2020 has changed everything. Company goals and objectives were upended by COVID-19, and the tech industry has been forever shifted. All sectors have faced enormous challenges over the past year. It’s important to take some time to reflect on the impact that local and global events have had on our business, our industry and our customers.

While brick-and-mortar stores took a hit, the pandemic led to unparalleled growth of e-commerce businesses. South Africa saw an enormous surge in online activity during the national lockdown, with B2C and B2B organisations scrambling to meet the immediate needs of their customers. The implications will last well into the decade.

Nine key observations in our business in 2020 were:

WFH needs technology

Tens of thousands of people now work from home (WFH) and rapid digital transformation has meant that cloud technologies, tech infrastructure, cyber and data security, and mobile devices are more in demand than ever as people need to access business systems from anywhere.

Move to digital

Companies that don’t harness this global move to digital could lose their competitive advantage. It is an opportunity to grow revenue, attract new customers and drive the shift to online. The success of these initiatives will depend on access to digital channels and capabilities that are scalable, secure and stable enough to handle increased demand.

ERP is king

ERP systems are proving to be invaluable in today’s remote working world. Clients do not have to choose between buying a new delivery van or an ERP solution when both are critical to getting the business through these tough times. They can buy a premium tool without paying a premium cost.

Business efficiency a must

With more and more businesses looking towards digital transformation and joining the e-commerce movement, it makes sense to leverage technology that also allows for more business efficiency, security, compliance, scalability and better productivity.

No interruptions

The impact of the coronavirus on all areas of the economy has highlighted the need to transform traditional supply chain models, many of which suffered interruption.

The experience of many industries during lockdown demonstrated how important it is to be able to run uninterrupted operations and communicate with customers. This requires businesses of all sizes to become digitally integrated so as to drive efficiencies and build a more productive and data-led business. Cutting manual tasks and automating business-critical functions will help achieve business targets.

ERP is for SMEs too

With the appropriate use of ERP technology, solutions exist that enable business continuity for small and medium enterprise owners in a fragile economy. The current best formula for successful business is to be smarter, faster and automated. ERP technology enables SME owners and directors to have a real-time dashboard of important data in the business, allowing them to make faster, optimal decisions and plan month-to-month based on real-time data.

Tech-led businesses as industry leaders

Although the full impact of COVID-19 on supply chains remains unknown, the economic and financial ramifications are being, and will continue to be, felt across global supply chains for some time to come. We have seen how the ongoing digital transformation of industries has accelerated as a result of the pandemic. Companies have been forced to innovate and optimise beyond the usual in order to navigate their unexpected vulnerabilities and we anticipate seeing tech-led businesses emerging as industry leaders.

Automation and information the key

Right now, supply chain leaders would be wise to quickly change how they do things if they want to overcome the challenges that arise from lack of visibility, collaboration and co-ordination. The need for more automation and information is an opportunity for all businesses. Companies still need human workers to manage the supply chain, but they also need to evolve their businesses into digitally intelligent organisations that are equipped to drive efficiencies throughout their business processes.

Digitally intelligent organisations the way forward

We do not know what lies ahead, but we can and should approach the new year applying the lessons we have learnt about sustaining business operations against a backdrop of continual change and disruption. The key to future-proofing lies in digital transformation and end-to-end information management.