INTERVIEW: Pandemic forces SEE companies to step up business processes automation

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The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted companies in Southeast Europe (SEE) to more actively explore opportunities to automate their business processes, Johannes Maurer, general manager of IBM Southeast Europe (SEE), told SeeNews.

“Before COVID-19, a lot of Robotic Process Automation pilots focused on automating routine tasks in low-profile, back-office processes. Now, there’s a new urgency to revisit and rebuild business processes for the sake of efficiency increase and client experience,” Maurer told SeeNews in a recent interview ahead of the Southeast European Think summit in Budapest on October 27.

“Our offerings now help clients to automate more business and IT processes at scale. Bots can act on AI insights to complete tasks with no lag time,” he added.

The shift comes amid a strong rise in interest towards digital solutions in general.

A recent IBM survey of more than 3,800 senior executives across 20 industries and 22 countries found that six out of ten companies accelerated digital transformation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In its survey COVID-19 and the Future of Business, IBM has identified three key areas: organisational flexibility; artificial intelligence (AI); automation and the use of other exponentially evolving technologies. Additionally, a new type of leadership, engagement, and innovative approaches to employees is needed.

“We see the same trend in Southeast Europe: companies are searching for solutions that enable them to be fast, reliable and competitive,” Maurer said.

As an example he pointed to Banca Comerciala Romana (BCR), which has deployed several projects supporting cashless payments with BCR cards for Bucharest’s transportation system. All of the card transactions are being hosted on IBM POWER.

However, the rapid shift to remote work has opened new loopholes for cybercriminals, Maurer warned.

“Many displaced workers lack the secure equipment or protocols to maximize digital safety. With employees accessing corporate networks via personal devices, hackers are probing Wi-Fi configurations and VPN connections for vulnerabilities. As people congregate on cloud-based productivity platforms, malicious actors are exploiting the situation, including hacking into and disrupting live meetings,” he commented.

Maurer quoted a recent online poll by Threatpost, an independent IT and business news provider, according to which 40% of respondents reported increased cyberattacks as they enable remote working.

Another major trend is that more and more companies are moving their operations to IBM Cloud that brings together market-leading security, enterprise scalability and open innovation for increased agility and continuity.

“Now we all recognise that we will face more complex, emerging work patterns in the “new normal” and that we will need to reimagine service delivery through a more holistic approach,” Maurer said, adding: “This second step to switch to what we call “Dynamic Delivery” will require the implementation of three different components: Delivery foundation, Humans in the network: empowered employees and Contactless delivery: AI and automation.”

The first component is the delivery foundation, which sets up the technological requirements for virtual delivery of sarvices: a resilient, scalable infrastructure that provides platform and tooling to deal with connectivity challenges of remote work is necessary for continuity in changing business onditions, he explained.

The second component is the Humans in the network of an enterprise who need to be empowered to take personal accountability. In Maurer’s words, in this new normal, where physical offices are no longer necessarily the place to deliver day-to-day work, supporting and enabling employees is critical to sustaining remote work at scale, particularly among early professionals. What differentiates Dynamic Delivery is the approach to motivating, inspiring, and leading people in remote settings, and ensuring common standards of education and knowledge management.

The final component is Contactless delivery, which depends on virtual methods and exponential technologies such as AI and extreme automation to enable seamless virtual collaboration.

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