The Covid-19 pandemic has in many ways accelerated digital transformation projects, with a growing focus on AI and the strategic importance of data to support decision making. This acceleration of trends has caused a shift in the things companies could, and should be investing in. Companies, regardless of their size, have been hit with rapid changes with technology more in the spotlight than ever before as companies scramble to transform operations and customer engagement and look for new ways of navigating a rapidly-changing way of working.
With data analytics identified as the number one tech initiative driving 2021 investments, businesses are facing the challenge of unlocking data insights and incorporating AI/analytics working with a largely remote workforce and while still maintaining a human connection. In this environment, a few trends can be identified to help stay ahead of the game, not just in 2021 but beyond. For startups, having the right technology at their core from the start is just as important and new players can learn from the lessons of larger businesses who have had to rapidly adapt.
Investing in data will be the greatest competitive edge
Around 90% of all data generated in the world is unstructured – video and audio is an example of this with the small amount of data used by organisations being just the tip of the iceberg. Of the large mass of unstructured data out there, voice is far and away the biggest opportunity in that it is sizable – but also largely untapped. In the past, the technology to tap into the data in a scalable and meaningful way that demonstrated critical ROI for enterprises just didn’t exist and that meant there was an inability to analyse at scale efficiently, a heavily manual process would be required to unlock and analyse conversations to extract meaningful insights.
Since then, the potential to access unstructured data has changed drastically. Investing in rapidly advancing technology gives companies the opportunity to break into the world of unstructured data and gain a significant edge on competitors because of it. According to a 2019 Deloitte Survey, 55% of business leaders said they were using or planning to use voice. With the large scale of insights that can now be generated using voice – from the end to end customer journey to market insights, to sales performance and coaching as well as the use of voice biometric technology – the growing interest businesses are taking is no surprise. Voice analytics, for example, has the ability to make agents responsible for more complex conversations, whilst efficiently automating more mundane processes for a better customer and agent experience.
As well as the time saving advantage, analytics of unstructured data has the potential to reveal finer distinctions and micro-segment populations based on the characteristics of individuals. Deep learning models enable businesses to quickly scan unstructured data sets and find patterns. Using insights to personalise products and services on a wide scale is changing the fundamentals of competition in many sectors, including banking, education, healthcare and retail. If investing in data analytics is not something you’ve considered for your own company, it should be!
Investing in AI – the right kind
By 2023, one-quarter of Global 2000 companies will acquire at least one AI software start-up to ensure ownership of differentiated skills and IP. We found further evidence of the importance placed on driving value from technology with Gartner’s research, which found 65% of financial service CIOs plan to increase spending on infrastructure technologies such as APIs, microservices and cloud in the coming year.
If they are not already, CIOs should be considering how they can increase AI adoption and place an emphasis on the underlying data that powers it if they want to keep up. Traditionally, there have been significant barriers to AI adoption. Even if people recognise its importance, its complex nature when it comes to analysing data, requires an end-to-end understanding of the process in order to consolidate the customer journey into a single record. Unfortunately, a lot of businesses have installed expensive technology that hasn’t delivered and poor previous experience is certainly a factor in adopting the right AI later down the line.
To avoid disappointment, organisations must focus on specific outcomes and work with vendors that meet specific needs without assuming one provider can do everything. Critically, they must also ensure they have complete control of and access to any data they wish to tap into from across the enterprise and in the highest quality possible, as data silos and data quality issues can significantly impact outcomes.
In a world of automation, don’t overlook the importance of human voice
Voice is fundamental in the communication of all kinds and, naturally, humans are tuned well to understanding it and deriving meaning from it. In a world of rapidly increasing automation – Customer experience became an even greater imperative during the pandemic as companies scrambled to find alternative ways to engage clients, conduct business, and respond to changing requirements. In all of this, I believe voice is still the best alternative to connecting where face to face communication is not an option and 81% of CIOs have already confirmed they are implementing new technology to enable better customer experiences and interactions, with 65% now leaning on technology to provide an alternative to face-to-face communications.
Even if companies do not rely solely on a call centre, they have some way of communicating with customers or clients and I believe voice is still the richest, most personal form of communication. As well as the external conversations held, recording and transcribing HR meetings can be helpful to understand the culture internally providing privacy concerns are addressed by clear policies and procedures around this.
2021 is already proving to be the year that data separates businesses from their competitors and it is my belief that businesses should look at investing in the ability to unlock, analyse, and act on data, if they are not already. These factors will become foundational to growth of businesses of all sizes across any industry and no doubt those that stay ahead of the cub will have a greater chance at success.