By Erind Alickolli
General Manager, TOK / Digital Agency and INNOVATION NEST
During the last three months we in Albania but also in many countries of the world started to live in a new reality. Many states have declared a state of emergency to protect the health and safety of their citizens, and businesses and people around the world have had to find new ways to minimize disruption to day-to-day operations, with digital technologies at the epicenter of these changes.
Over the years, many companies have been reluctant to embrace digital transformation, as they found it difficult to move from conventional methods of doing business to innovative digital processes. But quarantine showed the need for change in all economic and social sectors. What was previously seen as impossible is now a reality. The more changes we see, the harder it is to believe that businesses will return to things as they were before this crisis. People will find it difficult to give up the digital services they were used to during the pandemic; from retail to education and fitness. These changes showed that they were comfortable and necessary forms to be applied both during the crisis and after it.
Technology can help businesses not only prepare for an increasingly digital future, but experience has shown that it helped them overcome the challenges the pandemic brought to the country. Instead of closing businesses or taking a break, these companies made major transformations to continue their operations, to serve customers in difficult times, and to protect their employees.
COVID-19 has forced all of us to reorganize our daily lives differently from what we were used to, as well as companies to reorganize their businesses.
In an effort to better serve customers and protect employees, supermarkets and shopping malls in Albania integrated and developed their online sales sites. E-commerce was a novelty not only for the Albanian business but also for the consumer, who had similar practices with purchases abroad. Faced with the immediate closure of gyms, people saw the possibility of exercising at home. Gyms in the country began offering digital solutions, selling home exercise videos on their social networks. But other sectors did not lag behind on the path of digital transformation. Restaurants saw the possibility of creating applications or partnering with developers to be listed on home delivery applications.
The COVID-19 explosion has forced the digital transformation to be at the top of the business agenda, demonstrating that in today's world this transformation is an operational necessity and not just a "nice thing to have". This is paving the way for significant changes in business models and structures and provides an opportunity for companies to move into a new digital reality.
The transition of businesses to e-commerce is one of the most obvious examples of digital transformation, but digitalization has a host of applications, depending on the industry where it is applied. For example, manufacturing companies can use digital tools to facilitate remote work and the application of social distance. This may include, for example, providing data, such as tracking money or products in real time, which minimizes the need for human interaction and enables the continuity of business operations without the need for employees to have physical contact.
Both in Europe and in Albania, there is talk of the digital future in various sectors such as digital education and e-Governemnt (where the e-albania portal helped not only business but also citizens to reduce direct contacts for rights). Other areas that need development and attention in the future are tele-health, data sharing, broadband connectivity and cyber security. The need to implement digital solutions, not only in Albania but all over the world, will encourage governments and businesses to not only support innovative and technological transformation, but also to create the necessary infrastructure to achieve this.
Beyond the health threat posed by COVID-19, the huge and unexpected impact the pandemic had on businesses and the economy has shown the need to embrace and accelerate digital transformation. Digital transformation may not be the solution to all of the problems, but it can be a way for businesses to better meet new challenges, protect themselves from unforeseen risks, and recreate themselves in a new reality by becoming more competitive.