How COVID-19 Will Change The Face of Digital Forever

Original article can be found here (source): Artificial Intelligence on Medium

How COVID-19 Will Change The Face of Digital Forever

Digital first and automated business processes of the future.

The Mother of All Invention Comes From Necessity.

In the past 10 weeks the novel Coronavirus has spread globally with 125 048 confirmed cases and over 50 000 deaths, the numbers still rising. Pandemonium spreads whilst financial markets crumble — the circuit breakers tripping 3 times in just 2 weeks on the NYSE. In efforts to contain the spread, employers Google, Microsoft, Twitter make the shift towards remote working, mass gathering events are being canceled daily, but how will this impact the user experience going forward? In this post I talk about how innovation leaders will come out on top when the dust has settled in a post-COVID-19 world.

Flashback 10 years ago and you hear platitudes like ‘digital first’ and ‘the future of work’ really take off. How many companies come to mind who have successfully achieved remote work? for me its Zapier at the top or Gitlab, perhaps even IBM but not many others. Not to blame them though because the tools supporting a digital-first ecosystem to work or engaging customers didn’t exist, but the times have changed, so have cultures and now C19 with social distancing is forcing more executives to think about what tools they can use to adapt to this digital paradigm.

To the legacy laggards struggling with transformation, when you think of digital think of two things, removing paper-based systems and automating processes, Where the value here is cost reduction, operations at scale and improved customer experience. There are a plethora of tools to use like Zoom for video conferencing, Slack, everyone’s favorite communications platform, automating tasks with Zapier, Monday.com or Trello for project management and my personal favorite, Evernote for note-taking and document collaboration.

Ok, but what about artificial intelligence, how does that play a role in transforming workflows and the customer experience? Natural Language Processing (NLP), a subset of AI, which you can think of as an interface for humans to communicate with a computer in a natural way, has kept developers busy building application specific chatbots that are capable of addressing customer needs around the clock.

The rise of the API economy has also led to increased adoption of voice assistants and all kinds of automation tools to handle customer queries and manage employee workflows. With so many awesome APIs out there, now any company can abstract away the complexities of building brilliant applications to automate their business processes powered by artificial intelligence.

For beginners check out this list of APIs at Programmable web and start building.

Self Service and Automation

Virgin Active, where I train, introduced a new way to access the gym, now access is self service that works by scanning of your access card on the reader, previously they used to take the card and scan it for you, all with a cheerful happy smile and warm greeting. Sounds like an insignificant change right? but not quite when you consider where the future automation and self service is headed.

A part of me thought that this was all a case study to see how self service and automation of the concierge would play out in real life, they say its to take precaution against the spread of the virus which is understandable, but if they weren’t already aware, the concierge business process is ripe for disruption. Amazon has shown proof of concept with multiple Amazon Go brick and mortar stores which are 100% cashier-less in cities like New York, Seattle, San Francisco and Chica(go), see what I did there, and they are certainly not the last either with hotels like The New Otani and Henn-na, in Japan using avatar based chatbots in their concierges.

Whilst these are isolated uses at present, lead by innovators, they are certainly secular trends in the digital and automated world of the future.

Online Platforms and Streaming (and 5G)

Around the world Schools have closed citing contagion risks. Unprepared schools are scrambling to minimize disruptions to education by enabling remote online classes powered by Zoom Video conferencing. This once was a ‘nice to have’ but the coronavirus has made it clearer than ever how everybody will be engaging with education in the near future. It won’t be edtech alone that benefits, with the rollout of 5G and blazing fast millimeter-wavelength broadband speeds streaming events will become the norm. The list of canceled marquee events since the outbreak is endless, including Facebook’s F8, SXSW, Apple WWDC, E3, NAB, Dell World and lots more. Many of these have opted to live stream the events instead, with virtual reality making a comeback and low latency 5G speeds, I am excited about an online, streaming, automated, self service, AI powered future.

Whether its the future of work or how the enterprise engages with the customer, a digital future has been accelerated in a post-COVID-19 world. The digital trends were already waiting in the wings preparing to reach escape velocity, C19 will ignite the adoption much faster with even the most inexorable embracing that change (for the better). Preparing a strategy on how your business will participate in a digital-first era is critical and will be the difference in which companies lead and those that fall behind.

I hope this gave you some insight into how to think about your business’s customer digital landscape and got you excited about the future of digital and AI as I am.