Today, on the back of already accelerating technology-fueled disruption, the COVID-19 pandemic has propelled us into the future faster than expected. We now stand on the cusp of a new era of transformation — one that will use intelligent systems of automation and systems of insight to reduce the need for people to operate all of a firm’s process or act at the key decision points between processes. This will usher in a wave of truly autonomous enterprises.
This industrialization of intelligence, like the industrialization of manufacturing 100 years ago, will forever change the way governments and businesses approach today’s problems and radically change the way we live and work — a change as profound as the day that affordable automobiles replaced the horse and cart. For example, a major airline built an RPA bot in six days to address a fourfold increase in pandemic-related cancellation requests. The bot now clears more requests in a single day than the airline processed in an average month pre-COVID, not only providing in-the-moment relief but a completely profound customer service improvement beyond the crisis.
As we move beyond the current wave of digital transformation and enter this new era, CIOs and technology leaders will need to understand three important factors when it comes to operating in the new, but unstable, normal:
- Each wave of transformation has laid the foundation for the one that proceeds it. Business transformation addressed the changing nature of markets in a connected and globalized world by focusing on delivering efficiency-oriented cost savings through new models of operation. How? By rationalizing a firm’s functions or processes through outsourcing or platform adoption. Digital transformation then sought to make processes more effective by eliminating low-value activities or steps within a process. This was done through automation or by adding more customer-centric interactions using online channels in response to the needs of customers.
- Organizations that fail to execute the objectives of previous waves will not realize the benefits of the next wave of transformation. While startups, scale-ups, incubated business of larger brands, or digital natives may not have to deal with legacy environments, processes, and structures, they must still create a solid business operating model and ensure a digital-first approach. Although they may be better placed to exploit this next wave, they can’t ignore the concepts and practices of previous waves.
- Creativity, adaptiveness, and resilience will be key attributes. These attributes will be critical for us individually or collectively throughout the 2020s as this new wave of transformation accelerates. But it will be equally important to have a technology stack in place that itself exhibits these characteristics and can change, adjust, and survive the shocks that are yet to come.
Join me and my colleagues Xiaofeng Wang, Leslie Joseph, and Tom Mouhsian for the APAC keynote panel How COVID-19 Will Change Business And Technology Forever at our virtual Technology & Innovation Global Forum, from November 4 to 6. During the session, we will explore the five pandemic-induced shifts Forrester has identified arising from this crucial inflection point and how each shift will play out over the next decade.