Technology Drives Value in 2020
Paul Twite, Managing Director Europe & MENA, ITWP, parent company of Toluna, explains how technology will continue to be the driving factor in 2020.
When the ultimate space cadet and entrepreneur Elon Musk, tells the world in an on-stage interview that, when entering new businesses, “I do zero market research whatsoever,” you know you are in interesting times.
2019 had more twists and turns than the latest Netflix blockbuster. New players invested in the industry: private investment firm Bain Capital acquiring a 60 percent share of Kantar and SAP buying Qualtrics for $8 billion.
There was also a changing of the old guard: GfK sold a chunk of its business to Ipsos and some former rivals joined forces with the merger and integration of Research Now and SSI.
So, what’s next for the sector?
Market research industry consolidation means customers may have less choice - with fewer, bigger research platforms. By default, consumer package goods, financial, telecommunications and media & entertainment corporations may soon do all their testing – from ideation to business analysis to commercialisation - with a single research partner, leading to bigger brand and firm partnerships.
Double down on technology
Technical advancements mean that research-savvy brands become less dependent on services and double down on tech with two key strands immerging:
Automation based on best practice techniques. This will ensure maximum efficiency, enabling users to focus on interpreting what the results mean and their business implications
AI and machine learning will provide opportunities to mine data more efficiently and effectively as data from both primary and secondary sources grow
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The upside of the global innovators: speed, rigour, agility and quality
The benefits of doing more research with fewer partners are apparent: greater consistency across results and, possibly, less financial outlay.
Technology means clients can now have the speed, rigour and agility they require. Actions can be deployed from the results, at the pace consumers now demand.
Speed remains a constant. What was fast last year may not be in 2020 but research has also to offer the flexibility to fit with iterative innovation processes.
Agility means using tools and techniques which factor speed and rigour into the process, at the same time, so work of a high quality can be delivered at a faster pace.
As technology continues to evolve and standardise, a benefit of industry consolidation should be that the end data will be more actionable, faster and better quality.
Industry consolidation offers well-known challenges. Consolidated industry sectors can have relatively high barriers to entry, lack of differentiated products, and potentially few, well-established brands with high profit margins. It can also mean that larger firms end up with more business, potentially stunting creativity and competition. In the market research sector, single partner testing without the checks and balances of diverse inputs could result in worse and not better decision making.
Consolidation in the car industry has seen relatively few global manufacturers frantically buy share, interestingly it is still Mr. Musk’s technology-driven Tesla which boasts a higher MarCap than competitors General Motors and Fiat Chrysler.
It’s the same in the market research industry where only the truly, technology-based businesses will thrive on a global scale.
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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.”