The year ahead requires organizations to leverage technology, recover, and grow. I believe the key for a successful organization is to build truly digital customer experiences, leverage AI and data for internal operations, create smarter supply chain networks, gain true process insights, and humanize intelligent automation.
The ‘Next Normal’ and the underlying uncertainties
Innovation and resiliency have been the keywords for businesses that have thrived in the pandemic. The extended lockdowns, resource constraints, and social distancing norms have forced corporations and small businesses alike to scramble and rethink their strategies and business from the ground up.
The entire educational sector has seen massive disruption — schools and colleges, even in remote villages, have had to embrace online classes and solve the challenges that inevitably come with the changes. Online businesses like eCommerce have thrived, while vacation home rental companies have had to undergo crippling lean periods during the normally peak-summers and pivot to the ‘work + vacation’ travelers. Internet and connectivity services have endured massive strain on their infrastructure as remote work and home entertainment peaked across the world.
For the first time since the crisis started, the news about the potential mass availability of vaccines within the next few months has changed the outlook on the horizon. It is now more of hope, stability, and growth. It promises untapped opportunities for organizations that have embraced AI and Automation and continue to reinvent and innovate on the strength of their digital strategies.
Predicting trends in 2021 — Growing past a crisis
The new year is thus a harbinger of another new normal. A period of uncertainty that will define the business landscape for the next decade or more. Digital transformation has accelerated at an unprecedented scale. Analysts and business executives expect most of the changes to impact long-term core business strategies. Technology is a strategic differentiator and the core of the modern resilient enterprise. AI and Automation are the answers to the challenges in the crisis now and in the future.
In my previous article, I had stressed the need for a technology strategy that balances growth and resilience for businesses to continue without interruption, irrespective of any disruptions in the business environment. The year ahead requires organizations to leverage this strategy, recover, and grow. I believe the key for a successful organization is to build truly digital customer experiences, leverage AI and data for internal operations, create smarter supply chain networks, gain true process insights, and humanize intelligent automation.
Truly digital customer experiences
Organizations have had to innovate fast in the past few months. One of our clients saw their support requests triple during the pandemic, but their backend team was now short-staffed and remote, which resulted in backlogs and delayed customer service. They immediately worked with us to get Nia Chatbots enabled for their business. The team got the chatbots working and online in record time, and the client can now handle the requests much faster than they used to before the pandemic started.
Stories like this abound all over the world. It has now become imperative for customer-facing businesses to create a fully remote digital experience for their customers. We have seen traditionally automation averse industries now embracing bots and automating processes. Employees who have seen automation as a threat are now upskilling at home and finding creative ways to handle their remote workload efficiently. Therefore, I expect 2021 to be the year when organizations and employees work together to create seamless, touchless, truly digital customer experiences.
AI Empowered Remote Workforces
The pandemic may have forced organizations to switch to a remote working model, but it has also shown everyone the numerous advantages a remote workforce brings to the enterprise. As employees get a better work-life balance, organizations have secured their networks, automated their processes, and collected data on the usage of their resources. Internal IT operations had to scramble to facilitate this transformation. In most organizations, AI has proven to be the savior, predicting and handling possibly crippling security and overage incidents.
The pandemic is predicted to impact businesses for the better part of 2021, and with organizations now rethinking their infrastructure setup, working remotely will be the norm for many of us. With the advanced AI tools at our disposal, it is only a matter of time before AI-powered IT operations, or AIOps, be an integral part of the Next Normal.
Cognitive Connected Supply Chain Networks
Everyone remembers the panic when the lockdowns started. Essential goods and medical supplies were out of stock at retailers for weeks, while a lot of other stores and businesses saw demand fall due to closures and curfews. The pandemic exposed the limits of our traditional demand forecasting methods. We could no longer rely on seasonal and historic trends and markers. With trade routes and channels affected due to cities and countries locking down, manufacturers had a tough time meeting demand and planning eventual surges as economies restarted.
This has brought to the fore a need for the Cognitive, Connected Supply Chain. This is a supply chain that automatically adjusts to spikes and drops in demand in real-time. Such a supply chain is possible through centralized control towers, which are data-driven, with real-time access to information, and fully aligned across business functions. FMCG, CRL, and BFI industries are now investing in building such autonomous supply chains, and the gains from these investments will be seen across the world soon.
Intuitive Process Discovery
Organizations are investing in Intelligent Automation extensively. As we strive to build highly automated and intelligent processes, it becomes imperative that businesses know every single step in the processes they are automating.
Organizations have understood the need for fully scientific, bias-free process mapping, and will now look to build actionable process insights as a critical capability.
Humanizing Intelligent Automation
At EdgeVerve, we fully believe that automation serves to empower the human counterpart. While automation aims to drive improved efficiency across the enterprise, it is important to remember the unique advantages humans bring to the enterprise. Human specialists bring creativity and empathy to their customer interactions and will be aided by the accuracy and productiveness of their digital twins.
The possibilities unlocked by such a combination are endless. Automation is not just for repetitive back-office processes anymore. It is now touching every aspect of an enterprise — the employees, the systems, and the customers. Dynamic, contextual operations will be the goal for organizations in 2021. And such operations cannot be built on deterministic automation alone- it needs a much more evolved and nuanced human-digital interaction. This step will be a significant milestone in their Automation Singularity journey.
Full speed ahead
As I had written previously, when disruption strikes, we either innovate or perish. There is no third option. Companies have innovated, survived, and built to this point. Now they need to innovate again when the pandemic ends. The current normal will be disrupted again, and the future belongs to not only the resilient enterprise, but also to an agile technology first enterprise.
2021 will thus be a year where new paths are forged with a renewed focus on creating digital-first experiences, enabling organizations to step up, inspire, and lead, creating a new narrative in this period of great uncertainty.