We are all facing some truly unprecedented times. COVID-19 pandemic is making us rethink how we function as businesses and social beings. With many cities across the globe embracing the concept of ‘shelter-in-place’ or complete lock down, thousands are undergoing medical quarantine, travel has come to a halt with non-essential businesses getting closed – ‘Social Distancing’ and ‘Work from Home’ (WFH) are becoming the new normal.
As world is reeling amid chaos, we see two prominent contributors’ surface:
1. Face of Humanity: The vulnerability of its nature and the strength to overcome hardships. The front-liners such as the first responders, medical practitioners, pharmacists, grocery retailers, and all the those providing “essentials jobs” are braving through their duties just to serve mankind. With an “in-it-to-win-it” attitude, as individuals, we all are performing our day to day responsibilities despite keeping social isolation and taking care of our dear ones.
2. Technology for Good: This crisis has brought out the best of digital channels with web conferencing tools for remote connectivity, mathematical modelling and data analytics for projections, strengthening supply chain of “essential” goods and services. Technology, retail, automobile and manufacturing industry giants have paused their regular business offerings to mass produce medical equipment and accessories during this hour of need. If this is not the proof of global unity, then nothing is.
For enterprises to remain sustainable and competitive in the market, it is inevitable that human and technology must work in tandem and complement each other. And there is no doubt that co-existence of human and machines is accelerating at a lightning speed due to such global events.
So, what does it mean for enterprises and what can be done at present to support our future?
Business Continuity at the Forefront
This pandemic has reaffirmed that we are a global village. No one knows how the dominos will fall with a tiny change of events in one part of the world leading to major uncertainties and mass disruptions in our lives and businesses. As first-aid responses, every organization is invoking their Business Continuity Plans (BCPs) and doing their best for employees, customers and suppliers to keep business afloat.
The top priority for enterprises is to protect employee’s health as part of their continuity plans, and then ensure availability of the right collaboration tools for seamless connectivity while employees are working remote. As and when this situation comes under control, retrospection will happen. How everyone responds now, will set the stage for future strategies, processes and policies.
It’s difficult to bake such disasters in forecasting and contingency planning, however it can be mitigated by leveraging the power of digitalization and data for sustenance and adaptability. In the new world of social-distancing, restricted travels and WFH, the investments towards digitalization, collaboration and automation becomes unavoidable.
Virtual Workforce for Stability
COVID crisis has exposed many process gaps and potential opportunities for technology improvements. It is imperative to make processes seamless, requiring minimal human interference for operational efficiency and security.
Beyond the BCP, as a long-term solution, enterprises must invest more in automation/ robots to work alongside humans and embrace a culture of automation-first mindset. A hybrid model of human and machines would benefit organizations looking for stable and predictable continuity. Virtual workforce also known as ‘Digital Workers’ can go beyond the traditional collaboration technologies such as zoom, WebEx, MS Teams, Slack, and daily stand-up meetings. However, most of the organizations are yet to roll out comprehensive automation strategies. Many are trying to plug in the gaps to make automation a company wide initiative.
As humans continue to dwell in isolation for a while, the best an enterprise can do is to protect its core against the uncertainty of distributed or unavailable workforce. Automation of business operations can become a significant pillar in Business Continuity for timely response and preparedness during such uncertain times. Organizations embracing machines for assistance, will have better chances of dealing with adversities.
Proposed strategies to keep enterprises relevant are:
1. Identify the core business processes that are disrupted by current crisis
2. Prioritize identified processes against revenue, margin and experience impacts
3. Evaluate automation feasibility of identified cases with cost and time estimation needs
4. Finalize the use cases based on ROI and embark the automation journey
Automation is a continuous journey and a cultural shift. It can start with a small step and be the next big leap to a sustainable growth.
“Future is best served when technology and humans complement each other for business continuity, adaptability and scalability”
Till everything else falls into place, the only checkmate move is to Stay Healthy, Stay Safe!
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