COVID-19: Capgemini on unlocking the true potential of data
Crises are often catalysts for change and COVID-19 is no different. The pandemic has increased our reliance on digital technologies and dependency on data on a vast scale, leading to years of transformation taking place in just a few months.
But this has also presented a data dilemma.
On the one hand, data has underpinned every aspect of our response to the pandemic, helping international bodies and national governments to understand the spread of the virus and the best route to recovery; for example, the search for a vaccine thrives on the free flow and sharing of data. Also, enterprises rely on data to adjust as well as they can to the reality of a highly virtualized, yet volatile and unpredictable business environment. On the other hand, data-informed decisions are being met with skepticism, with citizens and academics often failing to believe in the quality and accuracy of the virus-related data presented. And the situation is nothing much better within the corporate boundaries, even with data being pivotal to key business processes.
This isn’t anything new. Both public health bodies and businesses have been trying to create insights for years based on broad and generic data sets that are often incomplete, inaccurate or don’t have the necessary granularity to enable an effective leverage. Understandably, this has led to scrutiny of and questions about the way data is sourced, used, and activated, making people doubt its very reliability.
When used correctly, data is an organization’s most valuable asset. To unlock its true potential, we must look at how organizations are utilizing data and how they can adapt their data practices to an evolving situation. But first, this means correctly identifying and removing some of the roadblocks that still stand in the way of a truly resilient, data-powered business.
The data paradox
Organizations know that data delivers much-needed intelligence and insight – yet COVID-19 has highlighted fundamental areas of weakness and as such, where data is failing us.
Restricted access to information, lack of delegation, confusion over what exists and how to extract insight, combined with the inability to manage data in real-time has meant many businesses are struggling to handle the basic elements of digital collaboration, business continuity and data management. This means that any decision made based-off of that data could set them up for failure and leave way for competitors to take the lead.
To understand end-to-end data processing in a more efficient way, businesses need to identify where blockages are holding them back, causing performance and latency issues, and understand the root causes responsible for this. To do so means engendering an agile data strategy that meets current demands – looking at how data is sourced, stored and governed, and how to maintain a strong, highly automated, data ecosystem that leaves little to no room for error.
Below, I look at four keys strategies that businesses need to employ to first untangle the data dilemma and then set them up for a successful data-future in a (post) COVID world.
Re-architecting outdated processes
Gaining access to the right data to pilot the business through a crisis is typically hindered or blocked by existing IT landscapes and processes. By re-architecting outdated applications to automated solutions, it not only increases ease of access and enables the right management to eliminate inefficiencies during data processing, but it also accelerates scalability, agility, performance, and visibility. In turn, this facilitates greater understanding of how to activate data while improving existing data processes both from a compliance and performance perspective.
A new focus on data hygiene
The automation of decisions is dependent on having massive amounts of data to train algorithms. Currently most organizations don’t have very good hygiene levels when it comes to data management, nor the skills to enable this level of independent intelligence, leading to bottlenecks and inefficiencies. To unravel this data puzzle, organizations need to address how their data is sourced, stored, and used so that they can accelerate their digital transformation with the future in mind and evolve with clear visualization, contextualization, and agility.
Reimagining the data ecosystem
A “fail fast” approach is needed to adopt big data initiatives, exploring new data sets and usage rapidly to see if they add value. The importance of this lies in helping organizations better anticipate future scenarios.
Organizations should embrace agility, encourage experimentation, and treat failure as a lesson rather than something to be feared. Through ongoing testing – aligned to wider business goals – organizations will quickly create data-powered processes that produce informed outcomes and enable more intelligent, more automated decision-making.
The importance of a data culture
Business leaders have a rare opportunity right now to entrench data-powered decision making into business processes to create a data culture, rethink their business models and adopt new ways of working. Employees must feel that they can rapidly access the information they need – as and when they need it – and while the demand for information and data-powered processes rises, having the right culture in place to embrace this will further increase efficiency.
Ultimately, these unprecedented times can be seen as an opportunity for organizations to activate the wealth of data they have, gaining the capability to know more about their competitors, their customers, and the world in which they operate – but this relies on the accurate and fair management of data. Only by unlocking the full value of data, in the right way, will this lead to new insights that help predict market dynamics, anticipate social trends, identify consumer-preferences, and manage risks.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”