Crisis inspires innovation. During World War II, for example, the scarcity of steel and rubber forced manufacturers to scramble for alternative sources of building materials. That sparked a massive increase in the production of plastics, which are now used in nearly every imaginable manufacturing sector, including construction, textiles, electronics, aerospace and consumer products.
Business Communications Adaptations for the Pandemic
In a similar way, events of the past two years have compelled businesses of all shapes and sizes to reinvent themselves in order to survive extraordinary circumstances. The pandemic-driven shift to remote and hybrid workforces has forced changes in the ways companies plan, purchase and implement technology — changes that will have lasting effects.
For example, companies have dramatically stepped up their adoption of cloud-based applications and services, including unified communications (UC) and team collaboration solutions. In one recent survey, business leaders said the pandemic led them to accelerate their digital transformation initiatives by an average of six years in order to support decentralized operations.
Unified Communications Help Eliminate Manual Processes
While these technologies may have initially been adopted to address immediate requirements, they should now be leveraged to deliver critical capabilities for future growth. Instead of merely enabling basic functionality for distributed employees, digitalization should be used to reinvent business processes and enable greater flexibility and adaptability.
For many organizations, this will involve using cloud-based apps and services to automate traditional paper-based management processes. In its 2021 Worldwide Digital Transformation report, IDC predicts that 70 percent of all organizations will accelerate their use of digital technologies over the next 12 months in order to transform existing processes.
It’s estimated that roughly half of all U.S. businesses are still using manual, paper-based processes for essential backoffice and administrative functions such as payment processing, employee onboarding, inventory management, payroll processing, expense reporting and job ticketing. According to a Harris Poll, 92 percent of business leaders agree that automating such processes is critical to long-term success.
The Value of Business Process Automation
Many essential processes can be vastly improved by connecting on-premises applications with cloud-based robotic process automation (RPA). Unlike other workflow automation tools that require a developer to script a list of tasks to be automated, RPA uses AI-powered bots to learn and then mimic the way tasks are performed within a legacy application.
Here are a few ways increased automation helps businesses adapt to evolving requirements:
- With RPA, routine activities such as purchase order processing, order fulfillment, inventory reporting, ordering supplies and creating invoices can be automated without the need for any special programming skills.
- It is particularly valuable in contact center applications, where it is often used to automate scheduling, reporting and other repetitive tasks. This lets human agents focus their attention on customers.
- Cloud-based analytics platforms use automation to put advanced business intelligence capabilities into the hands of everyday business users. Users only need to submit questions in natural language instead of crafting complex database queries.
- Automation also speeds inventory management while also reducing errors. Cloud-based inventory management software automatically tracks and adjusts inventory to ensure accuracy and minimize delays and backorders.
- Process automation enhances UC solutions by eliminating the need to integrate and manage multiple communication channels manually. Automated workflows ensure data is synchronized between UC, PBX and voicemail systems, and automated provisioning improves security by reducing errors that create vulnerabilities.
Technologies implemented hastily in 2020 to serve suddenly remote workforces have largely served their purposes and helped organizations stay productive. Improving and enhancing those technologies with increased automation and process improvements will help you remain flexible and agile enough to adapt to new challenges as they arise.