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How AI is shifting the corporate landscape in the face of COVID-19

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By Ero Georgiades, Chief Operating Officer of Fountech Solutions.

The last twelve months have proved to be something of a turning point within the corporate space. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has meant that organizations across all sectors have been subject to a rapidly changing set of demands. Naturally, this has meant that companies both big and small have been looking to innovative solutions to navigate their way out of the crisis.

The term “new normal” has been something of a buzz word throughout this period, and with good reason: a day in office now looks very different than it did in early 2020. For the most part, businesses have been reactive and are making the necessary adjustments to COVID-proof their operations. They are turbo-charging their digital transformation strategies far ahead of plan, automating more processes than ever before, and generally embracing novel technologies.

Business requirements have changed radically, and the attitude towards new and emerging tech like artificial intelligence (AI) is shifting, too. Many have realized that technology is more necessary than ever – a question of safeguarding business, rather than an optional luxury. As such, I expect that this forward momentum will continue long after the pandemic has passed, as businesses learn that AI is more accessible than they may have once thought. So, with this in mind, here are some trends that businesses should consider in 2021, as they map out their plans for digital maturity…

AI investment is on the up

Many business leaders up until now might have been wrongly under the impression that AI-powered solutions and automation remains just out of grasp. This is in part owing to the fact that there is often a lot of jargon and exaggeration in the marketing of these products, making them seem larger than life itself. But sometimes, ‘AI’ really does just mean that a product is intelligent software.

Thankfully, the tide seems to be turning. According to recent research from Fountech Solutions, more and more businesses are funnelling resources into innovative and AI-bolstered solutions. Of the 750 business leaders polled, a significant portion (30%) said that they had piloted an AI solution for the first time since the pandemic hit. Whether born out of necessity, or of a realization of the value that AI can bring, 40% of businesses say they plan to make AI investment a priority in 2021.

Avenues for investment will naturally differ between businesses in different sectors. However, as the mass remote working experiment continues, we can expect businesses to divert their tech spend towards solutions that promote workplace collaboration, can be used to support customer customers remotely, and lessen the burden on employees through enhanced number-crunching. Indeed, two-thirds (66%) of businesses that already use AI agree that it has allowed them to optimize internal and external processes to become far more efficient.

The changing jobs market

In the face of the pandemic, jobs will change – but not necessarily for the worse. As well as being able to operate safely from the comfort of their homes, employees will in the near future be able to spend more of their working day on more fulfilling and creative tasks. Already, AI adoption has seen the vast majority (64%) of employees more satisfied in their roles, and companies are clearly looking to capitalise on this trend to foster greater efficiency and contentment amongst their workforces.

In a world that once feared an onslaught of robots out to take their jobs and render their skills ineffectual, the fact that almost half (41%) of employers plan to hire new talent to deal specifically with AI in the coming year should be some cause for comfort. In the near future years, there be a growing demand for workers who can support and operate alongside increasingly intelligent machines.

As well as being relied upon for fewer mundane and labor-intensive tasks, workers can also expect to see their roles change, in that companies will be on the lookout for so-called ‘soft skills’. Although these skills, which cover everything from leadership and confidence to emotional intelligence, can often be hard to pin down or quantify, businesses will value them more than ever. As AI-powered data analytic tools and bots begin to do the heavy lifting with a much smaller margin for error, workers will be looked upon to communicate and put their fundamentally ‘human’ qualities to good use in the workplace, as well as working with and managing new technologies. In fact, within the next 12 months one in two (48%) organizations plan to send their staff for AI-related training, which should offer a glimpse of what is to come.

Ultimately, across the board, businesses are recognizing the vast benefits that AI has to offer their organization, be it through a healthier bottom line, enhanced staff satisfaction, or a more general competitive advantage. Throughout the pandemic and beyond, it is heartening to see organizations changing for the better thanks to new technologies, and business leaders finally getting to grips with automation. I look forward to seeing how these trends develop in the months and years to come.

Ero Georgiades is the Chief Operating Officer of Fountech Solutions, an AI consultancy and development company which helps businesses of all sizes, and across all sectors, to integrate AI solutions. It designs and develops novel AI solutions, before offering extensive support throughout the implementation stages