Four Key Insights on the Future of Work

The events of the past year have introduced uncertainty into nearly every aspect of our lives. Business is no exception—companies have had to pivot quickly to support the “new normal” of a remote workforce.

For most companies, this change of direction involved digitization. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the digital transformation that many companies were already planning to make. Digital enhancements that companies initially intended as ways of saving time and money suddenly became a matter of survival. 

There’s no turning back. Regardless of what happens with the pandemic, some changes are here to stay—and more are coming. In a recent webinar, “Transforming the Future of Work,” Paul Clements, a Principal at Deloitte, and Kamal Hathi, CTO of DocuSign, discussed how the pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation for many companies. Here are four of the most important takeaways from their discussion. 

1. The pandemic has sparked many compelling digital evolutions

You might assume that companies would take a “wait and see” attitude towards innovation during a pandemic. But according to Clements, many organizations are: 

  • Moving towards large programs with significant investments and high stakes 
  • Embracing the cloud as a way to solve problems that exist in the physical world 

This trend has implications for contract management. Hathi reports that the pandemic has triggered widespread adoption of e-signature technology. And as many interactions have shifted to a virtual format, new legislation is allowing notaries public to embrace remote work. It used to be a given that you had to visit a notary public in person. Today, new technologies are making it possible to notarize documents remotely and complete the process with e-signature. 

2. Smaller companies are digitizing processes in ways that should inspire their larger counterparts

Here’s another assumption shattered by COVID-19: that only larger companies can afford to take chances with digitization while their smaller counterparts must wait until the technology proves itself. In fact, the opposite has proven true. 

Hathi recently joined DocuSign from Trader Interactive, which creates marketplaces for vehicle dealerships. As he noted, many of these dealerships are small businesses used to running their business processes on printouts and wet signatures. That didn’t stop them from quickly adopting e-signature technology, digitizing and streamlining the contracting process, and even using machine learning to find better deals. Hathi believes that these companies’ larger rivals should follow suit. 

Clements believes larger companies are already adopting some of the strategies of their smaller counterparts. He noted that: 

  • It used to be mostly smaller companies that would adopt preconfigured solutions because they didn’t have the budget to build solutions from scratch. 
  • During the pandemic, larger companies have begun adopting these solutions more frequently because they are more eager than ever to accelerate time to value. 

3. In the face of stringent regulations, companies must innovate—without taking needless risks

Pandemic restrictions haven’t dampened companies’ desire to speed new products to market and maintain their competitive advantage. But as they innovate, they face more risks than ever in the areas of compliance and security. 

Clements noted that companies are driving innovation while also satisfying compliance requirements by adopting proven, reliable technologies. He and his colleagues at Deloitte offer advisory services designed to help companies predict how regulators will interpret a complex and ever-growing series of industry and geographic regulations.   

Hathi seconded this notion and said that: 

  • As companies choose technology partners, everything boils down to trust. 
  • DocuSign customers trust the company to handle data and run data centers safely. 
  • Customers also expect DocuSign to keep improving—to learn from the innovations across the industry and incorporate these learnings into its products and services in ways that will make them more relevant. 

4. Some of the initial knee-jerk reactions to COVID didn’t work out in the long run

When the pandemic first hit, nobody knew what to expect. Wildly optimistic estimates of “two weeks to flatten the curve” compelled many companies to implement business and technology plans that they later had to overhaul—or scrap entirely. 

Hathi believes one of the biggest mistakes companies made during the lockdown was trying to execute their entire five- to 10-year digital transformation vision within months. While it’s understandable that companies wanted to keep their business processes moving, many of them learned the hard way that it’s best to address challenges one by one. By moving from the idealistic to the practical, companies can implement focused solutions that deliver a fast, noticeable improvement. 

Of course, there’s also a danger in not doing enough. According to Clements, many companies developed supply chain, customer support, and product allocation problems when the pandemic broke out because they were trying in vain to do business the old way. The companies that thrived were those that adapted quickly. While innovation is essential, agility is even more so. 

Take an in-depth look at the future of work

Paul Clements and Kamal Hathi covered many other topics in this 43-minute webinar—including the role artificial intelligence is playing for larger organizations and the next frontiers for making business digital. Get the whole story by watching “Transforming the Future of Work” now.

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