A company’s digital mindset is fast becoming a critical asset. The pandemic has compelled many companies to accelerate their digital transformation plans – but when so many changes have occurred in such a short space of time, it can be tough to prioritise and find the right way forward.
Digital technologies are turning entire industries on their head: within the accountancy profession, for example, adding machine learning and artificial intelligence is set to transform the way audits are undertaken. Auditors will require new skills – not simply to determine how and when to use and trust machine learning algorithms, but also to investigate the data and highlight inconsistencies.
The implications of this change are far-reaching, as the Chartered Accountancy body ICEAW’s report into the Future of Audit confirmed the need to reconsider the role and purpose of audit – and the impact on the identity, mindset and education of auditors.
Within customer services, chatbots and AI assistants are undertaking a lot of the mundane work, freeing up employees to work with customers who have more difficult problems.
And in healthcare, data provided by IoT connected devices is changing the way routine care is provided and empowering patients to take more control over their wellbeing.
Businesses are adapting; they are planning new business models and new business practices for a post-COVID world. According to our Future Ready Report, 75% of businesses expect to need some changes to their business models; and 30% of these expect the changes to be significant. Digital technologies, IoT and the cloud will play a key role in powering and enabling these changes; but companies’ different attitudes to these technologies are creating a clear digital gap.
From the businesses that take a digital-first approach to customer service, to those actively using IoT data to support decisions, one of the defining features of future-ready companies is having a positive attitude to change. In fact, 57% of future-ready businesses think that crises like the pandemic are the best possible time to experiment with new ways of working, underlining their excitement about change.
One of the great things about digital technologies is that companies have far more opportunities to innovate and experiment.
Innovative use of IoT by Nexleaf Analytics now protects the vaccine supply for one in ten babies born on earth. To ensure that life-saving vaccines arrive at their final destination as quickly and safely as possible, Nexleaf’s vaccine monitoring wireless sensor, ColdTrace, remotely monitors vaccine fridges to provide near real-time information on storage temperature and other critical issues. This allows medical professionals to address any problems before the vaccines spoil and become ineffective.
And, of course, digital technologies provide companies with a raft of data — data that not only informs strategies, but also changes how businesses operate. It’s the way machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence can harness and explore data that will move the financial audit from the traditional ‘sample and validate’ approach to the investigative model.
Data is being used by hospitals to address the issue of bed blocking. Using radio frequency ID (RFID) tags to track the patient from admission through their stay to discharge, hospitals now have an immediate view of bed usage across every ward. To further speed up bed turnaround, hospitals are using this data to notify dedicated bed cleaning teams to make the necessary preparations and portering teams to ensure patients are moved to the correct ward as soon as possible.
Going digital makes growth easier to achieve. Just consider the ease with which a retailer can now run an ecommerce channel; cloud-based shop fronts can be rapidly deployed and outsourced fulfilment providers can use digital technologies to track every product from order to delivery. Finally, the use of analytics gives the retailer vital business insight into everything from the cost of delivery to the returns process. Digital technologies have removed barriers to adding ecommerce to an existing physical store infrastructure.
Future-ready organisations are also open to new technology and recognise its value in solving business challenges. They are planning for a technological future, with a clear roadmap in place to show how technology will transform the business. This is not just a top-level strategy – companies have also set detailed business goals that are documented, specific, funded and measured.
Keeping up to date with emerging trends is also really important to understand the forces at work shaping the business. Some companies have dedicated innovation teams and work closely with thought leaders to understand how, when and where new technologies could work for the business. But they also encourage digital innovation from employees.
Being adaptable and able to react quickly to new trends or challenges and be quicker to the market than competitors is essential – and it will often be those people on the ground who really understand their business function that will be best placed to identify these opportunities.
As KPMG’s Roger Bolton, Head of Global People & Change Center of Excellence, says, “Automating what is already there is only half the battle. Imagining what should be there is the other half…”
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