The current pandemic has truly shone the spotlight on the physical-versus-digital manner of working and its potential impact on the bottom line. Companies that have consistently made the move to go digital based on software, data and cloud networks over the years have managed to gain a competitive edge.
These digitization efforts have resulted in advantages such as increased production at lower costs, better customer outreach, and enhanced communication avenues for employees and customers. It indeed has done a lot to soften the economic blow.
“We’re at a point in time where having the right technological tools is not just a nice-to-have, but indeed a necessity for employee safety and overall public health.”
Numerous companies are apprehensive regarding this sudden change to their core functioning and its implications on what would be the “new normal.” It is important for these businesses to realize that this shift has brought with it an opportunity to alleviate functional pain points and refocus on mission-oriented, fulfilling work.
Businesses in sectors like healthcare, supply chain, banking, and more which mainly depended on physical interactions have suffered owing to the implementation of strict lockdowns. Therefore, we’ve rounded up examples of how businesses/operations in these crucial sectors have harnessed the utilities of technology and maximized the user experience of their existing tools to deliver the best services unhindered, especially in times of need. This is to showcase the importance and impact that digitization has had on the functioning of businesses.
Healthcare businesses have seen massive setbacks as well as burdening workload as a result of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown. As it continues to spread, hospitals’ abilities to cope with an onrush of infected cases have been thoroughly challenged, and this isn’t the last we’ve seen of it.
Technology has provided respite to those who did have digital processes in place to combat contingency requirements such as these. Healthcare professionals are now getting first-hand experiences of how data can make a difference between life and death.
David Vidal, the CIO of Spain’s Barcelona Hospital Clínic reproduced the words of an infectious disease specialist working in his center, “We are saving people’s lives thanks to data.”
In Spain’s worst-hit cities, Madrid and Barcelona, the massive number of patients needing hospitalization has led to hotels and sports pavilions being transformed into care facilities. The IT teams in the hospitals worked round-the-clock to ensure the EHR accessibility at every point of care. They also facilitated the work of medical teams by designing a new alerts system and methods to classify COVID-19 patients, helping doctors and nurses in the decision-making process.
Dr. Jaan Sidorov, CEO of the Population Health Alliance in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, says he and his colleagues are quickly learning how the COVID-19 crisis will change their practice patterns. “My world before COVID consisted of taking care of patients one at a time,” he said. “Now, my duty is to serve an entire patient population.”
Telehealth, for instance, no longer remains a novelty. It already has and will continue to remain a mainstay technology. In fact, a bill for coronavirus funding in the U.S. Congress waives the rules that usually restrict video services for people on Medicare. This move emphasizes the potential for telehealth in not only this current outbreak, but also in the future. In India, the government for the first time allowed doctors to practice through telemedicine, given the current scenario.
A digital health-based startup in Italy, Paginemediche, developed a chatbot based on the guidelines set out by the Ministry of Health. It has been adopted by the Provincial Health Services Agency in Trento and is used by healthcare professionals to interact with patients via remote visits.
Supply Chain Management
Our globalized world has allowed us to have a marketplace that is constantly connected and interconnected. This marketplace mainly operates on a complex supply chain run by millions of outsourced providers to bring goods or services to consumers.
With China being recognized globally as the “world’s factory”, disruption in this nation has had a domino effect on industries everywhere. Over 200 of the Fortune Global 500 have some or the other trade connection in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.
Supply chain processes have been notoriously slow to adopt digital processes citing security and efficiency issues, while making use of analog processes for data entry, thus leaving massive room for human errors.
When faced with complexities arising from contagion outbreaks, supply chains that are mainly dependent on physical, paper-based assets requiring human presence risk severe losses.
Thus, having the right digital tools in place isn’t just a matter of cost, but a primary way of mitigating risks. Businesses with strong digital infrastructure such as e-signature and e-transactions are currently managing disruptions much better as compared to those without.
Biopharmaceutical companies, for instance, have benefited greatly by adding tracking devices to capture the slightest temperature fluctuations, especially outside regulatory thresholds, to help improve response rates and overall operations. A biopharma company transporting high-value blood plasma added increased real-time visibility into its supply chain – as a result saved $70 million and spared volumes of blood plasma from wastage.
The post-pandemic world might see a transformation in the physical transportation and delivery of goods as well, with robots and drones being deployed for completing the delivery.
Be it a biopharma company as above, or an electronics giant in the US relying on critical components that only China produces, businesses are bound to be affected. The massive level of uncertainty and disruption in today’s business climate necessitates real-time responses, which can only be done if the entire supply chain is visible, and updates are current.
Specialist software such as SAP SCM, Dassault Systeme SCM, Oracle SCM, etc. provide advanced analytics through AI and the Internet of Things to help businesses plan, source, and deliver goods, along with warehouse management, and more. AI-enabled technology, allows users to access deeper and more predictive insights earlier in the contracting lifecycle to inform their sourcing strategy and risk management activities.
Banking and Finance
Timothy Mayopoulos, President of Blend, a digital lending platform, says, “The coronavirus is creating an additional sense of urgency for financial institutions that may have been on the fence about investing in digital mortgage technology before.”
Traditional banks relying on inert, monolithic technology infrastructure have now been forced to make a sudden shift to digital as effectively as digital banks which were built to be responsive, adaptable, and scalable. Those banks that function on centralized, legacy technology are now saddled with deeper issues.
HSBC recently announced the launch of Smart Mobile Onboarding (SMO) for its customers enabling them to apply for the opening of Category I RMB accounts through mobile channels, thereby leading to the enhancement of service convenience and accessibility in times of the pandemic.
According to research made by fintech solutions company, Velmie, the global lockdown has hit those banks the hardest that aren’t remote-friendly and rely on their physical branches rather than offering customers digital access.
Consumers around the world have now been pushed to use digital banking as their default way of controlling their finances and economic future. With an increased consumer engagement across digital banking applications, financial institutions now have the chance to not just deliver great user experience, but also provide critical guidance to consumers, especially during times of economic uncertainty. This can be accomplished by implementing contactless payments, video and telephone conferencing, and leveraging technology for cash management and trade finance.
Using blockchain to digitize or tokenize payment allows working capital to flow from one end of the supply chain to another safely and efficiently.
As is aptly summarized by Lisa Robins, Head of Transaction Banking at Standard Chartered, “Some of the solutions we turn to during a crisis often already exist, but what changes is the urgency to adapt.” says Robins
Other Sectors That Need An Immediate UX Intervention
If we are to go by this NYT column which states that it’s hyperbolically possible that disease after disease will sweep around the globe, and quarantines and societal shutdowns will become commonplace, the education sector has some serious work on its hands. While several prominent universities were better prepared for the shift, the majority of education organizations are not really set up for online classes.
There are now instances of K-12 institutions going virtual, providing teachers and students access to the technology and tools they need to keep learning from home. The transition to digital education is certainly disruptive as it wasn’t planned for in the timeline the coronavirus dictated, but the current times have dictated that the educators and educational institutions be better prepared in the future.
Programs like Khan Academy or Degreed have been around and increased in popularity for adult and corporate education for more than a decade now. However, one cannot deny the possibility that there could be a generation that grows up constantly switching between digital and physical classrooms in our very near future.
Probably the hardest hit and with very little chance to recover were government services in the US, UK, and mainland Europe. It is no secret that a large section of the U.S. government is relying on tech platforms designed in the 19th century and technology from the 20th century to combat the sudden onset of contemporary challenges.
The US government passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in late March which covers $600 weekly increase in unemployment benefits. However, what’s holding the funds from reaching the right citizens are the obsolete technology systems in place across several states. The distribution of funds has been sluggish in the state of Oklahoma, for example, owing to a mainframe computer that runs on a 60-year-old programming language called COBOL, while the same issue plagues the state of Michigan.
Events and Conferences
Events and conferences are a trillion-dollar industry, vital to building professional relationships. Many event companies have now been pushed to go digital by combining video conferencing and networking.
Google Cloud Next ‘20 is scheduled to go virtual, as was Adobe Inc’s Summit in late March through early April this year. SAS Global Forum also announced the cancellation of their in-person conference in Washington DC and shifted to be held online at a later date.
This pandemic has pushed conference organizers and business owners to think outside the box to provide compelling alternative options in the interest of public safety. This push could also result in innovations for the future with how people meet and interact better virtually in the future.
Working to provide value, not just services
Speaking of embracing modern digital processes, some enterprises may assume that legacy and core modernization is the only solution and put it off for being complex, expensive, or time-consuming. However, they may do well to note that other less-monumental projects can also be effective in building a strong technological base to weather unprecedented economic storms.
“Some options to consider would be shifting applications to the cloud, reducing technical debt, updating existing systems and tools in phases, and enhancing the flexibility of the software architecture.”
If not for pandemics, there are several other factors that influence the market dynamics and technological advances into reshaping the way people work, along with the hows and the wheres.
Every business today is inexplicably tied to technology in some way or the other. New technologies are a vital cog helping businesses to maximize efficiency, or design new products or business models. That said, innovation isn’t always about fancy new tools but also about ingenuity, that is, the revaluation of existing assets to maximize their value to provide the necessary support under any trying circumstances.