2020, what a year it has been! There is no doubt that the coronavirus shook our lives, impacting family, friends, economy and businesses. As we come closer to the end of the year, we take a moment to look back at the last 11 months in the tech industry and how organisations had to accelerate their digital transformation.
Organisations had to adapt speedily to enable their employees to work from home without disruption. Front line workforce in customer service, sales and call centres had to keep communications lines open from their homes. From a company’s perspective, it was crucial to provide the necessary tools to enable online collaborations and customer servicing. Now that the groundwork has been done, organisations are being more flexible with work arrangements, offering fully remote or a mix of remote and office work options.
Nonetheless, employee experience has never been so relevant today. Organisations need to ensure their employees do not feel disconnected from the rest of the business while working remotely. In fact, Gartner identified ‘anywhere operations’ as one of the Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2021. The notion of anywhere operations refers to an IT operating model designed to support customers everywhere, enable employees everywhere and manage the deployment of business services across distributed infrastructures. It goes beyond simply working from home or interacting with customers virtually. Anywhere operations deliver unique value-add experiences across five core areas:
- Collaboration and productivity
- Secure remote access
- Cloud and edge infrastructure
- Quantification of the digital experience
- Automation to support remote operations
Gartner predicts that by the end of 2023, 40% of organisations will have applied anywhere operations to deliver optimised and blended virtual and physical customer and employee experiences. Where does your organisation currently stand?
Businesses had to invest in digital technologies to reduce face-to-face interactions and safeguard customer and employee health and wellbeing. E-commerce and conversational AI implementations went through the roof during COVID-19, leaving no choice for laggards but to get on board to continue selling their products and stay available to their customers.
In the e-commerce space, Amazon saw record sales this year and many brands expanded their delivery services to contactless delivery, putting the customers’ and workers’ safety first. Australia Post facilitated an additional $2.4 billion in e-commerce deliveries during the height of the COVID-19 crisis.1
The rise in chatbots and virtual agents helped businesses better service customers. While most agents were able to answer phone calls from distributed environments (at home for instance), many weren’t set up for this which led to the implementation of conversational AI. Chatbots and virtual agents helped answer commonly asked questions without any human intervention, while more complex scenarios were passed on to human agents to handle.
DIGITAL BUSINESS AUTOMATION
Automation played a big part in digital transformation during the pandemic, allowing businesses to reduce operational costs, drive efficiency and productivity. Repetitive, dull tasks were, and will continue to be, automated to enable the workforce to focus on higher value jobs.
Revenue for Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software in Australia is expected to increase 20.8% in 2021 as demand continues to rise2 . Digital optimisation initiatives such as RPA aren’t going away anytime soon. Businesses have no choice but to be smarter with their cost management, especially after the economic hit.
We’ve seen and implemented many solutions involving Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology into automated processes. The ability to automate the transcription of written characters from documents and images has helped organisations speed up and simplify data processing. By letting a robot do the tedious work, employees were trained to learn new skills and perform more satisfying tasks.
Digital transformation is as much about automating and streamlining business processes as it is about empowering people to work in new ways.
COVID-19 triggered an acceleration in the democratisation of AI and data. Governments, companies and other agencies needed to work together to create a faster solution to stop the spread of the virus. Data and AI were the tools they naturally turned to.
AI investments seem to be moving from pilot concepts to actual deployment in a growing number of organisations. At Blackbook.ai, we witnessed this trend firsthand as businesses leverage AI solutions to improve business efficiency and be more prepared for future disruptions.
Machine learning, analytics, computer vision and Natural Language Processing (NLP) are some of the AI components that businesses are investing in. Program Vice President, Artificial Intelligence Research at IDC, Ritu Jyoti said: “The role of AI applications in enterprises is rapidly evolving. It is transforming how your customers buy, your suppliers deliver, and your competitors compete. AI applications continue to be at the forefront of digital transformation initiatives, driving both innovation and improvement to business operations.”
MODERN DATA ECOSYSTEMS
Organisations focus on having the right data strategy and architecture to empower their employees to make data-driven decisions with accurate and timely data. What we see in the Australian market is a rising investment in modern big data ecosystem, or “technology stack”, which contains three fundamental elements: a responsive data architecture, delivery at scale and AI-driven intelligent data management.
Companies are migrating out of fragmented, rigid data platforms to more streamlined and flexible data ecosystems to generate maximum business value from their data assets and provide tailored customer experiences. In unexpected times like COVID-19, having a unified and flexible data ecosystem is critical.
Sharing data with third parties in the digital economy helped companies improve their operations. Online travel portals offered insights into consumer behaviour to help airlines and hotels plan for demand and set pricing. Other data ecosystems enabled automotive suppliers and manufacturers to share performance and usage data, generating insights that can improve product design and processes, or banks pooling data to identify fraudulent transactions and accounts. The latter example can be seen in Australia with the Open Banking scheme.
One of the most significant issues organisations currently face is cybersecurity. It is crucial that organisations have insight into their core digital assets and level of risk. With a workforce shifting to long term / permanent remove work and a rise in digitisation, cloud-based applications, modern data ecosystem and AI solutions, being able to detect threats is more important than ever.
In today’s risk reality, organisations must anticipate new cybersecurity threats, deal with disruptive technologies and build resilience. IT leaders are learning how to plan and apply security actions for different data risk categories, address skill shortages and build a risk culture that also powers their company’s digital future to grow and innovate with confidence.
Our final words…
Most companies seem to have emerged stronger from the 2020 crisis by investing in their digital transformation. The digital economy is moving fast, and customer expectations never cease to rise – are you committed to building a competitive edge over slower-moving rivals and invest in innovation and new ways of working?
1 Source: Australia Post 2020 Annual Report
2 Source: CRN Australia
Nov 27, 2020