The impact of Covid-19 has been far reaching, and many businesses have had to strengthen their digital infrastructure to continue operating during the pandemic. For example, Sadye Nadella, CEO at Microsoft recently said that businesses have “gone through two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” While there is still debate as to whether this is for the better or worse (an issue that could be a blog in its own right), I thought I’d cast my Skout eye on the three biggest technology tools companies in the B2B world have adopted or are thinking about adopting as a result of the crisis.
- Artificial intelligence
While this technology might be an obvious one to put on any ‘future tech’ list, it definitely has and will bring value to many industries. For those who don’t know, artificial intelligence (AI) is the simulation of human intelligence processed by machines. It has learning capabilities that in theory should require minimal input from us ‘mere’ homosapiens. Popular examples of AI in use today include voice assistance like Siri and Alexa, or even the facial recognition software found on your phone. Since the pandemic, AI has been on the wish list of many B2B companies to help streamline communications, predict trends, analyse behaviours, and aid the decision-making process.
However, according to Consultancy Europe, while many companies have ramped up their investments and are moving past the pilot phase of AI adoption, there are only a handful of businesses that have managed to scale the technology to realise its full benefits.
- Robotic process automation
Robotic process automation (RPA) is a form of attended automation, meaning it is designed to work in conjunction with people by automating repetitive manual processes that are often time consuming, tedious and quite frankly, boring. A recent report by Forrester found that businesses across the world have invested more in automation in the past few months than the preceding five years, with 48% of respondents claiming that they are planning to increase their RPA spend this year.
Businesses using an RPA solution during the pandemic will have found themselves in a better position than those who have not yet decided to take the plunge. Advantages of this technology includes minimal implementation time (some processes can take as little as three weeks to be automated), low barriers (existing workflow does not need to be changed and it requires no integration) and more productive employees (workers can put their brains to work on more valuable tasks without the need to mess about with mundane processes. Plus, these automation tools don’t need to socially distance!
- Remote work technologies
With remote working becoming the norm for many since the UK went into lockdown, many businesses have invested in technology or built on the systems they already had in place to enable workers to operate from the comfort of their own homes. Typically, remote working is facilitated by digital tools such as virtual private networks (VPNs), voice over internet protocols (VoIPs), cloud technology, and work collaboration tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
Going forwards, it’s predicted that home working is here to stay. For example, a survey by Gartner shows that 74% of CFOs and business finance leaders are planning to move their previously on-site workforce to permanent remote positions post-Covid-19, and technology will play a significant part of this transition. Interestingly, similar to the digital tools that enable professional collaboration and communication, there are also online social activities that can replace the office ‘chit chat’ e.g. employee-driven group chats and virtual happy hours.
It’s clear that Covid-19 has accelerated the adoption of technology by businesses to help them operate and survive throughout the crisis. And I expect this will also bring about a change in workplace culture, with companies becoming less hesitant to trial new digital tools. At Skout, for example, we have embraced online communication platforms to speak to our clients, have internal catchups or even attend training sessions – and, I personally think this has made us stronger as a team.