The time is now to find your place in the new economy

History will look back on the COVID-19 pandemic as the moment when the digital transformation of business and society suddenly accelerated, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna said at the company’s Think Digital event on May 5.

“This is an opportunity to develop new solutions, new ways of working and new partnerships that will benefit your company and your customers, not just today, but for years to come,” Krishna says.

The Think Digital event took place exclusively online, connecting clients, partners and thought leaders from around the world. Many companies have been forced to make similar adjustments over the past three months. Some have struggled to adapt while others have thrived. Either way, it’s clear that both the world and the economy that emerges from the pandemic will be very different from the one that preceded it.

“Technology platforms are the basis for competitive advantage in the 21st century,” Krishna said. “They will determine how quickly you can pivot to new market opportunities, how well you serve your clients, how much you can scale, and how fast you can respond to a crisis like the one we’re facing today.”

In times of deep crisis, it’s natural for everyone, including business leaders, to go into survival mode. What’s also true, however, is that these desperate times frequently lead to moments of inspiration that change everything.

Well-known brands such as Uber, Instagram and Groupon were conceived in the wake of the 2008 economic crash. Innovation can become a lifeline for businesses of all sizes, though it’s rarely an easy path for small- and middle-market companies.

These businesses have a much smaller margin of error when exploring new opportunities and thus, must work twice as hard to minimize mistakes and find a way to make their plan work.

In the case of COVID-19, the stakes have been raised even higher, says EY’s James C. Bly Jr., managing director and practice leader for Family Enterprise Business Services at the firm.

“This worldwide pandemic, combined with certain underlying economic, capital market and geopolitical tensions, could lead to the greatest global economic shock in possibly a century,” Bly wrote in his report. “Many are starting to believe that the combination of these trends will permanently alter the world economic and social order.”

As business leaders, we can’t go back to the way things were. However, with so many new tools and technologies to grow and expand our businesses now at our fingertips, why would we want to do that?

Fred Koury is president and CEO at Smart Business Network