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3 top executives discuss how tech transformed business during COVID-19

During the pandemic, a “digital mindset” became critical for survival.

3 top executives discuss how tech transformed business during COVID-19
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When the coronavirus pandemic descended in March, as various stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders rolled through the country, technology became a lifeline for millions of housebound citizens and thousands of companies struggling with the economic effects of the shutdown.

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For those companies, adopting a “digital mindset” became critical for survival. In the second installment of Fast Company‘s “Growth in Crisis” series, three executives—David Fischer, chief revenue officer of Facebook; Lidia Fonseca, chief digital and technology officer at Pfizer; and Tiger Tyagarajan, chief executive officer of Genpact—discuss how digital strategy was crucial not just in staying afloat during the pandemic, but also in navigating toward a future where technology is at the forefront of innovation.

Here are three key takeaways:

1. The technological shift will be permanent

During the pandemic, says Fonseca, Pfizer experienced a huge surge in innovation: “In our manufacturing,” she says, “we rolled out a virtual reality-based capability that enables the remote diagnosis and repair of our equipment,” and in distribution, the company developed dashboards to track and manage supply chains.

“As we think about the future of work,” she says, “we’re seeing a hybrid, flexible future, where there are capabilities we’ve learned and applied during the pandemic that are going to survive post-pandemic for sure.”

2. Person-to-person connection still has value

Within the Facebook offices, Fischer says, “It’s often conversations on the side, or relationships that get built,” that help employees solve problems or work through conflicts.

Maintaining a strong sense of office culture, he says, “We’re quite worried about going forward . . . and we’re investing time in the right ways to do that.”

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3. The pandemic has redefined what’s possible

Employees working from home and companies transacting with consumers remotely—all of that has transformed how business is done these days, says Tyagarajan, including skyrocketing online sales, instant analytics, and migration to the cloud.

At Genpact, “In many of our client conversations, the discussion has gravitated towards, ‘What happened just now . . .  Are these new technologies?’ The reality is, all of these technologies have been available,” he says. And whereas companies had been slow to change in the past, the pandemic has forced a recognition that those changes can—and, in some cases, must—happen now.

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