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COVID-19 pushes automation to the forefront of business strategies

Automation shifts from a discussion to an imperative across all industries

The decision to embrace automation typically requires an organization to engage in careful strategic planning and analysis over a period of time. On one hand, automation enables a level of efficiency, consistency and quality that manual deployment alone cannot achieve. On the other hand, skeptics have long questioned the point at which automation can go too far and how to find balance and decide which tasks should and should not be automated. That debate is now over, as the deployment of automated processes and technology is imperative to fill in the innumerable voids in a new reality where COVID-19 is not just part of our vocabulary but a new abnormal in which we all live. 

Past discussions of whether to automate were typically highly dependent upon factors like industry vertical, whereby sectors with a heavy manufacturing arm, for instance, were much more likely to embrace automation than others. Massive staffing shortages are now the primary driver behind the call for widespread automation, and the interest has manifested itself in multiple forms, such as the deployment of robots, drones and AI — technologies that are being leveraged by industry verticals across the board.

Staffing shortages have affected every grocery store and pharmacy, and many are relying on robots to transport goods from warehouses and stores to delivery vehicles. In agriculture, there has been an increase in the use of terrain-based robots to convert agricultural units into disinfectant sprayers. In manufacturing and delivery, Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU) has partnered with Neolix to deliver critical items such as food and supplies to hospitals in Beijing with the use of the Apollo autonomous vehicle. Baidu has additionally applied AI algorithms to track the spread of infection and predict where the next hot zone may crop up so that local facilities are better prepared. While the number of riders of public transport has plummeted, railways, buses and subways still must operate even if on a skeleton schedule. The deployment of automated technology such as self-driving trains has increased dramatically, as has the use of robots to disinfect and clean cars.

The healthcare industry faces the most pressing challenges as it seeks to employ remote workforce programs and develop scalable solutions on an emergency-fueled time line. While some degree of on-site presence is unavoidable, the risk is being mitigated, in some cases, by the use of disinfection robots, which were deployed by Xenex Corp. to over 500 hospitals in China and are also now being shipped to Italy. Drone delivery of medication is anticipated to be the next wave of automation, and companies like Drone Delivery Canada (DDC) Corp. predict that they will become commonplace, and soon. DDC President and CEO Michael Zahra stated, “The company is in dialogue with governments at various ministries and levels emphasizing that the current situation is an ideal use case for our proven drone logistics solution to limit person-to-person contact; bring needed medical and pharmaceutical supplies to remote, rural, and suburban communities; transport blood samples to laboratories for testing; and deliver other relevant supplies.”

The application of automated technologies is clearly not confined to one area and will continue to ease the burden that COVID-19 has placed on all of our lives. When the pandemic eventually subsides, the silver lining to the shortages, panic and crippling effect on the economy will be that healthcare providers, companies and individuals will be more apt to embrace the use of automated technology in almost every aspect of their daily lives.

Click here to listen to this audio clip, COVID-19 Business Impacts | Remote Work, in its entirety.

2019 Services Predictions: Fix my business problem with a solution, not a slide — IT services and consulting for human-centric digital transformation

Trust in turbulent times: data access and management as the key to IT services and consulting success in an uncertain 2019

From London to San Francisco, macroeconomic shifts and unsettled political environments in both the U.K. and the U.S. will make the start of 2019 turbulent and likely troubled for many companies, including the IT services vendors and consultancies we cover within TBR’s Professional Services practice. These companies will face harder decisions around repositioning their investments to other geographies or finding more cost-conscious investments in new areas. We are expecting a slowdown in both countries — not necessarily in revenues, but in fresh ideas and creativity, service launches, and expansion in additional markets within both economies — driven by new uncertainty and well-founded caution. The U.S. has traditionally been the largest market for IT services vendors, and no single year will change that hard, economic fact. But where we have seen IT services vendors experiment with new consulting business models that blend emerging technologies into strategy consulting and embed codeveloped IP into outcomes-based IT services engagements, we expect a retrenchment as 2019 opens, with uncertainty lingering at least through the summer. By this time next year, we expect to see more initiatives in APAC leveraging that region’s faster adoption of 5G (and all that means for digital transformation at speed and scale). And we expect the three trends described below will be demonstrably evident in the strategies and performances of the leading IT services vendors and consultancies we cover.

Underlying all of our assessments, we are developing a new appreciation for the criticality of data. Beyond the cliché that every company is a data company or that data is the new oil, we have been seeing throughout 2018 the way IT services vendors and consultancies have begun investing increasingly in data management, cleansing and protection, all with the assumption that analytics, automation, artificial intelligence and every other emerging technology starts with and relies on clean and useful data. Smarter business decisions do not come from bad data, no matter how good the algorithm or analytics package. For 2019, this means data access becomes an opportunity to extend to all IT services, up to and including digital transformation, the same trust that comes with an audit or a multiyear outsourcing engagement. Imagine a consultancy working with unfettered access to every data element across a client’s enterprise. Getting there may take a changed regulatory environment and will definitely require that boards be willing to extend trust in new ways, a human limitation that may slow this new data access. But we see it coming. If politics and economics could cause stormy weather in the U.S. and U.K., the acceleration of digital transformation through data access may be the longer-term trend, the global warming lifting all boats on rising sea levels.

Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow: Amazon, RPA, AI and ethical IT in the federal sector

Notwithstanding the increased integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and process bots into government operations, the U.S. federal services sector decidedly remains a people business. At a recent Washington Technology Power Breakfast forum, industry leaders talked talent strategies and how they hope to succeed as digital transformation fundamentally changes the types of people sought for government work. A few key themes emerged as near-universal top-of-mind concerns for forum participants and audience members, such as the importance of developing a brand and messaging values that resonate with the emerging workforce; the criticality of public-private partnerships to develop talent in the greater Washington, D.C., area and beyond; and the concern and uncertainty about the human capital impact of Amazon’s (Nasdaq: AMZN) recent decision to become a much closer neighbor of Uncle Sam.

The trends and issues discussed often repeated themes TBR touches on regularly in its analysis of the IT industry, both within the federal market and across public and private sectors globally. While the perspectives shared were both validating and enlightening, there was just as much value in paying attention to what the panelists did not talk about at length. Today’s pressing HR demands leave little time for talent strategists to worry about the looming disruptive impacts of AI and robotic process automation (RPA), the fundamental changes in labor amid the rise of asset-based services, forward-thinking venture-capital-like approaches to partnerships, or the uncomfortable and growing issue of ethics conflicting with the eagerness to apply innovative IT to government missions. HR leaders and strategic decision makers at the leading services firms will need to grapple with these difficult topics today if they want to stay ahead of disruption that is just around the corner in the dynamic and rapidly changing IT industry.

 

 

Washington Technology Power Breakfast: TBR Public Sector Analyst Joey Cresta was recently invited to participate in a panel discussion on talent strategies of government contractors at a breakfast forum hosted by Washington Technology. The event provided an outlet for executives, HR experts and industry thought leaders to share how they intend to win talent in a competitive labor market while maintaining profitability and bracing for the impact of Amazon’s impending move into Crystal City.

Technology Business Research, Inc. announces 1Q19 webinar schedule

Technology Business Research, Inc. (TBR) announces the schedule for its 1Q19 webinar series.

Jan. 9            Virtualization flips the axis on technology monetization and adoption

Jan. 23         IoT is getting a lot easier

Feb. 6           The pendulum swings: Customer demands reshape how infrastructure vendors do business

Feb. 13         5G will be an evolution, not a revolution

Feb. 20         Customers care less, vendors buy more, and both sides become more intelligent

Feb. 27         Consulting’s robot army: How RPA changes the consulting business model

Mar. 20        Enabling stakeholders across the healthcare ecosystem to navigate the path to value-based care

TBR webinars are held typically each Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET and include a 15-minute Q&A session following the main presentation. Previous webinars can be viewed anytime on TBR’s Webinar Portal.

For additional information or to arrange a briefing with our analysts, please contact TBR at [email protected].

 

ABOUT TBR

Technology Business Research, Inc. is a leading independent technology market research and consulting firm specializing in the business and financial analyses of hardware, software, professional services, and telecom vendors and operators. Serving a global clientele, TBR provides timely and actionable market research and business intelligence in a format that is uniquely tailored to clients’ needs. Our analysts are available to address client-specific issues further or information needs on an inquiry or proprietary consulting basis.

TBR has been empowering corporate decision makers since 1996. For more information please visit www.tbri.com.

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