Why investing in AI and Automation technology during periods of economic downturn will pay dividends in the long-term

The sheer volume of unprecedented events in the last few years, from COVID-19 and global supply chain issues, to the Ukraine war, energy prices and inflation levels, has created an incredibly challenging environment for businesses everywhere.

CEOs are suddenly finding themselves under immense pressure to increase business efficiency while simultaneously cutting operational costs – no easy feat.

Interestingly, the parallels between the global uncertainty faced today and that at the start of the pandemic two years ago are striking. Businesses that underwent meaningful digital transformation during the COVID-19 crisis emerged significantly stronger than those who didn’t. In fact, recent research shows ‘Leader’ businesses that invested smartly in technology throughout 2020-2021 are now growing up to five times faster than ‘Laggard’ businesses which failed to do so.

The same research identified another cohort of businesses that greatly benefited from technology investment at such a difficult time for so many: So called ‘Leapfrogger’ businesses during the pandemic. As a result, they are now growing four times faster than ‘Laggards’ and quickly closing the gap to those ‘Leader’ organisations.

In short, digital transformation is a major game changer when approached strategically and implemented successfully. In today’s highly volatile business environment, it is not only a smart thing to do, but an essential one.

Automation is fast becoming a powerful strategic asset

One technology that is garnering particularly high levels of attention at the moment is business automation. According to recent study by research firm Statista, global investment in the two main types of business automation – robotic process automation and intelligent process automation – is expected to jump from $13.6 billion (as of  two years ago) to $19.3 billion this year. The impact of this is being felt in the way businesses interact with partners and customers every day.

From a supply chain perspective, powerful technologies including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine-Learning are already being used by major global manufacturers and retailers to rethink logistical operations and effectively manage rising supplier prices. By combining this with business automation, key operations can be streamlined even further, creating a level of business agility that was previously impossible to achieve.

From a customer perspective, businesses know they must deliver consistent omni-channel shopping experiences that are both rewarding and enjoyable if they hope to stand out in today’s highly competitive retail environment.  Infusing the latest digital and automation technologies throughout the entire customer journey is a great way to achieve this, simplifying things like online returns and creating personalised interactions that keep customers coming back, time and time again.

According to a global Salesforce survey of 600 CIOs and IT decision makers, the vast majority (91%) of respondents report that demand for automation from business teams has increased significantly over the last two years. Specifically, the highest demand for automation came from four departments: Research and Development (39%), Administrative/operations (38%), Customer service (33%), and Marketing (26%)

Empowering workforces through better data

Elsewhere, business automation is helping to empower workforces by reducing the amount of time employees need to spend on repetitive manual tasks like data reporting, which frees them up to focus on more important strategic activities.

The UK’s number one travel insurance provider, Staysure, uses the powerful automation features found in Tableau to streamline reporting throughout the company. Previously, employees had to manually run reports at 9am every morning, meaning no one had access to the latest data until 10am at the earliest. Now, the company uses Tableau to run the data flows automatically every night, which means hundreds of worksheets are refreshed and available in Tableau Cloud by 5am each day.

Collaborative technologies and applications like this are also changing how teams work together and driving powerful new data-driven cultures in this digital-first and work-from-anywhere world.

Effective digital transformation builds resilience in an ever-changing world

As the last few years have perfectly illustrated, no one can predict what the future holds. However, that doesn’t mean businesses can’t be prepared. Effective digital transformation not only builds resilience against the unknown, but it also helps streamline operations to better meet changing customer priorities and deliver long-term success in the face of ongoing uncertainty.

About the Author

Dan Pell is GM and SVP EMEA at Tableau, a Salesforce company. Tableau helps people see and understand data. Tableau’s self-service analytics platform empowers people of any skill level to work with data. From individuals and non-profits to government agencies and the Fortune 500, tens of thousands of customers around the world rely on Tableau’s advanced analytics capabilities to make impactful, data-driven decisions. See how Tableau can help your organization by starting your free trial at tableau.com/trial.

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