How Automation Has Helped Businesses During a Pandemic

Automation has become a key element of digital transformation.  This shift could replace nearly 70% of manual, repetitive tasks, according to a Brookings Institute Report. Automation, in fact, has been slowly transforming the way we do business for the past 50 years.


Many industries have leaned on automation to stay upright during Covid-19 shutdowns and restrictions. Banks have used it to accelerate loan processing for millions of affected businesses as well as employees who are out of work or have been furloughed. Airlines use it to manage the increase in flight cancellations and maximize revenue through calculating profitability by decreasing the amount of flights while still maintaining the customer experience and options for those who need to travel. Retailers that have been forced to convert from brick-and-mortar to digital storefronts (if only temporarily) are processing orders with automated systems. Offices went remote overnight, converting many person-to-person interactions into digital experiences. In fact, many customer service centers and agents are doing so remotely amongst many other examples.


While some organizations already included automation in long term business plans, COVID-19 has created more urgency and opportunity. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed virtually everything about our work and personal lives this year, and automation has been no exception to that rule. With more people working from home, retailers see the value in providing more remote access to data in real time and remote monitoring in general.


Physical store fronts have factored digital retail elements into their Reopening Plans understanding that reopening discussions can't be just about “the now”. Long term success relies on remote data access and processing as states see restrictions ease and tighten up over and over. Remote connection technologies will drive more industries into and beyond the latest digital transformation.


A reinsurer that attempted to sell policies that would insure businesses against a pandemic thus mitigating not only the businesses financial hit but also taxpayers by absorbing some of the debt that would be incurred through unemployment benefits had developed a model and algorithm over many years. Just like a consumer buys auto insurance (or any insurance), businesses also buy insurance. The fact is that a global pandemic like we are experiencing right now only happens about every 100 years. Do you know how successful they were? They didn’t sell a single policy. Because of that, businesses were forced to transform their businesses quickly to models that were hybrids of human and automation in order to simply stay in business.


The pandemic added pressure to accelerate innovation and growth and automation gave them the potential to integrate and automate workflows in order to adapt to the dynamic conditions of the new normal.


Studies report that up to half of automation projects fail and that is in part due to Automation Anxiety. People see automation as a threat much like some people felt the internet would the end of the salesperson. Perceptions are that automation are a job killer as opposed to a way to modernize the workplace. Along with tool and process changes, it's vital that an automated tool addresses that fear to drive user buy-in and adoption and what better way to do that than by including a human element in that process?


In the drive to go fast and far, businesses can lose sight of the power of the human element and some of the best AI includes human intelligence. Automation should enhance a workflow and free workers from tedious tasks, not the essential part of what makes a business human. As technology continues to level the playing field, an organization's ability to balance the impersonality of automation with the expectation of customized, personal customer experiences will be what separates winners from losers.


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