Digital Transformation

Maintaining Momentum on Digital Transformation: CIOs Share Strategies to Sustain Speed

Digital transformation across all industries accelerated at an unprecedented pace throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Often within days after shutting down, organizations put in place state-of-the-art technology that enabled legions of employees to work securely and productively from home. Companies sped up the creation and delivery of digital products and services, evolving entirely new operating models.

At Dow, a $39 billion materials science company headquartered in Midland, Mich.—which, among other things, revved up the delivery of digital tools to advance product development—the corporate vice president, chief information officer (CIO), and chief digital officer, Melanie Kalmar, estimates the pandemic helped drive a “200-times increase in innovation-focused digital engagement” since the beginning of 2020. “We were on a digital transformation path, but during the pandemic, we agreed to drive faster and accelerate what we were already working on,” she says.

Those transformation speed gains have created some big questions for CIOs: For starters, how much of that accelerated pace is sustainable over the long term?

In the beginning of the pandemic, digital acceleration was viewed largely as a way to enable remote work and ensure business continuity. Two years later, research indicates that organizations now see digital acceleration as a more permanent fixture in the business landscape. Eighty-six percent of 326 business executives across different functions surveyed by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services in April 2021 said their organization had accelerated its digital transformation during the pandemic. Of those respondents that rapidly transformed, 91% said they plan to maintain the faster speed—or possibly increase it—even after the pandemic ends.


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