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What next? Life in business after COVID-19

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By Sherif Choudhry, a Managing Partner at BCG Platinion

With the majority of the UK workforce now vaccinated, the return to office is in full swing. But the world is in a very different place; the pandemic has permanently changed the way industries and businesses operate, and some would say for the better. Welcome to the hybrid workplace; the new normal for businesses that will require us all to adjust. 

Most organisations by now have solidified their working model policy and most are in favour of applying a flexible working pattern and reducing office space. For instance, telecom giant BT have reduced their office space by an astounding 90% from 300 to 30, while social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter, are now allowing employees to work from a location of their preference. 

Clearly, a change of this magnitude will present challenges and at the forefront of business leaders mind should be maintaining the positives of hybrid working without making a habit of the negatives side to virtual models. Thankfully, there are a host of different technologies, such as automation and data collection, are readily available to implement to make this transition a smooth one.

Automation: friend, or foe? 

No technology can split opinion quite like automation does; its reputation leads to it being hailed as a both a friend and foe, eradicating jobs or transforming industries. But over the course of the last 18 months many decision makers have turned to automation due to is capabilities in reducing workload and enable businesses to operate a hybrid model. 

However, there is certainly a feeling on contempt towards automation among workers. Earlier this year a study revealed that 40% of those surveyed are anxious about automation; and a further worrying statistic is the 43% who share concerns over being monitored by management at work. 

On the other hand, automation has consistently generated remarkable benefits for plenty of business across a host of industries. Many leaders have even credited the technology with boosting productivity and efficiency through the challenging times of the pandemic. And the World Economic Forum predicts jobs centred around AI will increase 78 to 128 per 10,000 vacancies. 

When viewed through from this angle, automation gives employees the freedom to commit more time to worthwhile elements to their role that is often disregarded due to lack of time such as employees training and customer service. If utilised effectively, automation enables a larger quantity of work with the same workforce; while simultaneously automating mundane tasks, without making employees redundant. 

When incorporated into a company’s work processes, business empower employees to spend their time elsewhere. However, management have a duty of care to ensure their staff are upskilled and reskilled. Strong change management programme should be in place to accommodate this, that explains the technology and is associated benefits.

Humans and data working together in a winning combination

Data can capture almost anything, and an effective data strategy is essential for successful automation implementation, as data informs automation technology. Due to its capabilities, many businesses have been relentless in their pursuit of a data-driven approach.

But a 2020 IDC report noted the significant role investment in data management and analytics had in improving customer satisfaction and loyalty, employee retention and revenue. And in challenging times, data without a doubt offered critical insight and in turn, provided clarity and highlighted areas in customer gaps that needed resolving. At the same time, data has also guided IT through the delivery of solutions that have greatly improved employee happiness, and in doing so retention, while maintaining productivity.

And the pandemic has certainly increased digital adoption at a lightening speed rate at both industry and organisational level. But data can only take us so far; complex human intricacies, that are often all too complicated for fellow human to comprehend, is beyond the capabilities of data. 

Combining traditional data capture methods with behavioural analysis can uncover those intricacies and as a result, the motivations of that business’s customer base. With the correct behaviour analysis tool and traditional data approach, valuable actionable insight ca be attained for those difficult questions that businesses must inevitably answer. With both working in perfect harmony, the collated data can be leveraged in a far more beneficial manner.

Long-lasting customer relationship

Understanding customer motivations and behaviour puts businesses on the path to developing strong brand affinity and consumer loyalty. Again, at the hands of the pandemic, the way we conduct ourselves daily has changed indefinitely – particularly online and businesses need to adapt by implementing the technological tools that is able to deal with the said demands of today’s climate. 

Operating both a traditional data-driven approach and behavioural analysis not only betters the understanding of customers behaviour, and thereby margins, but also the strength of that relationship. Employing this approach to data capture can provide an organisation with a competitive advantage over their competition by developing an understanding of consumer demands across different markets.

Hybrid working will throw up unchartered challenges that will require innovative solutions, but the right technology can enable this is a simple and effective way. For the foreseeable future, this is the model most businesses will be utilising, therefore investment in digital infrastructure is compulsory not option if leaders want to get the best out of this model. Yes, the challenges are genuine, but as are the opportunities to increase productivity and form stronger customer relationships.


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