2020 has been a disruptive year. Schools, businesses, theaters, and restaurants have shut down, both temporarily and permanently. Many companies have completely redefined how they work, closing offices and shifting employees to working from home. Face-to-face meetings have been replaced by video conferences, often with dogs barking and children playing in the background.
Technology has enabled businesses to thrive during the pandemic. In fact, without advances in technology – specifically widely available internet and laptops to enable working from home – many businesses would have been decimated. Today, we highlight a few more essential technologies to help your business grow.
First and foremost, you need software that can drive efficiency. Are you logging into three, five, even 10 disconnected systems each week because the essential information you need to run your business is siloed? Are you spending hours each week aggregating and analyzing data in spreadsheets because your data is disconnected? To truly impact your business, reduce costs, and improve efficiency, you need to eliminate your octopus of interconnected solutions and find the answers you need in one place. You need a single software solution with all critical information, so you know the state of your business in real time and can move faster and smarter to take advantage of opportunities and resolve issues.
When the world is turned upside down, you cannot effectively run a business without real-time information. If your supply chain for a major resource is compromised – as many were when China first locked down factories in early 2020 – you need to assess the impact on your business now. You cannot wait days or weeks to evaluate the current state of your business while you drift closer and closer to running out of resources. You need time to plan. A real-time view into risk, pricing, inventory, and transportation ensures you have an accurate and current view of your business, so you can react quickly and effectively to disruptions.
Real-time information is essential, and it’s even more important when things go wrong. If you don’t have real-time alerts for critical processes in your business, you should. You need to stay agile in volatile markets, and you cannot solve problems quickly if you don’t know when problems arise. Real-time alerts provide instant notifications on mission critical processes – price shocks, supply chain disruptions, inventory levels, even company-specified risk thresholds. With exception alerts, you know the instant a problem occurs, so you can immediately jump into action.
Business intelligence (BI)
Business intelligence (BI) transforms real-time data into actionable insights, enabling you to make smart strategic and tactical business decisions. BI delivers the reports, summaries, dashboards, graphs, and charts you need to gain a deep understanding of the state of your business. This is particularly important in a pandemic, with supply chain disruptions, manufacturing plant closures, and dramatic shifts in consumer behavior. Making business decisions based on historical information or seasonal factors does not work when businesses are functioning in entirely new ways and consumers have completely changed their behavior.
Fueled by the pandemic, the ability to engage with customers, suppliers and teams digitally has become invaluable. With limited face-to-face meetings, businesses are leaning on video calls to communicate and digital portals to exchange documents. Collaborating with business partners and customers via portals allows both parties to share, edit and inspect critical information easily, reducing time spent sending documents back and forth via email or fax. It’s faster and eliminates issues with version control.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Depending on your business, AI can be crucial. AI delivers tremendous benefits by automating manual business processes. It’s faster, because computers can process data much faster than humans can. It’s more accurate, because computers don’t make mistakes. With Intelligent Character Recognition, for example, AI enables rapid and accurate interpretation of scanned documents – receipts, orders, notes, bills of lading, etc. – ensuring all information is correct. If you are processing a lot of data and relying heavily on manual data entry, transitioning to an AI-based system that can scan and translate documents directly into your software can provide a tremendous boost to your business.
This is just a sample of useful technologies that can help power your business through 2020 and beyond. Blockchain applications are beginning to prove their value for contract management and traceability, and VR applications could enable real-time collaboration beyond video conferencing. Technology keeps evolving, and it’s up to us to continue assessing how to use it to power our businesses.
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