Business unusual: What’s on the tech agenda, post-covid?

2021.01.04

Wisia Neo

PERSPECTIVES

AI trends and business agendas in post-pandemic Singapore

 

A silver lining to the pandemic

There is still constant emphasis that we are chest-deep in a pandemic—not only globally, but even in Singapore despite a flatline of transmissions. With the local economic year-on-year contraction standing at 13.2 percent, businesses are struggling to stay afloat, and thrive in a global slowdown shrouded by clouds of uncertainty.

 

 

But crises have a way of accelerating technology trends well underway

Yet, the silver lining is that “crises have a way of accelerating technology trends that were already well underway”. It has reinforced industries that are indispensable, such as semiconductors, finance and insurance, and especially IT and digital augmentation—with surges in demand and further expansions projected. Indeed, the direction has been set that technologies like AI will play a big role in our near future, and the pandemic has only made this clearer. This is why:

 

Post-Covid Trend 1: There is a new wave of data that has to be made sense of

The pandemic has brought about a new wave of data, particularly as highly unstructured information, that has yet to be cleaned and analysed to be actually used for valuable recommendations. A simple example is the unopened treasure chest of consumer behaviour data stemming from demographic information recorded from Singapore’s SafeEntry check-ins, or the new ways we are using our devices for work and play at home. Businesses can better plan staff deployment based on trends in mall traffic and possibly even utilise data from delivery orders to identify underserved neighbourhoods for a new outlet. Because AI and data go hand in hand, the pandemic’s data wave has primed golden opportunities for AI application and technology-enabled strategies.

 

Post-Covid Trend 2: There is a new urgency for automation that is more enduring, scalable and clever

Going a notch beyond a befitting call for automation is a look into its quality—i.e., its endurance, scalability and cleverness. Firstly, we need machines that are more persevering—than humans—for uninterrupted and consistent work. Cognitive repetitive tasks have great potential for AI adoption, such as document reading with Omnitive Extract. For example, with safety measures such as restricted timings for different age groups at banks in place, many–especially the older generation–are adopting a digital means of banking. This means teething problems for them as they learn and a great opportunity for banks to deliver an excellent customer experience. However, with more customers flooding the hotline, banks need to find a better way to serve its customers while ensuring employee satisfaction.

Next, technology must also be flexible in adapting to changing and escalating user needs. Reliable and consistent scalability is unachievable with a human workforce for its nuances, much unlike tech. Aspects like CPU, cloud, programming logic, network availability etc. are easily controlled with little diseconomies of scale.

Finally, traditional automation is insufficient. Businesses need automation as adroit as humans, to execute tasks that require understanding, knowledge and insights to truly achieve competitive edge amongst other market players.

 


What do business leaders expect in AI in a post-pandemic world?

 

The trend has been set that AI is the way forward. Yet, solution providers need to dive deeper into AI business agendas fueling business leaders’ tech decisions, to understand exactly how to establish a compelling offering amidst the vast AI paradigm.

 

AI Business Agenda 1: AI that can augment humans on complex tasks

Applying artificial intelligence as augmented intelligence takes critical priority in business agendas, playing to the inherent complementary nature of AI to humans. In automating high-value, cognitive processes, the vision is to blend the processing power of machines with the social and emotional intelligence of humans.

One example is TAIGER’s AI-powered recommendation engine for MySkillsFuture serving close to 300,000 Singaporeans a month. The de facto career portal matches users’ career goals with accurate and relevant skills recommendations through courses, articles and ebooks. Powering the portal is an advanced search and recommendation engine understands complex queries, and triangulates them with market conditions. AI and the human user are in a collaborative relationship, with AI conveniently offering resources of vast scope for the user to make an intelligent but easy final decision.

 

 

AI Business Agenda 2: AI that creates frictionless and purposeful customer journeys

All businesses revolve around their customers and creating a differentiated customer experience is key to harnessing tangible business value. However, servicing customers promptly, yet with a personalised touch, is challenging when executed at scale. This is where automation and customer experience go hand in hand in an AI business agenda; AI deployments—not squarely for front office, but middle and back office applications as well—spill over to more frictionless and purposeful customer journeys, subsequently driving business volume up organically.

In the banking industry, businesses can easily create such customer journeys with automation. In our case, we worked with Bank Otkritie Financial Corporation to integrate Omnitive Extract—a document extraction engine—into a mobile application for SME onboarding. It transformed a typically cumbersome process—entailing trips to the bank and huge time lags for banking officers to manually process invoices—to an effortless, digital customer journey spanning just a few minutes for full conversions to payment. This is an example to highlight the importance of technology in creating and scaling seamless and purposeful customer journeys that would otherwise be impossible.

 

AI Business Agenda 3: AI that identifies and predicts anomalies

Companies are beginning to ramp up risk management initiatives to buffer themselves from unwanted attacks, defects and anomalies which could substantially impede growth. With massive troves of data, such anomalies are imminent, but humans lack the capacity to properly manage them especially when at scale. AI’s ability to analyse enormous data sets with speed, consistency and objectivity makes them better than humans at answering ‘What’s going on?’ and ‘What can I do about it?’

AI-driven predictive analytics make such cognitive anomaly detection far more efficient and trustworthy. With one of our clients, Banco Santander, we deployed Omnitive Extract on legal documents to both extract and flag areas of potential risk to an administrator for compliance checks. This would have otherwise taken a specialized team of experts to very closely read over 50 pages of complex documents with a high chance of error. The solution subsequently helped Santander increase SME lending volume by 11% from June 2019 to June 2020.

 

AI Business Agenda 4: AI that can rapidly build and deliver new software capabilities

The buzz around automations’ ‘superhuman’ capabilities often mask a salient, concomitant obstacle—software development. Today’s enterprises struggle with the colossal cost, IT expertise and time required to build and integrate new software into their existing infrastructure. A proficient solution could take months to years, and six-digit figures at minimum; such a costly AI business agenda urges users to reconsider how much benefit there is from investments in AI technology on top of its absolute advantages.

However, TAIGER sees this as an opportunity to leverage, with a low-to-no code application-building platform in the works. The cognitive automation platform allows line-of-business users with no IT expertise to build AI-driven solutions with immense ease, speed and security. Training and deploying an intelligent model to read documents such as passports and financial statements takes as little as 5-20 minutes, yet with guaranteed 85-90% accuracies. With this, we’re not only providing solutions for our clients, but also adding massive scalability and productivity through the entire software life cycle.

 

Not whether, but how to realise AI’s potential

The direction has been set that technologies like AI will play a big role in our near future, and the pandemic has only made this clearer. Particularly when set against many pandemic-depressed industries, players in tech must realise this window of opportunity and adapt with agility. Diving deep into the paradigm of AI and exploring the different business problems are the first steps. The next would be to advance actionable strategies that capture these post-Covid AI trends. Find out how to make this happen in the next article on best practices for solution providers to be part of the agendas.

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