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Case Study: Digital transformation in the post-COVID-19 world

April 28, 2020
The argument for a digital transformation has never been stronger or more relevant.

By Alistair Laycock, Haulmont custom solutions director & Lucas Gundry, Keyholding technology director

The global pandemic has been a proving ground where the most agile and dynamic businesses have reacted fastest to the ‘new normal’ of the lockdown economy; restrictions on travel, the shutdown of physical stores or factories, and a huge rise in remote working. Against this backdrop, the question is no longer should organizations digitize, but, rather, how can they deliver a transformation that best prepares them to handle uncertain times and create opportunity from crisis.

Many of the organizations coping best or even thriving in the current crisis share a common attribute: they were already building a flexible digital platform for the future, embracing agile methodologies and building development teams with detailed domain knowledge who could be flexible and fast enough to move in response to unprecedented events.

One example is the UK’s alarm-response specialist The Keyholding Company (KHC), which already had the foundations of a successful digital transformation in place--a long-term investment in the right technology, and a long-term investment in the right technology partner--which created the agility necessary to operate normally in a world that is anything but. 

As an essential service, The Keyholding Company supports national infrastructure service-providers such as locks/unlocks and alarm-response; it’s a private business that also eases pressure on public services, such as the police.

Before the pandemic, a national network of keywardens would lock and unlock buildings on behalf of the staff, but with businesses closed down this service was no longer required. Faced with losing a valuable revenue stream, The Keyholding Company realized that the lockdown actually presented an opportunity; while sites would stay locked and unstaffed, this meant there was a new demand for these sites to be visited by security staff, to check that the empty properties were secured and to act as a deterrent against crime. This called for a transformation of the existing service, replacing locks/unlocks with an entirely new service offering external and internal property patrols. 

As a result of the ongoing relationship with Haulmont, its technology partner of four years, The Keyholding Company was able to build out its existing client-portal functionality and job processes and reconfigure them to support an entirely new product offering for scheduled patrols in just a few days. This kind of new product build would typically take weeks, if not months. However the experience and knowledge of both internal and supplier resources fast-tracked this process. The close working relationship between the Haulmont engineers and the internal IT experts was also crucial to this speed of delivery.

Lucas Gundry, technology director at KHC, believes “A bespoke enterprise platform with a dedicated development team allows you to make changes quickly. This is particularly important for smaller and mid-sized businesses, where you can gain a real competitive advantage by working on something unique while your competitors wait for their off the shelf systems to catch up.”

For those looking to undertake any kind of digital transformation project, Lucas says, “you need speed now but always have to be thinking about the long term. Be brave and take risks but be really conscious of where you’ll be in six months to make sure you won’t get stuck. You need a zero-tolerance approach to legacy systems and always question everything. Be ruthless. And choose a technology partner who is invested in the project as much as you are. If they refuse to deliver a proof-of-concept then they are telling you they are ready to fail.”

The Keyholding Company’s ongoing digital-transformation project has enabled the business to function as close to normal as possible and even thrive in the new normal of the COVID-19 world. Thanks to this ability to retain key clients and even to add new business during the lockdown, Keyholding’s staff are able to work safely in the knowledge that their jobs are secure, their day-to-day work is unaffected and morale remains high.

The argument for a digital transformation has never been stronger or more relevant. As business recovers from the lockdown, the aftermath of the current global pandemic will shift priorities, making a digital transformation a case of ‘when’ and not ‘if’.