Microsoft Report: Digital Preparedness Helps Organizations Adapt to Pandemic
May 10, 2021
Share this

Overwhelmingly, business leaders cited digital preparedness as key to their ability to adapt, according to an in-depth study by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), commissioned by Microsoft, looking into how the relationship between technology, business and people evolved during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The mass move to remote work also led to a heightened focus on employee engagement — so much so that empowerment topics like skill-building, well-being and creating lasting benefits for society at large now lead the transformation agenda for many organizations.


The EIU research seeks to unlock insights from the past year and focus on the way forward. The study looked specifically at supply chains, remote work, predictive analytics, decision-making, and employee safety and well-being.

Researchers connected the dots between organizations' digital maturity and their ability to weather the unprecedented disruption and found a strong correlation: The more focused companies were on digital transformation, the faster they were able to recover operations and empower people to move forward.

"The COVID-19 pandemic showed how digital tools are critical in allowing businesses to create agility and respond to major disruption," said Michael Gold, managing editor, The Economist Intelligence Unit. "But this study shows that it's not just about business. Companies overwhelmingly see digital transformation as crucial in overcoming skills gaps, engaging employees and delivering broader benefits to society."

Focus on Employee Engagement

The study showed a renewed focus across industries toward engaging and connecting people to each other, to their work and to a shared sense of purpose.

The percentage of all respondents citing employee engagement as a technology imperative shot up from 24% pre-pandemic to 36% in the COVID era, and was up by 10 or more percentage points in manufacturing, financial services, retail and education.

Concern for people and society showed up in other ways as well, with most companies saying that the pandemic has highlighted the need to contribute more powerfully to social outcomes — 75% said digital transformation should go beyond business success to support societal improvements like creating a more inclusive, accessible workforce and addressing carbon footprints and climate change.

Technology Investments Accelerating

Digital tools became indispensable infrastructure across industries. Those with robust digital footprints reported more agility in facilitating remote work, supporting distributed roles, recovering disrupted supply chains and transacting with customers in new ways. But although digital transformation enabled business continuity, the study also revealed gaps in skilling, privacy, security and compliance as organizations apply new technologies.

Prepared or not, organizations across industries accelerated their transformation initiatives and began to rely more heavily on digital tools. Here cloud technology led the way, with 50% of organizations saying it played a critical role in their COVID-era operations. That was followed by technologies to enable remote work (40%), artificial intelligence and machine learning (33%), and the Internet of Things (31%).

Impacts on Specific Industries

Because each industry operates differently, the pandemic exposed digital gaps in different ways. Educators expressed concerns about access and inclusion, while automakers focused on climate change.

Across all industries, the human side of technology transcended their responses and, in some ways, overshadowed benefits to business.

Study highlights by industry include the following:

Automotive respondents were far more likely to cite climate change as a primary benefit of digital transformation. The industry also is investing in automation, process efficiency and enhancing digital skills among the workforce.

Education respondents cite skill-building and inclusivity as top benefits of digital transformation in their industry, but they're concerned about a lack of tools creating a barrier to digital progress, as well as the fragmented application of technology across departments.

Financial services organizations were the most prepared digitally to meet the challenges of regional lockdowns and supply-chain disruptions. Financial services respondents were the most likely to agree that the pandemic highlighted the competitive edge of digitally prepared companies.

Government organizations had an easier time obtaining budget to invest in technologies once the pandemic hit and generally prioritized tools to facilitate remote work and collaboration. However, skills and talent gaps — as well as perceived negative impacts associated with new technology — remain barriers to digital transformation.

Healthcare organizations relying heavily on in-person interaction may have had the most transformation to do when the pandemic hit, with regard to remote employee and patient experiences. While maintaining strict compliance with patient privacy regulations, administrators and clinicians rapidly expanded and adopted virtual capabilities as the pressure of COVID forced increased investments.

Manufacturing, pre-pandemic, was already working to address a skills gap. The sector also cited diversity and inclusion, skill-building and climate change among their top concerns that digital transformation can help address.

Media and communicationsrespondents expressed concerns about keeping up with the pace of technological change and shared their belief that combatting disinformation will be the key benefit of digital transformation in the industry.

Retail and consumer goods providers expressed optimism that digital transformation would enhance job prospects and was the industry most likely to focus on the positive societal impacts of the shift to distributed and remote working.

Share this

The Latest

June 22, 2021

Your employees aren't coming back to the office, at least not in the traditional sense. The pandemic shifted almost all industries into remote work. And according to the results of Ivanti's Everywhere Workplace survey, they're not interested in going back to the way things once were ...

June 21, 2021

Respondents to an OpsRamp survey are moving forward with digital transformation, but many are re-evaluating the number and type of tools they're using. There are three main takeaways from the survey ...

June 17, 2021

More and more mainframe decision makers are becoming aware that the traditional way of handling mainframe operations will soon fall by the wayside. The ever-growing demand for newer, faster digital services has placed increased pressure on data centers to keep up as new applications come online, the volume of data handled continually increases, and workloads become increasingly unpredictable. In a recent Forrester Consulting AIOps survey, commissioned by BMC, the majority of respondents cited that they spend too much time reacting to incidents and not enough time finding ways to prevent them ...

June 16, 2021

In the age of digital transformation, enterprises are migrating to open source software (OSS) in droves to streamline operations and improve customer and employee experiences. However, to unlock the deluge of OSS benefits, it's not enough for organizations to simply implement the software. They must take the necessary steps to build an intentional OSS strategy rooted in ongoing third-party support and training ...

June 15, 2021

In Part 1 of this series, we explored the top pain points associated with managing Internet-based WANs today. This second installment will focus on today's most prevalent SD-WAN deployment challenges specifically and what you can do to better manage modern WANs overall ...

June 14, 2021

Enterprise wide-area networks (WANs) have undergone an incredible transformation over the past several years. More often than not, they're hybrid, offering multiple connection paths between WANs. This provides many benefits but also makes them more challenging to manage than ever before. In Part 1 of this series, we'll explore the top pain points associated with Internet-based WANs ...

June 10, 2021

As we have seen during this digital transformation boom during the pandemic, technologists are managing more applications and data than ever before, which has led three quarters of technologists to be concerned with increased IT complexity. Even more significant, 89% admitted to feeling under immense pressure to keep up with the churn, according to the recent AppDynamics Agents of Transformation report. It's clear that the pandemic has pushed many technologists to their breaking point. To help tackle IT burnout, tech professionals need a "canary" to help them streamline and catch the anomalies before they cause any major performance issues ...

June 09, 2021

An hour-long outage this Tuesday ground the Internet to a halt after popular Content Delivery Network (CDN) provider, Fastly, experienced a glitch that downed Reddit, Spotify, HBO Max, Shopify, Stripe and the BBC, to name just a few of properties affected ...

June 08, 2021

Digital experience has existed for a while now. We have now begun to scratch the surface to measure it. So that calls for Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM). DEM extends Application Performance Monitoring (APM) and Network Performance Management (NPM) to view and optimize application performance issues from the end-user perspective ...

June 07, 2021

The rising adoption of cloud-native architectures, DevOps, and agile methodologies has broken traditional approaches to application security, according to Precise, automatic risk and impact assessment is key for DevSecOps, a new report from Dynatrace, based on an independent global survey of 700 CISOs ...