Digital Strategy in Time of Crisis

Digital Strategy in Time of Crisis

One of the prevailing responses to the coronavirus pandemic across all industries has been speeding up businesses’ digital transformation. Typically, executives will follow 1- to 3-year plans. However, the pandemic forced them to scramble to adopt new ones and carry them out in a matter of weeks. One survey included executives from Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. It found that about 70 percent of them thought the pandemic was likely to speed up the pace of digital transformation.

From what we have seen in the past months, they were right. Digital platforms became the preferred and often sole channel for customer engagement. This has proven the necessity of developing an effective digital strategy in a time of crisis. Experts think it is highly likely that the changes made out of necessity during the pandemic will leave a lasting impact in the post-pandemic world.

Flexibility and boldness

A McKinsey analysis of the current crisis suggests that its unprecedented nature has forced all industries into a more flexible way of working. This includes everyone – customers, markets, regulators, and organizations. The loosening of the boundaries allows more space for improvisation, experimentation, and learning.

Though it might seem counterintuitive, this report suggests using this as an opportunity to act boldly. Adopting new digital strategies early and at scale increases revenue, according to research. Acting boldly in this new landscape could help you finally put some more ambitious ideas into action. Simultaneously, it will help you respond well to the crisis. Finally, it will also ease a comeback after hard times are over.


The form these adjustments will take depends on the type of business you are running. There are three avenues you can pursue to develop a digital strategy in a time of crisis:

  • enhanced versions of existing analog products or services through digital features;
  • digital versions of formerly analog products or services;
  • entirely new digital products or services.

Looking for a way to develop virtual replacements of their physical products or services was most organizations’ immediate response to the crisis. If this was impossible due to the business’s nature, organizations moved to find ways to make their products and services accessible while minimizing physical contact between customers and service providers/employees.

The only way to do this involved a reimagining of the digital strategy of a business. Now it had to include digital platforms and marketplaces in which the company in question didn’t previously participate. This opened up new opportunities, and if taken, they could mean an additional chance for growth once the crisis has passed.


Acting boldly, however, does not mean being careless. It also does not involve jumping headfirst into something you do not have a complete grasp on. Learning is a significant part of business in general, but especially when responding to a crisis. Knowing what works and what doesn’t and doing that quickly is a determining value of good leadership. Analyzing customer data, for example, is already part of any successful digital strategy. However, it becomes even more critical in a time of crisis. If you are set on taking bold actions, it is vital to use all of the tools at your disposal and be as informed as possible.

Design thinking

Reports and studies covering the development of a digital strategy in a time of crisis highlight the importance of design thinking in this process. Design thinking has proven itself to be invaluable for creative problem-solving. 

Its starting point is the customer and their experience of a service or product, as well as their needs. This process challenges existing assumptions. It reassesses problems in an attempt to come up with innovative solutions and alternative strategies that might not be obvious at first glance. Through this approach to the crisis, businesses can gather more information about the end-user and how their suppliers, partners, and competitors are responding to the new normal. This, in turn, provides them with a better understanding of where their industry as a whole is headed. It equips them to fare better in the future.

Starting with the core

In an effort to reduce risk, businesses often start with minor adjustments to peripheral areas of their operations, without touching the core of the company itself. These alterations typically underachieve, falling short of reaching the goals that were set for them. On the other hand, businesses that are ready to venture out of their comfort zones and truly reinvent their digital strategy by adopting AI and algorithms are likely to outperform their competitors who do not take this chance. Making bold moves at this point will set your business up for success for years to come. Setting up a proactive digital strategy allows you to thrive and course-correct as needed while your industry evolves.

Emerging trends

Supply-chain transparency

The pandemic highlighted certain shortcomings in the functioning of various industries. Stock shortages, for example, pointed towards the importance of supply-chain transparency. The only effective supply chain-related digital strategy in a time of crisis was one that was fully transparent and flexible before the crisis as well. Being able to detect the changes in the purchase patterns, for example, is something that would be of great help to businesses, pandemic or no pandemic.

Data security

Data security is something that is also heavily discussed right now and will continue to be. Just like with supply-chain transparency,  the current crisis only magnified the holes in the system. The McKinsey report lists Zoom as an example. It successfully navigated a significant increase in usage but famously came across severe problems regarding security.

Remote work and automation

Many believe the necessity of remote working has caused an irreversible change to the working landscape. How true this statement is remains to be seen, but there are definite changes that are already apparent. The need for reduced physical contact forced businesses to rely on automation much more than previously planned. Those that already adopted such technology will be at an advantage compared to their peers once the crisis is over. This kind of strong pivot towards cutting edge technology is the kind of frame of mind necessary for a successful digital strategy in a time of crisis.

About Author

My name is Mukesh Jakhar and I am a Web Application Developer and Software Developer, currently living in Jaipur, India. I have a Master of Computer Application in Computer Science from JNU Jaipur University. I loves to write on technology and programming topics. Apart from this, I love to travel and enjoy the beauty of nature.

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