Organizations across all sectors have had to take drastic action in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses are shifting their entire go-to-market strategies towards a ‘digital-only’ economy and move to an entirely remote workforce, ensuring their people have the support, technology and training to be comfortable and productive working from home.
Workers the world over have had to adapt, seemingly overnight, to an entirely new way of working, communicating and managing. Due to huge changes and fluctuations in demand, many have been required to take on new roles or perform tasks they had previously never performed. And they’ve been asked to do this whilst also experiencing heightened anxiety about their own health and that of their loved ones.
In short, COVID-19 has created a perfect storm for many organizations. Business leaders have needed to implement massive operational and technological changes and work harder than ever to win and retain business; and they’ve had to do so with a workforce that has understandably taken time to adjust to new working practices and demands, and therefore been more absent and less productive than normal.
Indeed, one of the biggest lessons for businesses from the COVID-19 pandemic will be the extent to which business continuity and contingency plans fell short due to an over-reliance on the ongoing performance and productivity of the workforce. Organizations will have used back-up plans that enabled workers to operate from a disaster recovery center, quickly adapted their working environments or shifted the entire workforce to work from home, with the necessary technology, training, lines of communication and health and well-being support that entails. Few will have factored in increased absenteeism and reduced performance and productivity.
THE BENEFITS OF INTELLIGENT AUTOMATION DURING COVID-19
Whilst there are many organizations that have been deploying Intelligent Automation within their operations for a number of years - driving efficiency, customer experience and productivity as a result - the role of digital workers and the benefits they can deliver has taken on a new dimension during the last three months.
Using RPA or Intelligent Automation, particularly in cases where scalable and resilient cloud-based platforms are being used, businesses have been able to meet hugely fluctuating and varied resourcing needs. Business leaders have been able to respond effectively to a dramatically changing landscape by scaling up their use of digital workers where they are needed most.
In doing so, organizations have ensured continuity of service and maintained first-class levels of customer experience, despite massive internal operational and logistical change behind the scenes. In many cases, such rapid transformation would simply not have been possible with a traditional resourcing model.
The rapid increase in the size and remit of Digital Workforces has also helped alleviate the strain on employees during this difficult period. Workers have been freed up from many repetitive and time consuming tasks and been able to focus on high-value strategic work to guide their organizations through the crisis and to develop plans to emerge stronger on the other side.
DIGITAL WORKERS MAKING A DIFFERENCE DURING COVID-19
In our new white paper, ‘The Fastest Business Wins’, we have highlighted just a few instances where digital labor has enabled businesses to react quickly and seamlessly to the COVID-19 pandemic. These examples come from a whole range of sectors, from energy and financial services through to outsourcing and healthcare.
Indeed, perhaps the most interesting or significant example, given the current situation, has been the role that digital workers have played within the NHS over the past few months.
Across a wide range of NHS Trusts, digital workers have helped adapt their operations to deal with the pandemic, with Intelligent Automation deployed to support a wide range of critical services.
To pull out a couple of such instances, digital workers have been used to process respiratory data that has supported Trusts in identifying cases of COVID-19 and sharing this data across Trusts in London. They have also been instrumental in collecting and uploading data to a central COVID-19 tracking dashboard across UK prisons, to help healthcare workers monitor and administer patients in the prison system.
There are many other examples of digital labor being used to establish new services and streamline existing processes as part of the NHS’ response to COVID-19. You can read the personal account of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust’s CTO, Darren Atkins, in the ebook: ESNEFT: A study in transformation @speed. Darren is one of the pioneers of Intelligent Automation within the NHS.
Most importantly, such use of digital workers has supported the real heroes of the NHS, the doctors, nurses and support staff displaying huge courage and commitment throughout the crisis. They’ve been able to spend less time on administrative tasks, and more time delivering world-class care to patients.
A TIPPING POINT FOR DIGITAL LABOR
Hearing about such deployments of Intelligent Automation is both inspiring and humbling, and will understandably steal the headlines. But digital workers have also been instrumental in keeping the lights on within many businesses. In some cases, digital labor has been the difference between survival and workforce reduction or closure.
Without doubt, those organizations that have been in a position to scale up their cloud-based Intelligent Automation programs at speed, will be putting a digital wokforce at the heart of their strategy moving forward. Others will now recognize the need for, and benefits of, digital workers within their operations.
COVID-19 will be a pivotal moment for adoption and deployment of Intelligent Automation. Moving forward, it will be regarded as critical to building the agile and resilient operations required in the future, not only to respond to unforeseen circumstances, but increasingly as simply a component of everyday business in an ever faster economic landscape.