by Rhonda Holloway
As we know all too well, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on how we live and work, causing repercussions that will be felt for many years to come. What’s not obvious, however, is where we go from here.
We are now experiencing a critical inflection point. As businesses worldwide struggled with COVID-19 and the shift to remote work and online customer care, successfully adapting to the new normal made all the difference between businesses that survive and those that closed their doors. By all accounts, this new work paradigm is now here to stay and organizations are facing a radically changed business environment that will require them to embrace new priorities and approaches.
According to a recent survey of professionals in nine countries, a majority of businesses that effectively weathered the pandemic credit their success to agility and digital transformation. Not surprisingly, 82 percent of organizations that previously conducted their business offline note that the pandemic has accelerated their digital transformation efforts, as they seek to create an agile remote work environment while improving online customer experience and overall competitiveness. In this post-pandemic landscape, the ability not just to survive but to thrive will depend on these critical skills and technologies.
Building Digital Muscles
Successful digital transformation is impossible with a traditional approach to work. The work approaches of yesteryear must give way to new processes that allow organizations and employees to be more nimble and resilient. In fact, when asked about the most important business priorities for the future, survey participants cited resilience as their number one priority. This was followed closely by a need to automate business processes in order to increase efficiency and agility, as well as resiliency. More than 80 percent of offline organizations across a range of industries reported that they plan to increase investments in business process automation.
In the manufacturing industry, for example, speed and productivity can be significantly improved through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) technology or robotic process automation (RPA). Moreover, healthcare, banking, transportation and retail businesses can all reap the efficiency benefits of process automation. And a key aspect of this digital transformation is seamless access to high-speed, low-latency connectivity. This opens up a host of opportunities for communications service providers (CSPs) to enable new services, such as private 5G networks and support for an expanding number of IoT devices to facilitate machine learning and trusted AI.
Likewise, telecoms operators can also benefit from process automation. Given sustained escalation in data traffic and overall bandwidth demand, it is nearly impossible to ensure sufficient capacity in the right place at the right time without automation to implement open and flexible converged networks. This is particularly critical as networks continue to become more complex with each technology generation.
By leveraging automation, CSPs can make their digital infrastructure work harder by securing and automating repetitive tasks, and by designing self-healing systems that proactively recover from unexpected events and failures. Plus, automation enables CSPs to offer seamless connectivity, productivity innovations, data-driven insights, and personalized customer engagements for vastly improved competitive positioning and profitability.
Getting a Head Start on Network Automation
While automation can be applied to nearly any business process, it’s best to start by prioritizing projects that create the most customer value right now. Businesses interested in a process automation approach should think through the mix of products and customized services required to meet a given range of customer needs, to help them select the focus area where results can be quickly maximized.
The first step should be a detailed analysis of the external business environment, systems and architectures, as well as the products delivered and the operational goals. This type of assessment provides key inputs for process evaluation and redesign, along with an understanding of which applications may be needed to deliver specific services.
An important advantage of business process automation is the ability to leverage data to assess business outcomes and, ultimately, improve results. Therefore, a strategy for collecting and storing all the data all the time is critical, along with a method to allow organizational and technical access to all customer and network data.
With robust network data analytics tools, traffic and usage data related to content, devices and IoT endpoints can be directly linked to dynamic business and pricing models for on-demand scalability. Network data analytics and AI tools then inform and shape automation capabilities as we evolve toward self-aware networks. Institutional knowledge regarding significant revenue drivers can be a vital input to this process as well, enabling improved business value.
Transforming for Tomorrow
Once in place, process automation enables new dynamic, on-demand business models for CSPs. These include such use cases as the ability to partition and prioritize traffic; managing throughput and transmission speeds for different traffic types and customers; handoff capabilities between networks; and handling of high-traffic users that impact service quality for other subscribers.
In addition, CSPs can improve resiliency and security, while also reducing mean time to repair (MTTR), by using automated “self-healing” capabilities along with advanced monitoring and performance analytics.