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Using digital technology to mitigate business risk during a global pandemic

By March 24, 2020

The COVID-19 outbreak has had a serious impact on global commerce. Many workers have been asked to stay home, most of whom aren’t fully equipped to work from home. Supply chains have been disrupted across most markets. Operational disruption and loss of business opportunities has shifted many organizations’ focus to cost control.

That’s why it’s important to evaluate commercially available digital technology that can lower costs, reduce business risk, and improve operational resilience and agility. If you haven’t freshly implemented or made major upgrades to your organization’s technology infrastructure in the last five years, then you should pay special attention. Cloud-based business applications, integrated EDI, robotic process automation, and unified omnichannel commerce and operations can all make a difference. They’ll strengthen your team’s ability to stay productive away from the office and prevent disruption to business processes. And that’s not all… these technologies will continue to deliver high returns long after market conditions improve.

Here are five ways that digital business technology that’s available today can help your organization cope in these troubling times and empower them to adapt more quickly when faced with future challenges:

Automate processes to address labor shortages

With so many office closures, your business operations might be disrupted because your employees or resources at your outsourcing provider might not be able to go to work for several days. Your organization can reduce its dependence on human workers by automating frequent and repetitive business processes. This will soften the impact of sudden local and offshore labor shortages.

Robotic process automation helps businesses build a virtual workforce of software “bots” that can simulate the typing and clicking that their human knowledge workers do to complete routine tasks. Bots can compare, copy and paste, and run simple checks on information across different applications and browser windows at superhuman speed, usually between 5 and 15 times faster than your team can complete tasks manually. Automated processes can continue running even when your employees can’t reach their place of work.

Simplify working from home with cloud and mobility solutions

One great thing about knowledge work is that as long as you have a laptop and an Internet connection, you can still get a large part of your work done even when you’re not actually at the office. Allowing your workforce to “telecommute” is a great way to differentiate yourself as an employer and attract top talent. It can also be your organization’s saving grace in the event of an unplanned shutdown. You’ll be able to significantly reduce loss of business by keeping processes running, even when your offices are not.

However, not every business is fully equipped for remote work. If they need to work from home, your team might not have complete access to important applications and data. To ensure that your workers can maintain optimum productivity levels while working remotely, you need to invest in cloud capabilities and mobility solutions. By switching to cloud-based ERP, CRM, and other business applications, your organization can grant remote access to team members without introducing complexity of the kind that on-premises applications would require.

Mobility solutions help ensure that your remote workers can accomplish important business tasks. It also helps your customers learn about and shop for your products and services from their smartphones and tablets. Combining mobility and cloud technology provides the tools and support that your employees need to stay productive wherever they are.

Reduce paper use with EDI

Handling physical business documents has always been tedious and error-prone, but now it’s potentially hazardous. The less mail you have to sort through, the better. Implementing electronic data interchange (EDI) can help prevent the spread of infectious disease. It’s also a faster, more accurate, less expensive, and more environmentally conscious choice for partner communication.

It’s also worth noting that if your organization buys or sells perishable or controlled items like groceries or medicine, then EDI is also the preferred method of tracking those items across the supply chain to ensure food safety and prevent tampering.

Improve supply chain resilience with digital vendor management

In a global crisis situation, your supply chain can suffer from widespread disruption. If most of the components you use in your flagship product come from a single supplier, what happens if they can’t ship to you for an entire month?

Effective vendor management keeps your supply chain from becoming too brittle. Digital vendor management solutions help you evaluate vendors, track their performance and adherence to service levels, and recommend alternatives when particular materials or vendors aren’t available. If your supply-side situation is changing on a daily basis, you can’t operate efficiently with a manual vendor management process, and it’s probably time to upgrade to a digital system that enhances operational agility by automating many vendor management tasks.

Give customers more ways to shop with omnichannel commerce

With the current “social distancing” precautions that millions of people are taking to curtail the spread of infection, sales in physical retail locations are much lower than businesses would have expected for a typical March. On the other hand, online commerce is surging. Since people have shifted to buying their essentials online, your business needs to ensure that its eCommerce website and mobile shopping app can handle the increased demand without suffering performance degradation.

You also need to ensure that your brand experience remains as consistent as possible so your customers have access to the same goods and services online as the ones they have come to know and love at your physical retail outlets. You should make sure your supply chain and retail operations are “omnichannel” so customers can transition between in-store and online shopping as seamlessly as possible. Whether they browse, purchase, or request support online or in your stores, their order, shipping, and support information should be at your team’s fingertips to ensure they always receive world-class service.

Conclusion

Times are exceptionally tough for businesses at the moment, so using digital technology to slash expenses and attract new business is an intelligent response to this unique challenge. Keeping your workforce active while they’re unable to reach their place of work is a big part of this, and businesses that have already established strong cloud and mobile capabilities are much more prepared for this scenario. Adopting widespread automation is another incredibly powerful way to make your business more resilient. Going paperless by switching to EDI can reduce health risks and create a delay-free, automatic system for partner communication.

Visionet offers a vast array of digital enterprise solutions that can keep your business healthy during the crisis and generate even more success when the global situation returns to normal. Reach out to a Visionet expert for more assistance with planning and executing an effective response.