Pay it forward: digital acceleration as a route to recovery

"Technology is crucial to success, not only for the company, but also for individuals", writes Arcadis Gen CEO, Rachel White.

As we all test the limits of our personal resilience, we must also pave the way for economic recovery. There has never been a more urgent time for businesses, and individuals, to accelerate their digital transformation and embrace the power of automation and data.


I’ll be honest, facing the biggest humanitarian and economic catastrophe in modern memory just three months into launching Arcadis Gen isn’t something I’d planned for. However, as a digital company, with agility hardwired into our culture, we were built to be responsive. I’ve written about the incredible resilience and adaptability of our people, but just as important is our ability to help others respond and recover. We continue to be approached by companies who recognize that robust data and analytics will be non-negotiables on their journey to recovery. And there’s a sense of increasing urgency from organizations eager to understand and improve their asset performance.

Pay it forward - body

Strong Roots

Digital transformation has long been recognized as a vital strategy for long-term resiliency when times get tough. Platform and product businesses are less susceptible to economic turbulence because they have built stable technology platforms, enduring products and aren’t dependent on large numbers of co-located individuals to deliver results. To support rapid economic recovery, it is now the duty of those of us who have successfully digitized to extend a hand down and help everyone else up.

 

A wake-up call for transformation

The message is clear – to survive we must digitize. Every organization should be looking for opportunities to accelerate how they embrace technology. We can all be inspired by recent examples of how the world’s most forward-thinking companies have been able to move at pace to respond to the crisis; some diverting manufacturing activities to address global mask shortages, others rapidly shifting to offer services online. What all these companies have in common is the ability to understand their data in order to transform and respond at pace.


Turning to data to respond to changing supply and demand will create resilience in times of uncertainty. From significantly reduced passenger numbers, to changing energy demand, organizations worldwide are working hard to adapt to changing behaviors, and the impact on asset usage and performance. For many it is a wake-up call – that to be responsive they must be able to work remotely at scale, and have access to the data, skills, and insights that will allow them to rapidly understand, plan and adapt to change. For example, we are currently working with an international airport group to develop a Visual Optimization Intelligence tool to help them reprioritize their investment plans in response to the impacts of COVID-19.

A personal call to arms

But change won’t just happen at the organizational level. Each of us, as individuals, must take responsibility for our own digital skills. The time is now to challenge your assumptions and unlearn how you’ve traditionally done things. Because one thing is certain, our jobs won’t look the same on the other side. Those with the digital expertise will be leading the way to recovery.

If you haven’t yet thought about how your job can be done in a data-driven way, now is the time. Learning something new doesn’t have to be big and scary. There are many great resources out there that I’d encourage you to explore. Here are five ideas to get you started:

  1. Find out what your employer has to offer

    Many organizations offer in-house training for employees looking to upskill; with a lot of employers introducing e-learning modules, perfect for completing from home. Arcadians benefit from the Arcadis Expedition DNA program – an interactive virtual training academy full of insights into what digitization means for our industry and their careers.

  2. Make the most of your memberships

    Industry membership bodies have plenty of resources to help their members get digital. Check out the ICE’s digital knowledge program which is full of short videos, podcasts and articles on the industry’s digital transformation.

  3. Go back to school

    Online universities like Coursera or Udacity host thousands of university and industry accredited courses on everything from data science to programming.

  4. Learn to code

    Get practical and learn coding skills in your spare time with Codecademy whose mission is to build the “first truly net native education” or, if you’re juggling homeschooling with work right now, why not involve the kids and have a go at building your first computer game with Scratch.

  5. Watch what the experts have to say

    With thousands of short videos from the world’s experts, there’s something for everyone on TED. Why not get some inspiration from a TED curated playlist such as: 8 ways to fuel innovation or How data can save lives.

Author

Image of Rachel White

Rachel White

CEO

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