Driving resilient business transformation with Cloud, Data, AI, and Analytics

Sachin Arora, Partner & Head, Digital Lighthouse (Analytics, AI & Data), KPMG India

The role that technology plays in the business environment has changed notably over the past decade. Technologies are no longer just about doing things better, faster, and cheaper; they have become essential for survival, growth, and resilience, in line with new business priorities and objectives. As existing technologies evolve and new ones emerge, traditional businesses are having to reinvent themselves – a process that has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Businesses that harness the capabilities of automation, artificial intelligence (AI), Cloud-enabled solutions, Big Data, and analytics are witnessing more opportunities and stability. Organizations that are slow or hesitant to transform themselves digitally face a very real risk of being left behind.

The Cloud is at the heart of digital transformation.

In a survey conducted in 2020 on the outlook of business executives on emerging technologies, 56 percent of the respondents agreed that cloud migration had become an absolute necessity. Today, as they plan for resilience and sustained growth, many enterprises are zeroing in on Cloud, automation, and analytics to drive higher returns on investment. Nearly 64 percent of executives also believe that the combined use of technologies is much more beneficial than using any of them in isolation. Today, more than a third of all enterprise-level solutions are either AI-powered or Cloud-enabled, making them almost the foundation of all digital transformation initiatives.

Today, as most companies plan to invest in technology, Cloud computing is at the heart of technology discussions, with Hybrid Cloud models topping the agenda. Instead of piecemeal migrations of small datasets, companies are looking to move data to the cloud at scale, with the intention of reducing service disruption, extending the corporate network and functional workloads, and improving flexibility and interoperability of the business. An increasing number of companies are seeing the Cloud for what it truly is – a platform for the convergence of technologies and a vehicle for value creation, collaboration, and competitive advantage.

Analytics and Data capabilities need to be strengthened.

Data is one of the most critical and valuable resources for all organizations. Today, businesses interact with their customers through a wide range of physical and digital touchpoints. Meanwhile, most employees are working remotely, using digital tools and platforms for communication and collaboration. Every online interaction leaves a digital footprint. The amount of data thus generated has grown exponentially over the years. Cloud-based data integration and analytics are a great way to collect, organize and analyze all such internal and external data. Moreover, it enables innovations at scale in data analytics.

Most analytics investments today focus on strengthening the data infrastructure to create an integrated platform from which insights can be generated, collected, and acted upon. Many organizations are taking the necessary steps in this direction by digitizing company data and processes, building a trusted data backbone, and investing in business intelligence platforms. However, there is still some work to do to attain the digital fluency needed to derive real value from AI and analytics. For one, analytics initiatives must be stopped being viewed as technology initiatives, given the impact they have on people, processes, and other aspects of the business. Going forward, mature enterprise data platforms will set the stage for businesses to capitalize on more advanced analytics and predictive modeling. These data science techniques will enable organizations to anticipate future events and outcomes with a high degree of accuracy, thereby enabling better strategies for growth and resilience.

AI will enable insight-driven decision-making and growth

Meanwhile, AI is poised to pervade every aspect of modern-day enterprises, from data to processes to talent to risk management, and more. The focus of AI initiatives is moving away from machine learning and towards deep learning — artificial neural networks that can learn and make intelligent decisions on their own. When AI is embedded within enterprise operations powered by a flexible cloud-based architecture, businesses can continuously improve their offerings based on real-time insights and quickly adapt to developments in the industry, markets, and the consumer landscape to gain and sustain a competitive edge.

One of the most effective use cases for AI is in supply chains[1]. The high levels of efficiency and speed needed in increasingly global supply chains makes the combination of AI, ML, and automation a perfect fit. AI is also being harnessed to predict and resolve potential supply disruptions, map effective routes, forecast and plan fleet movements and more. Consequently, companies are unlocking greater efficiencies and cost benefits.

Another area where AI can deliver a tremendous edge in performance is cybersecurity[2]. While the pandemic has underscored the role of digital capabilities in a company’s resilience, the sudden shift to a-all-digital operations has also revealed new vulnerabilities that hackers are taking advantage of. AI-enabled threat intelligence, prediction, and protection can come to the rescue, and fill in for the current cybersecurity skills gap.

The applications of data, AI and analytics go beyond business; they can yield significant benefits in many other socioeconomic spheres. Take healthcare, for instance. By using imaging and monitoring solutions, technology models can be created to anticipate patient needs for medical equipment and ICU beds and to make provisions accordingly. By gathering signals from early-stage diagnostics and other health information, such models can enable hospitals to predict how many patients will need to be admitted to an ICU or put on a ventilator in the foreseeable future. AI has also been put to use to decode Covid virus at a structural level to identify its weaknesses, paving way for vaccines this year.

These trends underscore a new paradigm: Cloud, Data, AI and Analytics, which were once referred to as “emerging technologies” are very much in the here and now. These technology mainstays will drive business and socio-economic activities in the years ahead. What will emerge is a stronger and more resilient nation.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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