It has been over a year since the pandemic hit and the challenges faced by businesses across the globe remain fresh in the minds of those tasked with overcoming them.
But in some ways, says Richard Farrell, chief innovation officer at Netcall, that’s a positive. As much as we may want to forget all that we’ve endured, there are valuable lessons that can and should be taken from our experiences.
For many, the speed at which we had to adapt was the ultimate test. The need to deploy tools required for mass remote working proved challenging, depending on the existing levels of preparation that a business had in place and some were more prepared than others.
Radically altered services
As everyone shifted across to the digital plains, teams had to re-establish company processes and strategies to take remote working into account. This meant having to adjust to fully online marketing and events, as well as rethinking those services that traditionally required presence at customer sites, including sales, project management, and some on-site technical support.
These have radically altered, with a transition to predominantly remote and virtual activities where possible. We also saw general shifts across all sectors, including the requirement for virtual meetings, an increased demand for cloud solutions and integrations with workforce collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams.
Looking forward to the year ahead, the acceleration of digitisation that for many were ‘nice to have’ options, such as communication channels, will become a high priority. This will mostly be the case, as we expect that many knowledge-based workers will continue to work remotely at least part-time.
Other implementations, such as robotic process automation (RPA), underpinned by low-code technology, have helped free up employee time by managing repetitive and low-value tasks. The simplicity and flexible nature of low-code meant that businesses were able to deploy the necessary automation quickly and effectively without taking focus away from clients or customers.
These two technologies work in complete harmony, with RPA handling the tasks and low-code managing the processes, enabling enterprises to redistribute resources and focus more on customer care. They have given workers more time for the complex, emotional, and high-value interactions that can’t be left to a bot.
Amid this accelerated digital-first process automation, and a need to continually achieve optimum customer service, internal efficiency has truly come under the spotlight. Moving forward, the need to respond to growing customer demand has emphasised inefficient and outdated processes and forward-looking enterprises are now looking towards the concept of hyperautomation to achieve this.
It may sound like a glorified next step beyond that entrenched buzzword of ‘automation’, but hyperautomation is far more all-encompassing. It’s a gateway to complete end-to-end automation through the combination of complementary technologies, to augment the complete network of business and customer-facing processes. What hyperautomation is set to facilitate is the transition from task-based efficiencies beyond the capability of humans, to process-based efficiency across the entire entangled business ecosystem.
Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) technologies such as low-code, that can be easily integrated with automation, will prove pivotal in enabling enterprises to embrace the many benefits of hyperautomation. By providing everyday business users with flexible, easy-to-use technology, companies can effectively break down departmental silos and position those operating at the call centre ‘coalface’ as citizen developers enabling businesses to act as one in the pursuit for innovation. Whilst automation of this kind won’t necessarily allow enterprises to move faster, it can effectively free them up to deliver better service for customers.
Speed has been paramount this year, and automated business applications built on low-code platforms can be deployed rapidly with minimal infrastructure configuration giving enterprises the ability to add and prove value fast as they navigate the still-volatile business landscape.
However, thinking of this transition as a technology-driven one could set businesses on a potentially wrong path, at speed. Instead, it is important to think of it as an integrative cultural transition. Businesses are already seeing the benefits of the new systems and technologies they have in place, so the next step is to ensure they have teams with the required skills to manage them.
Again, low-code has been instrumental in helping organisations overcome challenges from the skills gap, as its simple nature means employees no longer have to rely on technical assistance from IT teams to develop new processes. In addition, companies are already committing to providing programmes that will create skills and training opportunities locally including wider training, ongoing mentoring, access to e-learning modules and accreditation.
Whilst the past year has been about survival, this year will be about thriving. The enterprises that arm themselves with the right tools to remain agile will be positioned to remain resilient in the months ahead.
The author is Richard Farrell, chief innovation officer at Netcall.
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