often comes down to a simple question – did the business successfully digitalize?

Leaders and laggards of tomorrow

Businesses who have made a bold move to go all in to digitalize are able to adapt and acclimatize better to address the new way of working and living. 80% of the IT decision makers from Singapore Alibaba Cloud surveyed late last year said cloud-based tools or digitalization efforts helped their company cope with its business and operational needs during COVID-19.

But what we are seeing now is that, beyond meeting the immediate needs caused by the pandemic, digitalization is defining the leaders and laggards of tomorrow as well.

The aviation industry was hard hit during the pandemic but some airlines bounced back with a revamped digitalization strategy. For Garuda, the national carrier of Indonesia, the pandemic and subsequent global air travel restrictions meant that it had to come up with a way to save its bottom-line while staying competitive in the aviation industry.

Faced with the challenges, Garuda migrated its business-critical applications to the cloud to provide passengers with a digital, touchless yet personalized travel journey when accessing Garuda’s corporate website, mobile application gateway and booking and ticketing services. The robust cloud platform provided a low latency environment for Garuda’s online operations, and effectively improved the cost efficiency by 60%. 

Opportunity to leapfrog your business

To stay on the right side of the K-shaped curve, businesses need to understand that pivoting their business for a post-pandemic world requires sustained action to adapt and accelerate digitalization. This often starts with adopting the right cloud-based infrastructure – especially a hybrid one that can scale to what the business actually needs and minimize wastage.  

There are three phases we see in which customers react – Respond to the situation at hand, Adapt and Accelerate.

In the ‘Adapt’ phase, providing employees with applications they need is just a start and businesses have to consider how to make these apps readily accessible anywhere, anytime and on any device to help employees work better and smarter.

According to a study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of VMware, the pandemic has accelerated cloud adoption because of the infrastructure’s dependability and flexibility.

A majority of enterprises had to piece together a remote workforce strategy, purchasing ad hoc technology solutions like collaboration tools and cloud-based virtual desktops. A quarter of enterprises purchased a point solution to fill gaps in their existing systems. These strategies have acted as a temporary fix, briefly stemming the flow of piece together remote challenges but not enough to be a long-term solution.

With remote work as the new long-term reality, organizations must move with intention toward a more holistic remote work strategy that balances security, productivity and management. An integrated workforce solution eases pandemic burdens and benefits employees as well as the organization by providing end-to-end security, exceptional technology experiences with seamless access to apps, improved collaboration, and simplified device management for IT.

To fully – and truly – accelerate for a digital future, all efforts will be futile if businesses do not adopt solutions that are hyper-customized to business needs. This may appear daunting when many remain chained to legacy infrastructure and a don’t-fix-it-if-it-is-not-broken attitude, but it is very manageable with digital transformation technology especially advancements in cloud computing.

A hybrid cloud simply offers the best of both from private and public clouds. Businesses can modernize and build new applications without rearchitecting the environment they are familiar with, while still being able to tap into the raw computing power of public clouds to manage and improve their operations and processes in a cost-effective way.

Haves and have-nots

Outside of the business arena, digital transformation also paves the way for Asia’s growth.

As adoption of cloud and emerging technologies accelerates, it will be equally important for us to consider who we are leaving behind. Both the public and private sectors must work together to drive digital inclusion and bridge another digital divide between the tech-literate businesses and population with those that aren’t.

This can come in the form of strengthening digital literacy programs and initiatives and roping in larger businesses to help small players including SMEs and heartland retailers to digitalize.

Digitalization is the single most important factor deciding if a company thrives, or merely survives. While it might seem like the worst of the pandemic is over in some parts of the world, we are not yet out of the woods yet.

The K-shaped recovery favors companies that are digitalizing fast enough over those that aren’t.