How the pandemic will accelerate digital transformation

Data will help drive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Infection clusters will be monitored; contact checking technologies, such as those being developed by Orange, Google and Apple, will help inform response; and data-driven decision-making will be used to help guide every enterprise through challenging times, transforming core missions, such as:

  • Last-mile delivery
  • Supply-chain management
  • Product development
  • Customer demand analysis
  • Raw materials sourcing and logistics
  • Data and information governance

These are the building blocks for the digital dexterity that enterprises will need to survive and prosper in the new age.

Connected everything

Technology will be deployed across every part of every business. It will help businesses collect, filter and analyze data to help them make data-driven business, technological and operational decisions. IDC forecasts that over 150 billion devices will be connected across the globe by 2025 with the growth of IoT, most of which will be gathering and creating data in real time.

Think about distribution and supply

If, as is currently expected, routine health screening means neighborhoods may be locked down with little warning in order to inhibit disease outbreak, enterprises will need real-time insight into the impact of those decisions on component supply, product shipping, staffing and local distribution.

Data and AI can help deliver this, while also enabling businesses to manage their supply chains. The scale of the COVID-19 crisis shows the need. “We’ve never seen anything like this in terms of threats to supply chains,” Jim Yarbrough, BSI Global Intelligence Program Manager, told eWeek.

Real-time predictive analytics may help mitigate the consequences of this and other threats moving forward.

In the difficult environment of our new normal, poor decisions will have financial costs. Senior executives must accurately predict the products and services we need while developing complex diversified supply chains. They must also try to get ahead of rapidly changing economic and regulatory policy.

The Internet of Enterprises

We expect businesses will move to accelerate their investments in data-driven decision-making systems, forming what Orange Business CEO Helmut Reisinger calls The Internet of Enterprises.

The current crisis will lead enterprises to further diversify their “just-in-time” manufacturing operations, but it will also require them to develop fast and actual reporting systems across the chain. Connected systems and real-time data analysis will enable this.

Outsourcing of business tasks will remain a good way to reap the benefits of specialized expertise, so this drive to better data will require business partners to share data in order to provide real-time information and warning of interruptions in critical supply chains. Of course, as every business process becomes ever more digitized, the sheer quantity of data being created will grow exponentially.

IDC estimates that the amount of available data will exceed 160 zettabytes by 2025 (in comparison, global Internet traffic reached just five zettabytes in the last two years). This move to data-driven industry also surfaces other needs, such as those around data regulation, storage, network provision, machine learning, analytics processing and more. Cybersecurity solutions providers will become mandatory.

The need for integration

Integration may be a challenge. With different businesses coalescing around different technologies and some industries reliant on their own unique tools, it will be necessary to make incompatible systems share information with each other.

“It is vital to understand that integration is a crucial IoT competency. As deployment intensifies, this need grows. Responses may include use of cloud-based services buoyed with powerful APIs, as may commercially available iPaaS platforms.

Gartner Research VP Benoit Lheureux

“IoT projects are often associated with disruptive business models and, in the excitement, an appreciation of the potential complexity can be lost,” said Lheureux. “To avoid disappointment, integration leaders must address the diverse integration requirements for IoT projects.”

Network provision and cybersecurity challenges must also be resolved. Orange already manages communications between 18.8 million connected objects each day, processing 330 million pieces of data every minute via its Datavenue platform.

The new environment

The business of the future will supply a product or service that is needed by customers in an environment defined by increased personal surveillance and intermittent business interruption, as lockdowns to control local infection clusters are applied.

To serve its markets, enterprises will require real-time data on temporary or permanent market interruptions. This is going to transform working habits – remote working and use of managed office spaces will predominate as enterprises seek flexibility with which to manage sudden change. Training and team building will become primarily electronic, though, ironically, social and away-day events will also become more important as enterprises work to foster feelings of community within their businesses. A sense of community is essential for staff retention.

In manufacturing, data will be shared from the moment the first batch of raw materials is weighed in to the moment when the product that uses it reaches the consumer. Blockchain-based systems that track key moments across the cycle lend themselves to this.

Software-defined networks running over MPLS, 5G, LoRaWAN, Wi-Fi 6 and LEO satellite will underpin the Fourth Industrial Revolution, while network interoperability and the need to avoid network congestion will be vital.

Enterprise users will require near-perfect network provision, while network providers will also need to ensure their maintenance systems are sufficiently robust to handle intermittent lockdowns. This inevitably leads to investment in self-diagnostic, automated and preventive-maintenance solutions.

Managing this increasing complexity will demand investment in expertise. Find out in these industry case studies how Orange Business can help your enterprise. And visit our digital consultancy pages for more information.

Jon Evans

Jon Evans is a highly experienced technology journalist and editor. He has been writing for a living since 1994. These days you might read his daily regular Computerworld AppleHolic and opinion columns. Jon is also technology editor for men's interest magazine, Calibre Quarterly, and news editor for MacFormat magazine, which is the biggest UK Mac title. He's really interested in the impact of technology on the creative spark at the heart of the human experience. In 2010 he won an American Society of Business Publication Editors (Azbee) Award for his work at Computerworld.