One of the core principles of digital transformation is that it is meant to improve customer experience. But at the end of the day, humans are … wait for it … humans. Which means successful digital transformation isn’t just a company’s ability to earn customer relationship metrics. True success lies in a company’s ability to make customer’s lives better—whether those customers are buyers, patients, students, or otherwise. Digital transformation for good. It’s the next big thing in 2020 especially in the wake of COVID-19, writes Daniel Newman for Forbes Magazine.
Technology—especially AI—has gotten a bad rap in certain circles, and in some cases for valid reasons. This is because the technology is advancing so quickly, regulation hasn’t had a chance to keep up with it. Thus, we as a society have met some moral dilemmas. Should we allow for the use of facial recognition? What about emotional recognition? Should we allow for fully autonomous vehicles? And when it comes to automation, how far is too far? Do we draw the line at automated robots in a manufacturing environment, or allow AI-bots to perform surgery or direct acts of warfare? These are all hard questions. But in the last few weeks, many of these concerns have fallen by the wayside as people have realized that technology could save us or even just help us live healthy, safer lives.
In the last few weeks, many concerns about technology advancement have fallen by the wayside as people have realized that technology could save us or even just help us live healthy, safer lives.
Sure, some companies hadn’t started to digitally transform yet, but the ones who had when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out have been pushed farther than ever expected. These companies have created new technologies, found ingenious uses for existing technologies, and have overall pushed their companies forward in new directions that would only be possible under these circumstances.
Here are some of the inspiring examples that have surfaced just in the last month.
Telehealth and Robotic Healthcare Making Big Strides
As protective equipment becomes sparse, doctors and nurses all over the world have been faced with a dilemma: how to treat patients without endangering themselves. Some hospitals have turned to robotics. In Washington, a hospital started using robots equipped with iPads in patient rooms. Doctors would stand outside the room, operating the robot and using the iPad to video chat with the patient. The robot was even equipped with a stethoscope to allow doctors to take vitals.
That’s not the only major stride in healthcare. Researchers from all over the world have started using AI to help analyze data sets, x-rays and other patient information to help doctors get a better understanding of the virus. This technology is helping clinicians better understand the spread of the virus and how certain patients are reacting to treatments.
Natural Language Processing and Chatbots
All over the world, healthcare companies, doctors, and government officials are being overwhelmed by calls and questions about the virus. Companies like IBM and Apple stepped up and offered technology as a solution. The Watson Assistant for Citizens campaign allows companies to use natural language processing and AI capabilities to speed up wait times in call centers. Many companies who had never explored the option of NLP or AI assistance are now seeing first-hand what it can do for them.
Apple created a screening tool with the hopes to alleviate some of the stress on the healthcare system. People can answer a few questions about their symptoms and then access a number of telehealth apps to be connected to a doctor without endangering other people by spreading the virus outside of their homes.
During the pandemic, companies have stepped up to plug the critical gaps in the supply chain. For example, HP have started using their 3D-printing capabilities to manufacture the swabs needs for testing. Dyson quickly pivoted and created a new ventilator. Companies like Burton and Fanatics have stopped manufacturing clothes to make protective masks.
IBM’s Call for Code program has seen tremendous success in the past couple years. The entire program itself is focused on digital transformation for good—namely, helping first-responders and local victims during times of disaster and emergency evacuation. This year’s initiative has changed to include fighting COVID-19. People all over the world can access open source technology to create solutions crisis communication, remote education, and community cooperation. I can’t wait to see what people develop.
In the past few weeks, IBM in partnership with SAP and UNESCO has upped the ante in the field of mobilizing the code community to help with the COVID-19 pandemic by launching “Code the Curve,” which is a hackathon for ideas that can help now and in the future with global crisis like the one we are currently dealing with.
What This All Means
Take a second to think about what you’ve just read. Healthcare companies started using technology to treat patients. Tech companies started working with healthcare providers to examine data to find a solution. Companies that have had a completely different goal or manufactured products not remotely close to the medical field have, in the matter of a few days, started to produce the supplies we need.
These pivots can only happen in one kind of organization. The organizations that have embraced digital transformation. These are the organizations who were ready for technology. These are the organizations who looked a piece of technology and said this can be used differently. They have the leaders who were ready for change. They have the cultures that were ready to step up. This is what digital transformation for good looks like. I, for one, hope it continues long after this crisis is over.
*This article was originally published on Forbes Magazine, 10 April 2020.