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Is investing in technology during a crisis judicious?

By admin

Oct 10, 2020

Lives across the world have been disrupted by the crisis caused by COVID-19. Businesses continue to grapple with unprecedented operational and economic challenges, tending to focus on sustenance rather than growth. This has necessitated a rejig of strategies and realignment of priorities.

In practice, this means a reduction of expenses, both capital and operational. Expansion plans are being deferred, equipment purchases canceled, R&D budgets frozen, recruitment is at a standstill. These are but natural reactions–the exigencies are unparalleled. So must the reactions be.

Yet, business leaders need to answer these crucial questions: Can the distress be mitigated with technical solutions? Secondly, when normalcy returns, will the company be ready to capitalize on the emergent opportunities? An affirmative answer to either of these would warrant an investment in technology. Would this be a prudent thing to do in these tumultuous times? Let’s check.

Understanding where technology can help
  • Broadly, the focus of organizations must be on these four areas:

  1. Cost savings: The pandemic has seen people tighten their purse-strings, in both the retail and corporate space. A McKinsey report indicates that the top 500 global companies will cut back on capital spending by 25-30%. Consumer spending shows a similar pattern, according to the World Economic Forum. When conventional cost-reduction methods prove to be inadequate, a technological intervention can help (provided the investment required for the solution is not prohibitive, negating the objective).

  2. Efficiency enhancement: Today, the need to improve business efficiency is more critical than it ever was. Depleting revenues and mounting pressures from the competition are forcing organizations to optimize their processes and resources. Technology can facilitate a higher efficiency in operations across multiple levels, by pruning wasteful expenditure, streamlining workflows, and eliminating unproductive tasks.

  3. Quick actions for sustained benefits: Agility is the key to success in a rapidly changing environment. As customers try to adapt to the new normal, they expect their business partners to be quick-footed in their responses. The effects of crises cannot be mitigated with passiveness. With the right technology tool, businesses can accelerate decision-making and be ready at all times for any contingency.

  4. Preparing for the future: When the world gets back on its feet, a few things would have changed for good. Being able to foresee the needs, and the newer, unknown challenges is a distinguishing trait of a successful leader. The business realignment approaches necessitated by the pandemic, in all likelihood, will continue to be relevant in the times to come. Powerful data modeling and analytics tools can enable companies to stay prepared for the future.

Areas to focus on

Technology, when chosen and applied appropriately, can benefit every department in an organization. However, there’s a need to set priorities now. Here are a few functions that make a compelling case for technological intervention:

Customer service: Large teams or infrastructure is no longer needed to fulfill customer needs. Efficient engagement techniques may be utilized to ensure every interaction is handled in a quick, professional, and customer-friendly manner.

Workflow enhancement: The inadequacies of current work practices may come to the fore in the time of adversity. Time-consuming activities need to be speeded up through process redesign and automation. Operation-centric tools such as ERP, SCM, or CRM may require upgrades or replacements.

Improved sales and marketing strategies: The performance of sales and marketing teams is hampered by severe constraints today. Innovative tools for the generation of leads and identification of personalized or segment-specific cross-selling and upselling opportunities are essential to achieve healthy sales figures.

Analytics for Business Intelligence: Now’s a good time to look at data with a new perspective. Are conventional methods adequate? If analytical tools are already in use, are they effective? An appropriately designed BI tool can spark insightful decisions.

Better utilization of manpower: In most organizations, a sizeable proportion of the labor force is saddled with repetitive and uninspiring work. Automation, along with scientifically devised process improvements, can help move them to more fulfilling roles.

Technology approaches that must be explored

Two common threads are relatable to all functional requirements: turning data into actionable information and improving process efficiency through sophisticated techniques. These are exactly the principal goals of all Artificial Intelligence (AI) deployments. Organizations that are yet to adopt AI need to quickly evaluate options. Those that are already using the technology may, on the other hand, find it necessary to reassess the requirements and fine-tune their systems. Let’s briefly discuss how AI-based solutions can be of immense value in these times.

A global survey conducted by Cognilytica in January 2020 illustrated how the world was progressing on AI adoption. Almost 90% of respondents expected to see an AI solution in some stage of implementation in their company in two years. COVID-19 might have forced the deferment of some of these plans. But in reality, AI can retain its rightful part in the industry’s technology roadmap. It could truly play an even more purposeful role today.

AI can infuse efficiency into every stage in the customer service lifecycle, from onboarding and account management to post-sales support; better designs and manufacturing processes improve product quality; logistics and supply chains anticipate and accommodate demands; recruiting the best talent is less stressful; the retail and e-commerce industries gain proactive insights on what customers want. In short, AI can enhance the functional performance and drive higher profitability, the enduring objectives of all businesses. These have just become more relevant today.

Concerns that need to be addressed

Farsighted business leaders will concur with the view that AI can be beneficial today and in the future. Yet, they may harbor two possible apprehensions that stop them from moving ahead. The first is the cost and the second, the perceived complexity.

With the wide availability of powerful software tools and affordable cloud computing platforms, the cost of AI deployments no longer remains a deterrent. It’s a misconception to think of these as suitable only for large companies with inexhaustible budgets. Growing organizations of all sizes can get on the technology bandwagon with minimal investments.

It’s also a fallacy that extensive technical knowledge or specialized skills are required to utilize AI. Guidance and support can be availed from experts who have implemented real-life projects. The key is to clearly define the goals and engage with a dependable technology service provider.

How to select a technology partner

Evaluating a vendor can be a daunting task, especially during a crisis. Here’s a quick summary of the aspects to look for in prospective partners.

Technical competence is, of course, pivotal. The project should be led by accomplished professionals with requisite domain knowledge and capabilities. But this is just half the story. Business contingencies call for quick responses. Unless the expertise is accompanied by an agile and customer-centric attitude, the experience may not justify the investment or the efforts. The vendor should be able to demonstrate the value in their proposition, with a simple, easy-to-understand contract with a transparent pricing structure.

Tough times do not offer the luxury of a margin for error. To effectively overcome the challenges, enlisting a vendor with the right credentials and skillsets is imperative. With its proven expertise in AI and data technologies, toCode offers comprehensive technology consultancy services. toCode’s innovative solutions and best-in-class support empower organizations to reorient their strategies capably to meet the demands of today and the future.

Artificial Intelligence Centre of Excellence is the need of the hour.

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