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The important role of technology in uncertain times

By Don Schuerman, Chief Technology Officer at Pegasystems

In times of crisis, business leaders often struggle with where to place focus. What should they be doing to mitigate risks? Or to resolve urgent issues? And what about preparing themselves for the ‘new normal’ of tomorrow? 

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that technology plays a crucial role in the success of your business. Whether its video collaboration tools allowing critical meetings to take place or process automation software to ensure customer requests are resolved quickly and efficiently, the importance of having effective, reliable technology in place has never been clearer.

Time to be agile

The crisis has created the need for organisations to move at never-before-seen speed. As one of my colleagues pointed out on a (virtual) client meeting this week, “If you weren’t doing agile before, you are doing it now!” By using a low-code framework for case management, enterprises can quickly configure an application to track a case and connect data across systems. Organisations of all sizes can adopt this approach to immediately address crisis challenges like saving jobs, but also to build a sustainable, transformative platform for the future. 

For example, organisations are using low-code development platforms to quickly roll out apps that let them track the spread of COVID-19 within their business to mitigate risks. The Bavarian government in Germany, for instance, has adopted a highly configurable platform to create a faster application process for financial relief for small and medium-sized businesses that is allowing them to stay afloat.

First, case management provides a way for companies to capture, track, manage, and automate work, even if it’s distributed across teams and systems. Applicants fill out an online form so the data is saved digitally from the start and is easily accessible to the checking and approval team.

Reducing the burden on businesses

Automation then helps clerks complete cases as quickly and efficiently as possible – by automatically transmitting payment information to the right system and notifying applicants of the status of their request. This makes it easier for businesses to submit requests for financial assistance and takes pressure off governmental administration teams since most of the time-consuming application processes are automated. The solution – which took only five days to get up and running – enabled applicants to receive 229 million euros within the first few days of it going live. It’s worth noting that this process otherwise would have taken weeks.

Automation is also playing an important role for business across industries by helping to reduce the burden on call centre workers who are swamped by customer queries. Instead of waiting for someone to get to the tens of thousands of customer emails coming in, AI engines can automatically interpret the emails and pass them off to case management to automate the response. Customers receive faster service while staff members can focus on resolving the more complicated problems where they can add the most value.

Sealing the cracks between enterprises

Automation also helps with productivity, which may be a concern for companies that have been forced to send their workers home. By utilising tasked-based automation tools like robotic process automation (RPA), organisations can dramatically cut the time its employees spend on labour-intensive, repetitive tasks. More importantly, end-to-end automation platforms can help users connect across increasingly distributed work enterprises, and ensure that hand-offs are clean, visibility is maintained, and nothing falls through the cracks.

But the transformation we are experiencing isn’t just immediate. It has accelerated the already important work of end-to-end digital transformation. A cartoon (from Tom Fishburne, aka “the Marketoonist”) recently popped up all over my LinkedIn feed, showing a COVID-19 wrecking ball about to smash into a business who’s executives were claiming that “digital transformation is still years away.” Beyond the immediate changes, this crisis has made that more pervasive transformation even more important.

Moving forward

This crisis will undoubtedly have an impact on the way we work moving forward. Even before COVID-19, offering flexible work/life balance was becoming increasingly necessary to attract and retain talent. Current events are only going to fuel this trend, and organisations will need their technology stack – collaboration tools, video conferencing, and work automation – to support a distributed labour force on a longer-term basis.

But as companies acclimate to this new way of working, they also need to make sure they have the processes in place to manage their workforce. In the future, we are likely to see the advent of AI-powered ‘managers’ triaging, and allocating work based on real-time feedback from customers in order to deliver great experiences around the clock.

Low-code’s visual development approach lets IT and business collaborate to design portions of the customer journey that are tied to immediate outcomes – such as fulfilling a customer service request. Businesses can then quickly tie those journeys both to front-end channels and UIs and back to existing systems that store key data sets and transactions. By bringing IT and business together in a collaborative and prescriptive way, companies can accelerate the path from idea to application and build a framework for rapid agility and change. Not just for one process, but re-thinking of their business from middle-out, starting with the customer journeys they need to automate.

In times of crisis, the ability to act quickly and adapt to changing circumstances can be invaluable. The path ahead may be uncertain for everyone at the moment, but there’s no doubt that technology is playing an important role in helping businesses stay afloat. When some semblance of normality returns, the right technology applied in the right architecture will be critical to ensuring we’re all able to adapt to whatever that ‘new normal’ looks like. 

Let’s all hope it arrives sooner rather than later.