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The three defining tech moments that have helped businesses face the Covid-19 pandemic

communication technology
(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa)

The Covid-19 pandemic generated high levels of economic, political, and social uncertainty. For many people, the virus compounded the growing sense of uncertainty and disruption to their everyday lives.

The same can be said for organizations, as the pandemic has completely altered the way we all do business. It has brought forward new challenges and forced workforces to adapt to new working conditions they weren’t prepared for before the pandemic. 

And while Covid-19 has brought many new challenges, it has caused many companies to turn to new technology. If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught businesses one thing, it’s that they can take decisive action when pushed to do so, especially when it comes to implementing new digital technology to help their businesses thrive in unforeseen circumstances.  

Therefore, we wanted to take the opportunity to look at three technological advancements that have helped struggling businesses during the pandemic. As many businesses are now realizing, these new tools are critical in helping to streamline processes and automate tasks. And for working remotely, they are here to stay.

Cloud adoption and automation  

The cloud’s important role as a pillar of digital transformation hasn’t changed since before the pandemic — in fact, its uptake has quickened to manage the surge in data businesses need to process. New findings from Synergy Research Group have revealed that cloud spending is up and has not been hampered by the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. This trend is likely to persist, as the migration to virtual work underscores the urgency for scalable, secure, reliable, cost-effective off-premises technology services. In fact, despite the inevitable economic downturn in the wake of the pandemic, cloud spending is estimated to rise 19 percent for the full year, even as IT spending as a whole is forecast to fall 8 percent, according to industry analyst Gartner.

While the trend to move to cloud-based solutions has been increasing steadily over the past two to three years, it is now the on-demand utilization of IT resources, including data storage, processing power, and applications on a pay-as-you-go basis via the internet. Effectively, the cloud now underpins all key digital strategies in the workplace. As businesses look at ways to increase productivity, reduce errors within their systems and improve their employee experience, they are starting to use cloud-based automation tools and services. For instance, the cloud has been used to switch to a paperless and virtual expense management system, streamlining back-office finance processes and eliminating the need for staff to present expense claims in person. This has helped with automating and streamlining mundane, manual tasks for employees, and enabled finance teams to spend their time on tasks that are more strategic.

An artificial intelligence advantage 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the way people work, how enterprises operate, and how entire industries transform. As businesses maintain hybrid remote-working models and forestall other potential disruptions in 2021 and beyond, the role of AI in the workplace will continue to grow. More businesses are leaning on AI algorithms to make quick decisions backed by real-time financial precision, to meet the business needs brought forward by the pandemic. This includes managing spend in near real-time to improve budget management and liquidity, increasing compliance and eliminating errors, to taking on mandatory tasks and maximizing profitability.

For the travel and expense (T&E) industries, AI has become particularly useful in analyzing data. The new generation of AI-powered T&E tools allows businesses to analyze the travel experience and purchasing behaviors. Integration tools and various applications of AI can interpret traveler data to provide companies with meaningful information that can improve compliance, identify cost savings, and more.

With AI, businesses can also automate an enormous quantity of data and reduce human errors. This then leads to predictive analytics, allowing companies to take proactive action in making business decisions. For example, the new SAP Concur survey, “The Hidden Potential of VAT Reclaim” has found that businesses are looking to ensure they have digital tools and solutions in place to take VAT reclaim processes online. As they look to the future, European companies start seeing the benefit of using AI enabled tools for their VAT reclaim with 39 percent believing AI supported solutions provide better data and reporting to optimize business spending  and 33 percent predicting AI tools would increase revenue back into the business.

Pre-trip approval 

More companies will implement pre-trip approvals for business travel in 2021, as part of a broader effort to keep employees safe and transform travel and expense policies. Typically, the pre-trip approval system enables employees to enter basic data, such as dates, times, trip destinations, reasons for the trip, and any requests for advances, in a travel request. 

All this information will help the corporate travel team and the employee’s line manager to assess whether a trip is essential and to keep tabs on employees for their duty of care requirements. Often, these pre-trip approvals have been mandated by cost-control concerns but as countries around the world continue to reshape Covid-19 restrictions, advanced approvals can support traveler safety programs.

Technology for the future 

The Covid-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on many businesses. But the smart use of technology is one way to tackle current and future challenges. From supporting employees working from home, managing compliance and cashflow to duty of care obligations, there are many ways technology can support businesses and their staff -—now and in the post-Covid world. 

Matt Clementson, Head of UK&I, SAP Concur