Downsizing, remote working, and interacting with customers online have become part of the daily grind. And with the Third Wave of infections upon us, those organisations who have not yet modernised their technology environments will find it increasingly difficult to survive.
With last year being the ideal time to ‘tech up’, the focus will now turn to using those digital tools to become a more streamlined organisation capable of delivering customer value more efficiently than ever before.
Employees are certainly open to this. According to our research, it appears that 72% of social media posts in South Africa have reflected a positive sentiment to working remotely. However, with companies being so focused on what is needed to remain operational and making work from anywhere a reality, they have neglected customer service.
Adding to this complexity, the streamlining of businesses has resulted in retrenchments. It might seem convenient to blame this on the increased digitalisation drives of businesses, COVID-19 has been the biggest cause of job cuts since the onset of lockdown conditions in South Africa in March last year.
Those organisations who have already spent the intervening months to transform, have put their employees in positions where they are the most efficient. When combined with AI, they are now able to unlock business value for potential growth. Given how all organisations have now become data-driven, it is about combining technology with human resources to analyse data as efficiently as possible.
Part of this entails an ongoing upskilling and reskilling of the distributed workforce to do more with less. There might now only be one person in a department versus six in the pre-COVID days. And the best way to make that person more effective is to upskill them on using more sophisticated technology.
One of the ways to do so is by undertaking extensive market research on what the global best practices are for the specific industry sector of the business. But doing so takes resources that companies might not have to spare given their streamlined operations.
This is where AI can be used to identify the most relevant areas to upskill and reskill. More importantly, it can also provide invaluable insights on how to digitally service customers better and respond to their unique needs.
Companies can also integrate AI with their connected devices to optimise their supply chain and costs. For instance, the food industry can reduce wastage of excess fresh produce not selling by only distributing the right number of products to their outlets based on analysis done on purchase trends and the like. Furthermore, IoT sensors in fridges and factories can detect anomalies in temperature and send alerts prior to food spoiling.
IoT creates a significant amount of data and AI can analyse that at a scale no human workforce can. Combining these insights with experienced people, businesses can drastically enhance production and distribution. And thanks to how technology has evolved, all these insights can be made available on an integrated dashboard running on a smartphone. This empowers the decision-maker to perform adjustments regardless of their geographic location.
2021 is going to be a massively competitive year with those companies delivering the best service based on data and knowledge being at a distinct advantage. AI has made things easier to manage than ever before. It has become highly intuitive and adaptable to changing market conditions. This user-friendly experience means employees across departments can effortlessly plug this into their daily functions.
And because everything is now run from the cloud, the technology environment is less about servers and hardware and more about data and its analysis.
For more information you can go to www.nga.co.za.
By Mark Germishuys, CEO of NGA