From Forced Evolution to Strategic Leader: Moving Forward in a Changed World

In 2020, digital transformation went from being a gradual evolution to an immediate need for most organizations. Digitally connecting your staff, customers and information outside your organization’s four walls is now a core tenet of “business as usual.” There is no going back. 

connectivity

Now that the dust has begun to settle on what this new “digital workplace” will resemble going forward, it’s time to stop playing catch-up and start evaluating the moves your organization made when its back was against the wall. Those decisions were likely made in an effort to keep work moving as smoothly as possible. But now there are so many additional things to consider:

· How do you evolve your processes in a way that takes advantage of a digital environment to increase efficiency?

· How do you create a human connection with employees and customers who are now more dispersed or in remote work situations?

· How does the deployment and upkeep of your organization’s software solutions need to change?

· What new technologies can your organization take advantage of to take your IT and business strategy to the next level?

The trends you’ll find below are some examples of new directions organizations — and industries — are headed in and the technologies that can help them get there. As you begin to evaluate your recent and ongoing digital transformation efforts, these initiatives can help point you in the right direction to prepare your organization for the future — however unpredictable that may be. 

Thriving in a more distributed, digital environment

Forward-thinking organizations increasingly focus their digital transformation efforts on enabling their people — and the people they serve — to thrive in a world that has woken up to the potential of a workforce that’s primarily remote and dominated by digital interactions. This calls for augmenting their existing process and workflow solutions with intelligent capabilities and emerging technologies. The following technology areas will likely have a profound effect on the creation of a more stable, connected and impactful digital workplace: 

Intelligent automation 

Too often, when people hear the term intelligent automation (IA), they think it ultimately means replacing human workers with bots. The reality is that the biggest advantage of intelligent automation is to empower your employees to do better, higher-value work in a more balanced environment.

IA technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA) and machine learning scale down the dependence of humans on the most tedious everyday tasks, resulting in increased productivity, higher job satisfaction and more time to commit to high-value tasks and customer service. Automating the tedium is now a crucial aspect of keeping work moving in a world of decentralized employees. Importantly, IA tools open up more time for staff to focus on building strong internal and external relationships. With a decrease in the amount of time we are spending in the same physical location as our coworkers and customers, we need to increase the time we put into reaching out and building up those crucial relationships. Removing slow, manual processes makes those human-centric tasks more of a priority — as they should be.

Tools like RPA can also help to provide insight into those everyday tasks. By intelligently automating formerly manual tasks with bots, you open up the possibility of increased data tracking and dashboards that give a direct look at how processes are working and the information they bring. With those analytics available, you can finally take advantage of your organization’s data and turn it into insights that can drive increased efficiency and a better understanding of the needs of your customers and industry. Your organization’s data is its most valuable asset, so intelligent automation tools like data aggregation, data curation, data visualization and machine learning are invaluable.

Real-world benefits of intelligent automation:

· Human resources: In a world of remote workforces, employee retention becomes more challenging. Freeing up more time to focus on connecting with coworkers and customers increases job satisfaction and retention — cutting down on the cost and stress of offboarding and onboarding employees.

· Financial services: By intelligently automating back-end clerical work like mortgage loan processing and making full use of chatbots, financial services organizations have been able to adjust their business models and overcome staffing challenges that all industries currently face.

Cloud-based deployments and a shift to digital experience 

As the decentralized, digital workplace continues to grow, our software solutions — and their deployments — need to evolve. With that in mind, the expectation is that cloud technology will continue to grow as companies adjust to hybrid and remote work, with the goal of faster and easier access to organizations’ stored information and processes from anywhere, as well as the scalability and flexibility that the cloud provides. But outside of secure information access — which became a main focus of cloud solutions in response to the needs of 2020 — there are a number of crucial benefits cloud deployments provide organizations in any industry.

One enormous benefit of effective cloud deployment is taking the strain of hardware and software maintenance off the shoulders of your internal IT department and handing those responsibilities over to the cloud solution provider. Doing so empowers your IT staff to spend more time on strategic initiatives and furthering innovation. The right cloud solution provider will also ensure adherence to the latest compliance and security standards, again relieving already overburdened IT departments from having to solely manage these considerations.

Another related benefit is the ability to quickly take advantage of new capabilities and updates. With on-premises deployments, updating software can be a difficult or oft-delayed process, depending on the availability of IT resources. With those responsibilities in the hands of those who know the product best, updates and new solution deployments move quickly. This gives your organization a competitive edge in a world where the right software tools can make all the difference.

Cloud-based solutions can also go a long way when it comes to employee collaboration. Cloud technology enables staff to be working on the same, live documents, folders and applications. This removes versioning issues and frustrations involving linear, point-by-point processes. With the ability to work on projects simultaneously, work gets done faster and in a more collaborative environment.

Outside of the “digital confines” of your organization, there is another group that sees a huge impact from cloud solutions and digital experiences: Customers. Several industries have seen a surge in the demand for remote access to not only information, but services as well. Healthcare and the public sectors (government and education) in particular needed to immediately shift the way they connected with customers and constituents. Cloud solutions can give your customers new, secure levels of access to your organization’s people and information, creating a better experience for both sides.

Real-world benefits of cloud-based solutions:

· Telehealth: The ability to schedule virtual appointments with physicians continues to grow and evolve as part of the new normal for patients. With the ability to connect remotely, convenient access to professional healthcare advice has increased while giving physicians the ability to reach home-bound or otherwise dispersed patients.

·  Secure, extended access to patient information: Cloud deployments of content services platforms simplify access to the patient file for clinicians. Instead of relying on on-premises imaging and content repositories, healthcare organizations can create a central repository accessible from any of their campuses or remotely — expediting and improving patient care. 

Low-code application development 

While the new normal of the digital workplace continues to take shape, there is a lot of potential for continued, unanticipated change and the evolving business, technology and customer needs that accompany it. To meet that change head on, organizations require digital agility. To achieve that, organizations are making significant investments in low-code tools and technologies that enable rapid deployment and evolution of purpose-built technologies, ultimately improving experiences for customers and employees. Organizations that had already embraced low-code tools at the start of the pandemic were a step ahead when the time came to pivot at a moment’s notice.

These low-code application development platforms empower both IT and non-developers to quickly stand up new and adapt existing solutions by making use of visual design elements like point-and-click and drag-and-drop configurability. That enables organizations to quickly respond to shifting business requirements, industry regulations and customer needs while cutting out long lag times between new needs and the deployment of new software.

By leveraging a low-code platform for multiple enterprise applications, they are easily adjusted and maintained, reducing the stress on IT staff caused by supporting multiple, disparate systems.

Real-world benefits of low-code application development:

· Overcome developer shortages: Currently, finding highly skilled developers is particularly difficult. Investing in low-code development tools empowers your organization to retain its agility even during times when your IT department may be short-staffed — empowering IT with the framework to more quickly respond to business challenges while expanding application-building capabilities to other tech-savvy employees. The rise in remote workers also increases the challenge of retaining staff. Low-code app development platforms mean that if you do lose a member of your IT staff, they aren’t taking all of that institutional knowledge with them. The rest of the department is familiar with the same toolset.

Necessary, but strategic leaps

Digital transformation efforts were kicked into hyperdrive in 2020, and the business (and technology) environment are changed forever. While many decisions were made reactively, now is the perfect time to evaluate your decisions and adjust your strategy as needed for the future. After all, many of the biggest technological leaps have come out of necessity. The real industry leaders emerge with a strategy to prepare them for what comes next.