Overcoming the Pandemic Uncertainty

According to the International Monetary Fund, the ongoing pandemic will cause the global economy to contract sharply by 3% in 2020. Lockdowns, social distancing measures and the lingering psychological impacts have a monumental effect on the human touchpoints in our day-to-day routines. Amidst this bad news, new business models and growth opportunities are predicted to rise like a phoenix, enabled by modern technologies.

The changes can broadly be looked at from four dimensions:

  • Customer centricity with smarter human-machine interfaces: A simple human-machine interface is critical to attract and engage customers in the online world. The pandemic has brought an entirely new stratum of customers to this space – senior citizens. These individuals require personal assistance and guidance to navigate modern applications, so ease-of-use and intuitiveness will play a major role in shaping these services. To achieve this, high quality AI solutions must pass the Turing test and have cognitive capabilities that enable them to be responsive enough to adapt to the needs of the elderly and less digital-savvy consumers.
  • Closing sales with Artificial Intelligence: Going forward, social distancing will be the norm rather than the exception. However, effective communication will still be an indispensable factor in sealing the sales pitch. The most important aspect of a face-to-face meeting is the human touch and non-verbal feedback, which enables real-time decisions to close deals. However, in a socially distanced world, AI may replace or supplement the role of customer sales representatives. To augment AI, huge scalable computing power will be required, to give a shot in the arm to the human vs. machine discussion and increase the success rate for deal closures.
  • Trust and cybersecurity: As the world gains ground in the online domain, cybersecurity threats become a growing concern. This is evident in the way opportunistic scammers have adapted to exploit vulnerable populations during the coronavirus pandemic, using topical search terms and intelligent phishing techniques. Cybersecurity controls must be developed, with blockchain being at the heart of the solution. The simplicity, confidentiality, availability and integrity offered by blockchain will become an integral part of the very fabric of the business model
  • Virtual bots on the ground: As we progress on this journey of digital transformation, one important role of the human workforce will be to make AI smarter. We will see an explosion of bots performing functions like customer support, customer engagement, sales lead generation, connected devices, back-office operations and regulatory compliance — but they require human insight to train.
    AI can also be leveraged to build synergies within an organization’s assets. The biggest risks in any project are effort and schedule overruns caused by unknown interfaces and unknown unknowns. Natural Language Processing (NLP) and neural network applications can reduce business analysis effort by traversing an organization’s documentation, codebase and databases to quickly analyze the impacted functions, applications, project effort, schedule and costs for any new project. Finally, plugging bot-generated data like customer complaints and missed sales opportunities into NLP/Neural network applications can help automate the process of identifying project opportunities and executing project feasibility studies.

Where we go from here

In the short-term, organizations will adopt telepresence to create a virtual office organisation that enables teams to work from home safely and effectively. In the short to medium-term, so-called “Keep the lights on” operations will move offsite in their entirety, in order to generate cost savings. In the medium to long-term, the most successful organizations will be those who convert challenges into opportunities — overcoming uncertainty by leveraging technology like AI and Blockchain while keeping security and customer centricity at the core.