The past year has ushered in unprecedented change driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, both in how we work and live. Businesses across all industries have had to rapidly and drastically transform their processes and operations as a matter of survival. While these changes were often implemented as temporary means to cope with the crisis, many of them are now delivering real value to the organization, better positioning companies to compete and win in the new normal. The challenge IT leaders now face is making these beneficial fixes stick.

We spoke with members of the C-suite in 20 companies across multiple industries, ranging from startups to multibillion-dollar global titans, to gain insight on how they responded to the crisis and what their concerns are for thriving in the emerging new normal. Though the pandemic impacted each company differently, several common themes emerged from our conversations.

First, the COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly accelerated digital transformation of data and business processes across the entire value chain. Cloud capabilities have been central to this acceleration, with companies that invested in cloud services before the pandemic gaining significant advantage. Changes in technology adoption that used to take years now took months because of the robust nature of cloud technologies and agile ways of working adopted to weather the impacts of COVID-19.

Second, while technologies such as Zoom grabbed headlines, the biggest changes under COVID have occurred in company operating models and organizational culture — changes that have upended long-standing beliefs and norms about how work gets done and how organizations are managed.

Lastly, accelerated digital and operating model transformation, while borne out of necessity, has created new sources of value that include brick-and-mortar cost savings, reduced travel expense, and to the surprise of many, higher workforce productivity and employee engagement.  As one participant put it, “We got a surprise COVID dividend.”