Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

COVID-19 must be the catalyst for digital evolution to thrive

By Mike Fenna, Chief Technology Officer, Avado

When talking about digital innovation, it’s easy to play buzzword bingo. Terms like AI, big data, augmented reality, blockchain and machine learning have been used to death and even the phrase ‘digital transformation’ is a buzzword that’s had its time – people talk about whether they have ‘finished’ digital transformation.  At Avado, we think of it instead of being ‘digital evolution’ – a process that constantly evolves, with new opportunities emerging from both new technology and new ways of working. Whether you’re transforming your business to be more tech-enabled, or you’re upskilling your people, the process is constant and never ends – you will never finish transforming. 

Digital evolution is about developing the right skillsets and mindsets. There needs to be a constant programme of nurturing this culture across an organisation to encourage change in line with the opportunities that technology development creates. Digital evolution happens through change, and the only way you can successfully change is by being open to new experiences. And, there are skills needed to drive digital evolution within an organisation. The most obvious being agility – the ability to move quickly with as little disruption as possible, to our learners in this case. On the other hand, it is equally as vital to embrace people change alongside technology change – transforming infrastructure alone won’t create real change. This comes from having a robust learning strategy that is focused on digital behavioural change, data literacy and marketing acceleration.

Technology in a leading role

To successfully implement digital evolution, technology must be a key partner of marketing strategy, and budgets must allow for investment in technology such as programmatic advertising. Allowing technology to play a leading role will allow innovation to trickle throughout essential organisational sectors like marketing and digital media. Being able to articulate the benefits that will come as a result of the investment is, in my experience, the best way to help stakeholders to prioritise where funds get allocated.

COVID-19 has forced many businesses to adapt and consider where they are in their digital evolution journey. Some have had to speed up their plan while others had already successfully evolved to pivot quickly during the pandemic and are set up for the recovery phase that follows. A transformation process should never be viewed as a short-term measure, but rather an essential evolution for the long-term health of a company.

We’ve all shifted to a new way of working – the pandemic has accelerated the process of trying new things, but as we look beyond, companies need to remain agile and the technology underpinning those businesses needs to be right to enable the evolution that will be crucial for so many organisations to survive and thrive.

Putting power back into your hands

Clearly, technology now plays a crucial role in all industries. At Avado, we use machine learning and predictive analytics to make predictions about how learners might need more help to succeed. We have also implemented a chatbot to support learners through their journey with us. More broadly, we have integrated systems to reduce manual labour to free up staff time. Things used to be underpinned by spreadsheets, which are time-consuming and unproductive. Integrated systems, alongside a trusted data warehouse and a self-service business intelligence tool, put the power back into the hands of users, driving productivity, agility, and innovation.

Now is a natural time for digital and marketing leaders to embrace change and capitalise on emerging opportunities to innovate. These leaders must create an environment where digital evolution is embraced and supported at all levels throughout their whole organisation, and not just by those in the more traditionally technology-aligned functions. Learning will continue to play an integral role in achieving this; as an organisation introduces new technologies and ways of working, it must also bring people along with it, providing them with the skills and mindsets to thrive in a new environment. This comes from having a robust learning strategy – focused on digital behavioural change, this must include greater levels of adaptability and customer-centricity, data literacy and marketing acceleration.

Digital innovation and the buzzwords surrounding technology evolution are the path forward, but we mustn’t forget that our employees are our central asset and only by investing in them, will we achieve success.