Is now the time to embrace automation and AI to counter the economic slowdown?

In the midst of the worst productivity decline for more than two centuries, many businesses will be looking to embrace automation now to ensure survival.

It has been a rollercoaster couple of weeks for UK organisations. As the gravity of this public health crisis becomes clearer and the government measures become increasingly restrictive, thousands of businesses are being forced to adjust quickly to this new landscape. Millions of workers have already been told to head home and work remotely and many more will be required to follow suit over the coming days, I suspect.

From the conversations I’ve had with colleagues and the coverage I’ve seen in the media, there is mixed feeling in the business community during this period. Of course, times of uncertainty are rarely good for business. But it has been encouraging to see so many business leaders embracing the challenges ahead by looking to innovate, rather than simply ploughing on and accepting the inevitable drop in productivity.

As I write this, 200,000 people have currently been infected with Coronavirus and the shockwaves of this have lead to a crash in the global stock market – with the FTSE 100 down nearly 35%. In the face of this, I believe that the most agile and progressive businesses will look to respond quickly and decisively. And among the key ways to do so will be through automation, AI and digital transformation.

We have seen a growth in this digital sector over the past two years. The proposed tightening of borders following Brexit has already driven a number of companies to investigate ways to replace the skilled labour that they would no longer be able to draw on from overseas. But the rapid spread of COVID-19 is serving to accelerate our transition towards automation. After all, automated processes and production lines can continue uninterrupted through a public health crisis in a way that workers simply cannot.

In a Harvard Business Review article in December 2019, it was suggested that 58% of surveyed industry executives had “already started their automation journey”. Of those surveyed, 38% were in a piloting stage (1-10 automations), 12% were in implementation stage (11-50 automations) and 8% were automating at scale (over 51 automations).

As businesses look to maintain business as usual during these tough times, the unrivalled speed, accuracy and reliability of automation means that these figures are set to increase rapidly over the next 12 months. It’s also important to note that for companies reaching for their Business Continuity Plans, digital transformations can help to alleviate the “key person” dependencies that pose such a big risk within organisations – particularly SMEs.

While there will be a temptation to use AI to merely replace traditional products and processes in the likes of the financial sector, I believe the real value will come from the digital innovation that takes place during this period. In this way, I am optimistic that from the short-term pain of this economic turmoil we will see a long-term improvement in the way companies solve problems and meet customers’ long-term needs.

At Centigen we are already working on a number of projects to implement intelligent automation, designed to reduce costs and generate higher returns for our clients. Through innovations such as machine learning and AI, businesses can not only help to secure their survival right now when the economic climate is tough; they can also begin the process of achieving much greater success in the future.

If you are looking to innovate your way through the challenges of 2020 and want to know more about how AI, machine learning, automation or digital transformation could benefit your business, please do get in touch with us at Centigen.