COVID-19 disrupted many companies on their digital transformation journey. Only to find out that they hadn’t really implemented a digital strategy that allowed their staff and operations to operate through turbulent times. Even the most flexible and resilient operations proved to be only as strong as the weakest links of their value chain. As we start 2021 off, many companies will have invested or are planning on investing in technology to speed up their digital journey in order to remain relevant, accommodate a hybrid of remote working and adjust their supply chain operations to changes in buying patterns. Financial leaders have had to ensure cash flow forecasts are robust and able to adjust for future unknown pressures to enable business to operate more efficiently in the future without jeopardising the liquidity position of the business.
It has been stated by multiple experts that Covid-19 accelerated the need for digital transformation by an estimated three or four years. At the forefront of this rapid transformation has been the move from clunky capital-intensive investment into private on premise data storage to pure cloud computing. Making use of economies of scale through efficient and effective offerings from the mega global cloud platform service providers. Business is now able to scale data storage and processing power at the click of a mouse once on cloud computing services. This is a game changer and a must for businesses that want to remain relevant in the future.
According to PwC’s Global Artificial Intelligence Study, the internet and mobile technologies drove the first wave of digital, known as the Internet of People. However, analysis carried out anticipates that the data generated from the Internet of Things (IoT) will outstrip the data generated by the Internet of People many times over. Experts are predicting dramatic changes in the IoT over the coming year. Key technologies are coming together for scalable networks of low-cost sensors that will enable the promise of the IoT. According to IoT Business News, “this is down to both key technology developments in low power wide area networks (LPWAN) and the cloud”. The integration with cloud technologies for the management of the vast amounts of data is vital, and this is one key area that will expand dramatically this year. Rapid development of solutions are being rolled-out to various industries due to wireless technology becoming seamless. These digitalisation advances will see the promise of industry 4.0 becoming realistic as the advantages from scale act as a catalyst for creating smart retail, smart factories, smart supply-chain and smart farming to name a few for the future.
The increased data created by the Internet of People and the Internet of things is already resulting in standardisation, which naturally leads to automation, and the personalisation of products and services, which is setting off the next wave of digital. According to PwC’s Global Artificial Intelligence Study, AI will exploit the digital data from people and things to automate and assist in what we do today, as well as find new ways of doing things that we’ve not imagined before.
PwC expects that global GDP will be up to 14% higher in 2030 as a result of the accelerating development and take-up of AI, the equivalent of an additional $15.7 trillion. It is predicted that the economic impact of AI will be driven by productivity gains from businesses automating processes, productivity gains from businesses augmenting their existing labour force with AI technologies and increased consumer demand resulting from the availability of personalised and higher-quality AI-enhanced products and services. PwC predicts productivity gains in the near-term, to become the biggest potential economic uplift from AI. COVID-19 has propelled the need for Robotic Process Automation (RPA’s), which includes automation of routine tasks, augmenting employees’ capabilities and freeing them up to focus on more stimulating and higher value adding work.
In order to harness these key technologies for your business, the leaders of the business need to commit to a real digital strategy that doesn’t entail mere-speak, but entails real intent on implementation. Businesses that prefer to update their digital strategy management report rather than committing to the journey will quickly start to lose their competitive edge over their rivals. If not started already, in order to remain relevant and provide improved future shareholder returns, management will need to embrace technologies such as cloud computing, the IoT and AI in 2021. Digital transformation is not a buzz word or nice statement to have on a management report anymore. It’s a matter of remaining competitive and relevant in the new digital age post the start of COVID-19.