IT Footprint in the post COVID-19 world

By Anurag Johari

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The Challenge: 

Covid-19 has thrown an unprecedented challenge in the known human history. It’s not that pandemic has broken for first time, but its global impact is being witnessed first time. Everyone is anxious that how the world is going to be after Covid-19. The major concerns are about its impact on Healthcare, Education, Employment, Economy, Lifestyle, Work culture and Tourism etc. To understand the possible scenarios after Covid-19, we need to analyse the current scenario.

Current Covid-19 crisis has socially and economically paralysed the world. During lockdown, the people are working from home, supply chain for essential items is under severe stress test, cost sensitive global supply chain is staring the high risk of single source failure.

In the materialistic world, healthcare suddenly became the highest priority and near sourcing emerged as immediate need. No doubt the world is eagerly looking for effective vaccine to cure Covid-19 infection, but currently the world is struggling with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for healthcare providers, testing kits and ventilators for patients, isolation wards and the manpower to support the healthcare services including doctors, lab technicians, paramedics, nursing and sanitation. There is acute shortage of quality material and manpower to deal with current crisis.

Way Forward:

We need to understand that this may be the first of its kind crisis in human history, but that is only in term of scale and not in term of nature. Earlier also there have been pandemics, though not at global scale. But this crisis is also not the last crisis of its type as there may be similar pandemic in future also.

However, this crisis has exposed our unpreparedness to deal with such crisis at mass global scale. In this context, technology can play an important role to deal with pandemics and associated potential economic impacts. To use the technology in more effective manner, we must rightly understand the problem from each stakeholder’s perspective.

In post Covid-19 scenario, the world is expected to be socio-economically restructured. Health and hygiene are likely to become a key consideration in collaborative environment. Similarly cost will cease to be a primary consideration for procurement of goods and services and will be replaced with risk, strategic alignment and resilience. Thus, following are most likely fallout of current Covid-19 crisis:

  1. Stringent regulations for health and hygiene in collaborative environment affecting the hospitals, office space, commuting, entertainment, events, travel and hospitality etc.
  2. Just in time model for goods and services may have lived its life. Near sourcing and resilience for key goods and services to ensure the business continuity, are the emerging business needs.
  3. Supply chain model likely to be changed. Currently, the model is two tiered, having Hub and spokes at national and regional level. The emerging business need is to develop third tier as well at interior / district level.
  4. Even in retail segment, contactless transactions like voice-based display, scheduled repeat order for consumables, virtual assistant with recommendations, remote ordering, digital payment and protective packing etc. are expected to pick up. In effect, local e-commerce may get boost with some changes in the operating model.
  5. Buying behaviour of customers are likely to undergo sea change and the predictive modelling based on historical data will significantly off the mark.

Technology Interventions:

The above will need significant changes in existing operating models in respective areas. Health and hygiene related regulations may require strict monitoring and statutory audit etc. The provision of buffer resources and its management may be another disruption. Setting up the third tier of supply chain as district level and reliable temperature-controlled supply chain at all level may be pushed by the government. The governments across the world, are likely to develop the rapid response framework to deal with such pandemic which will require quick identification, rapid resource mobilization and business continuity at government level. This may lead to flood of e-services in many governance areas. Public distribution system (PDS) may be made fully automated and include one
nation -one ration card in near future.

The above changes can be enabled with information technology. The technology interventions like office collaboration, remote monitoring, healthcare, robotics, supply chain, e-services, video surveillance, digital retail, digital payment and local e-commerce are likely to gain momentum.

For technology interventions in above areas, following is the suggestive list of some initiatives having
good market potential.

1. Robotic based temperature, BP and breath monitoring
2. Robotic based medicine dispensing and food delivery
3. Remote patient monitoring
4. Digital counters to monitor In and Out in shared space
5. Video surveillance of crowded areas and shared space
6. Digital Queue management
7. Contactless retail shopping
8. Digital emergency response services
9. End to end monitored temperature-controlled supply chain
10. Buffer resources planning, mobilization and redistribution
11. Rapid adoption of office collaboration tools and its integration with enterprise applications
12. Blockchain based public distribution system

The above initiatives may require innovative approach towards conceptualization of operating model, processes and technology solutions. Nevertheless, the need is the mother of invention.

Opportunities:

Every crisis exposes the level of unpreparedness. Current crisis of Covid-19 also underlines the needs for preparedness to handle such situation in future as well as taking the preventive measures to avoid such situation turning into another crisis. This crisis has opened the gate for many engineering opportunities which can be best tapped with business innovations in respective areas. For IT companies to tap these opportunities, they need to change the mindset of billing-based resourcing and consulting. There are IT related opportunities for startups and big players both. There are emerging opportunities like Business Continuity with process re-engineering, adoption of remote service delivery model in non-IT/ ITeS enterprises, Electronic Health Record (EHR), Healthcare data
exchange, shift in buying behaviour in retail segments, business innovation and data analytics etc.

Changes in social behaviour will further accelerate the technology adoption. The companies may have to rethink about business processes automation, rather they will think that how to leverage the technology to transform the business processes more agile and customer centric. The focus may be on rapid technology adoption at customer touchpoints.

Thus, the following is a suggestive list of some of the business innovation areas, that some technology
startups may like to explore.

1. Contactless shopping at retail store
2. Local e-commerce
3. Digital medical and non-emergency response system
4. Personal e-Healthcare record
5. Digital OPD management
6. Robotics in patient care
7. Remote monitoring, alerts, alarm and warning
8. Digital Queue management
9. Digitally enabled rural supply chain
10. Digitally enabled redistribution of resources within supply chain
11. Virtual offices
12. Digitally enabled war room for primary healthcare providers

The above can be used by the startups to get the early birds advantage. The big IT companies should also look beyond technology expertise among new hires and focus on innovative mindsets and the industry experts.

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About The Author:

Anurag Johari is a management consultant who has worked globally on digital transformation, business innovation, products development and large and complex IT transformation programs with across industry segments. His areas of interests are blue ocean strategy and business innovation, digital transformation, post-merger IT integration and business transformation.

He is a thought leader and avid public speaker on various management issues. He has also written many papers on various management topics. He has authored a book on digital transformation, All In Digital – A Strategic Perspective, published at Amazon. He is an engineering graduate from REC Calicut (now NIT) India and has been associated with Fujitsu Consulting, Wipro consulting, pwc and EY.

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