COVID-19 has been a frightening global crisis. It’s not just the health concerns that it poses, either. COVID-19 has also highlighted weaknesses in the way that many businesses of all sizes operate, and showed us just how little thought has gone into continuity through a crisis.
The good news is that technology solutions are allowing organizations to adapt, and while the impact and costs of the disease are still yet to be fully understood, many legal organizations and other businesses have been very effective in leveraging automation to continue operating through the crisis.
Pandemic accelerates shift toward work-from-home
The most visible impact of COVID-19 is that working from home rapidly shifted from a “nice to have” conversation to something mandatory. Before the pandemic broke there was already plenty of research that was going into the benefits of enabling a work from home culture.
For example, a Stanford University study of a major Chinese business back in 2017 found that enabling call center staff to work from a home improved performance by 13 percent and saved the company on the costs of running its central office location.
Another study by a major retailer, Staples, way back in 2011 found that employees that worked from home experienced 25 percent less stress and were able to maintain a better work-life balance, which significantly improved retention and the cultural health of the organization.
For all of those cited benefits, however, many organizations remained hesitant to adopt a formal work from home policy. However, with COVID-19, there was the immediate need to allow staff to work from home, and the impact of that will reverberate even after the crisis abates and work returns to normal.
Organizations are going to discover the benefits of the work from home culture simply in watching this play out, and now that organizations have those capabilities, they’re not going to remove them even as social distancing policies end.
The adoption of automation
A less immediately obvious consequence of the changes that COVID-19 will drive into business operations is the adoption of automation, from robotics through to AI-driven software solutions and Xero or online accountancy. Again, automation is something that was already seen as something that could significantly help businesses before the outbreak of COVID.
For just one example, back in 2018, the Harvard Business Review published a report that found that the five top benefits of AI were:
- Enhancing the features, functions, and performance of our products
- Optimizing internal business operations
- Freeing up workers to be more creative by automating tasks
- Making better decisions
- Creating new products
In a dynamic business environment where disruption is everything to business health, AI and automation have long been held up as the most meaningful opportunity to be the disruptors rather than the disrupted.
And yet, AI and automation is complex and challenging for IT to get right. Before being able to deploy effective AI processes, most organizations need to undertake a digital transformation project, whereby they modernize their systems to allow them to take a data-driven, cloud-based approach to technology.
Without those modern systems and ways of working AI and automation activities can’t succeed, as they won’t have the data or compute power behind them that they need. The problem is that 70 percent of digital transformation projects fail – these are necessary, but also the biggest technology challenge an organization can tackle.
According to Converga, “An effective BPO strategy allows companies to increase efficiency and lower costs, creating the freedom required to focus on core competencies that drive growth. By minimizing distractions and reducing the pressure on team members to work outside their areas of strength, BPO empowers companies to move forward and meet — even exceed — their goals.”
Once installed, however, automation adds long-term value to the business in all areas and will continue to do so once the current crisis has calmed down. Through automation, an organization can modernize its manufacturing and/or logistics to be less reliant on people (and therefore enable the organization to practice social distancing for those that do need to be on-site), and shift the existing staff to focus on different, higher-value tasks.
Data-driven AI operations can help boost the organization’s interactions with the community, be that through support or marketing, and data reports can also help to shape the business by giving the executive layer a better understanding of key trends and metrics.
Back in 2017 there was a report that automation could save businesses $4 million annually. Naturally, in navigating through a crisis such as this one, cutting costs is an important goal, as even those businesses that haven’t been affected by forced shutdowns to comply with lockdown requirements have had to contend with customers being more conservative in their spending. However, cutting staff is not the solution, as COVID-19 is a temporary concern, and, as it passes, organizations will want to be in the healthiest position possible.
How the AI age is changing personal injury law
The law profession has not been left out in the rise of AI. Lawyers, insurance companies, and courts are currently leveraging the advancements in technology and AI to effectively carry out their jobs. On the other side of the coin, personal injury attorneys and judges are now also having to deal with determining liability in data breaches, robotic surgeries, and driverless vehicles.
There are many benefits to the integration of AI in the legal sector. Thanks to technology, legal documents can get analyzed, and information can be obtained quickly. Furthermore, it has been statistically proven that the AI method is more accurate and efficient for obtaining data than the traditional system of collecting physical files.
When it comes to the personal injury field of law, it is a lengthy process for lawyers and insurance companies to assess the value of personal injury claims. However, new technological developments are bringing a significant change in the way the process is carried out. Many big insurance companies are already using AI to assess personal injury claims, such as Zurich insurance. Since they started using AI in claims handling they saved 40,000 work hours while speeding up the claim processing time to five seconds.
Unsurprisingly there are fears that AI will ultimately replace human workers across the world, but the Harvard Business Review says that’s not inevitable, or even the most likely outcome. They recently reported: “Never before have digital tools been so responsive to us, nor we to our tools. While AI will radically alter how work gets done and who does it, the technology’s larger impact will be in complementing and augmenting human capabilities, not replacing them.”
Organizations were already heading down the path towards automation and AI before the COVID-19 crisis, and the nature of this crisis is such that it will further push organizations towards rapidly adopting solutions.
Taking advantage of AI and automation is a technical challenge that many of them will need to grapple with, but the payoff for those enterprises that are able to will be a genuine competitive advantage and business health at the other end.