Covid-19 continues to dominate the year 2020, adding a tangential shift to the rapidly evolving technological environment. The pandemic has created an increasingly challenging and competitive business climate. Businesses are expected to implement COVID safety measures — such as social distancing, remote working, touchless workspaces, and hygienic workplaces — while continuing to make a profit.
The added cost and economic slowdown caused by the pandemic are compelling even established companies to find newer, more efficient, and safer ways of working. If adopting disruptive technology was essential for excelling in your industry before, now it’s a matter of survival.
Winners and Losers Post-COVID-19
The pandemic has undoubtedly wreaked havoc across a number of industries. But the ensuing business climate has also been beneficial to companies that were ahead of the curve in digitalizing themselves. Consider e-commerce, for example. Technology has enabled e-commerce businesses to continue day-to-day operations at a hugely challenging time for commerce.
Indices that measure website visits between Q1-Q3 2020 indicated the following surges inactivity (Source: Comscore):
- General news sites/apps: +148%
- Instant messaging sites/apps: +72%
- Education or informational sites/apps: +83%
- Food/grocery sites/apps: +119%
- Entertainment sites/apps: +36%
In particular, the pandemic has played a role in elevating the value of digital business- and operating models as well as non-traditional ways of working. The importance of such approaches as well as digitalization in general has been brought sharply into focus, with many business experts predicting a ‘new normal’ in business, since the Corona virus is likely to accompany us for the next years.
Adapting to the New Normal of Business
Once again, it has become vital for planners and strategy makers to understand the emerging trends and disruptive forces unleashed by the pandemic, and to react to them appropriately. Here are six major post-COVID trends that business leaders must keep in sight while planning for new business initiatives and innovation projects.
1. Data-Driven Business
The first factor is the exponential rise in both the importance and sheer quantity of data. Data has become extremely important. So much so that if your business is unable to respond to the latest data trends rapidly, it could cease to exist in a matter of months.
But unlocking the potential of data is far from easy. Harvesting the information may not be incredibly difficult, but analyzing it effectively poses challenges. And then businesses have to wrestle with new legislation, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), to protect privacy.
Breaking Down Data Silos: Indeed, 83% of IT decision-makers reported that data silos were creating business challenges in their organization, based on data from MuleSoft. Therefore, breaking down these silos is of critical importance, with 68% of the most efficient companies said to have worked on eliminating siloed data and sharing insights.
Data Collection and Analytics: Identifying valuable sources of data, unlocking these sources, collecting, collating, and cataloguing the vast quantity of information, and then effectively analyzing it is at the very core of digital transformation. These processes can elevate customer experiences, streamline internal operations, and improve products and services.
2. Hybrid Multi-Cloud Strategy
At the heart of dealing with this deluge in data is the cloud. The cloud is now firmly established in both business, private and governmental usage. But organizations are still getting to grips with the emergence of the hybrid multi-cloud environment.
What is a Multi-Cloud Strategy? A multi-cloud strategy involves using multiple public cloud services. For example, a business might utilize Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure in tandem. And the hybrid cloud is arguably even more important, enabling on-premise, private and public cloud offerings to be commingled data effectively.
Dealing with Data Silos: This strategy makes it possible to select different cloud services for different tasks. Hybrid multi-cloud computing makes it much more feasible to deal with siloed datasets— companies can assign suitable cloud services to the various silos as required.
Issues and Roadblocks: Migrating to this hybrid approach is problematic. 84% of enterprises with at least 1,000 employees continue to rely on multi-cloud environments. There can be a reluctance to tackle the sometimes-huge logistical undertaking of fundamentally changing how the cloud is organized within a business. Managing cost is also a significant consideration. But there are potential solutions to these issues, as we will discover imminently.
It also makes no economic sense to duck the issue. In the aforementioned EY study, 60% of corporates divulged that cloud accounted for their technology investment’s largest share. All technological innovations, as we advance, will rely on the cloud in some way. So, businesses must ensure that they get it right.
3. Transitioning with APIs and Containerization
Migrating to a hybrid multi-cloud is challenging. But API-led application development is an essential potential solution to this issue. APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are critical to modern approaches to the cloud, enabling the development of applications and services used to provide cloud hardware, software, and platforms.
API Development: Businesses that can effectively leverage APIs will experience increased productivity, revenue growth, and improved innovation scope. But implementation is important. MuleSoft found in its research that the more sophisticated the API strategy, the greater the business outcome.
Containerization: Research also suggests that companies willing to take advantage of containerization will also benefit massively. This term refers to the process of packaging up software code so that it can run uniformly and efficiently on any infrastructure.
Utilizing these technologies enables businesses to conduct smarter operations at a faster speed. APIs and containerization can play a significant role in ensuring that companies can win the information war.
4. AI and Machine Learning
Another critical aspect of digital business innovation, and indeed the entire corporate environment of the future, is AI and machine learning. This innovation has made countless headlines in recent years, as the increasing importance and implications of this technology has become ever more apparent.
And there is no area where AI and machine learning is more valuable than understanding vast datasets. If you want to make sense of inordinate amounts of information – get a machine to do the job! The value of AI and machine learning to data analytics comprises speed, scale, convenience, and cost. Traditional analytics simply can’t compete.
AI and Data Analytics: Automating data analysis is already at the heart of the digital transformation. This makes it possible to analyze complex datasets exceptionally quickly. And it then enables businesses to gain important data-driven insights that would otherwise be impossible. This can be massively beneficial, particularly for those ahead of the curve in implementing AI.
Automated Customer Interactions: The importance of AI cannot be overstated. Servion Global Solutions predicts that AI will power 95% of all customer interactions by 2025, including live telephone conversations. This means that organizations are moving now to implement AI systems, thereby reducing human bias and increasing productivity.
There will undoubtedly be some pushback against AI. The concept of machines that think can still be an uncomfortable one for some people. But the widespread adoption of machine learning technology in appliances such as Google Home demonstrates that the general public is getting on board with the idea of machine learning. This is one revolution that businesses cannot afford to ignore.
5. Connecting and Personalizing the Customer Experience
At first glance, this trend might not seem particularly new or driven by digital innovation. Businesses have been trying to meet the needs of their customers since the concept of business was invented!
Personalized and Connected: But delivering connected and personalized customer experiences is at the very heart of digital transformation. It’s about being available for sales and customer service at all times, wherever customers may be located. It’s about communicating effectively with customers across multiple channels. And it’s about delivering an experience that is smooth, seamless, and that caters to the individual needs of the customer.
Process Integration: In achieving this, integration is key. Yet the vast majority of apps used by businesses do not connect with one another. The challenge companies face is to cement joined-up processes, across the increasing plurality of digital channels, while keeping up with all of the latest trends at the same time. Which is not an easy task.
Customer experience is also non-negotiable. Research shows that three-quarters of consumers believe that companies should directly respond to their needs. And nearly 70% of consumers would ditch the purchasing of a particular product or service if they felt that the customer journey was inefficient or clunky.
Delivering a connected and personalized experience means smoothening out the customer journey, ensuring that there are no barriers to purchase, and making every customer feel valued. This can only be achieved by leveraging the technologies and innovations that have been discussed in this article.
6. Security and Privacy
Finally, security has been a hot topic for quite some time. And that’s not about to change.
Protect Customer Data: The exponential increase in data provides opportunities, but it also creates headaches. Regulation is tightening to deal with this climate, which means that businesses have to ensure that they protect customer data fiercely and prepare themselves diligently for an increasingly hostile security environment.
Again, EY’s research indicated that 38% of corporates believe that improving security is their top improvement priority. This just underlines the importance of getting on top of security. Failure to do this could damage an enterprise irreparably.
Leading in the Digital Age
Dealing with the digital journey that many companies are embarking on is challenging. But the good news is that many are making progress. MuleSoft found that 44% of corporates believe that they are making good progress with their digital transformation plans, while an additional 4% asserted that they had completed their transition.
The coming age will be dominated by information and the ability to understand this information as rapidly as possible. Ignoring the evolving climate will be commercial suicide.
In order to deliver the ideal customer experience, companies will be expected to cultivate a data-driven culture, which considers all individual circumstances. They will utilize disruptive technologies such as hybrid multi-cloud, AI, and machine learning to achieve this. At the same time, ensuring that they are fully protected from hostile attacks and that their customers’ data is similarly secure. Failure to do so will simply not be an option.
- Big data will drive the corporate environment of the future.
- This data will be vast, fragmented, and difficult to handle.
- A multi-cloud approach will be essential for analyzing data.
- APIs and containerization can assist with the transition to hybrid multi-cloud.
- AI and machine learning will be critical tools in big data analytics.
- Data insight should be used to help personalize and connect the customer experience.
- Security and privacy will pose big challenges in this climate.