The COVID-19 outbreak has literally halted life as we know it. And businesses are toppling at a steady pace. Even with all the resources in hand, both SMBs and large corporations are exhibiting a near handicap in terms of conducting operations and delivering the basics. Socio-economic immobility is a relatively new complication for nations globally. Almost all capitalist economies have witnessed a financial disaster at some point, either due to mismanagement of the federal corpus or due to a national calamity. In the event of a national calamity, the hit on the economy was pretty much localized— only the affected regions were under the shield of a massive economic bailout package. The movement of people and businesses was almost always guaranteed even under these circumstances.
...In times of a near global lockdown, however, ‘human effort’ is not a consideration. Something else needs to take over, something that helps maintain socio-economic mobility to a certain degree. This mobility can definitely be brought about by technology. For the most part, technology is an enabler, and this cannot be truer in our current situation. The ‘Digital Enterprise’ is a phenomenon in itself and re-defines socio-economic mobility like never before...
What we see now is something extraordinary, a near stagnation of the world in the face of a deadly outbreak. Economists and policy makers are grappling with the thought of entire nations and people becoming immobile— this was rarely the case in past recessions or recession-like situations.
The trouble this time is that a pandemic has impeded human participation in any form of economic recovery, leaving businesses paralyzed and wanting in human engagement. To be honest, recession has become a regular phenomenon, at least among the first world economies driving a capitalist agenda. If we just study the statistics concerning monetary upheavals among the globalized economies, nations have witnessed bouts or long periods of near or complete recession and depression at an alarmingly high frequency. Take the United States, for example. A general forecasting of the frequency of recessions by Simon M. Potter of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reveals that recession has hit the country on average every 4 to 5 years over a span of 150 years (Forecasting the Frequency of Recessions by Simon M. Potter). Although the economy has progressively become more robust in taking on the financial shocks with every recession, it pays to know what countries can do differently to shield themselves from financial ruin. If statistics are anything to go by, theorists suggest this to be the new normal and ask the first world to take steps to ensure economic stability in any form of catastrophe, be it political, economic, or socio-cultural.
The road ahead is difficult. Usually, any business roadblocks would have been combated with increased human engagement and effort. In times of a near global lockdown, however, ‘human effort’ is not a consideration. Something else needs to take over, something that helps maintain socio-economic mobility to a certain degree. This mobility can definitely be brought about by technology. For the most part, technology is an enabler, and this cannot be truer in our current situation.
‘Work from Home’ is possible because of technology— instant messaging platforms, workplace collaboration hubs, and worker productivity apps are helping companies have some semblance of normalcy and restore basic communication between societies. More should be done; more can be done. The ‘Digital Enterprise’ is a phenomenon in itself and re-defines socio-economic mobility like never before. We must take complete advantage of this phenomenon to get through these trying times.
Pharmacies are gearing up to deliver medical supplies at people’s doorstep and a little technological marvel such as a Point-of-Sale (POS) machine is helping them fulfill customer orders. These electronic POS systems have become critical in automating payment transactions and recording sales data instantly, so sellers know your regular prescription for delivery the next time. Personal everyday life has also been made easy with smart home technology, automated bill payments and transactions, home appliances, etc.
These are the tools that will help mobilize your everyday activities without you needing to venture out. Phone apps for banking, grocery shopping, utility billing, and budgeting ensure that you are in constant touch with your social network.
Another important aspect of automation that can come in handy in times of restricted manpower resources is intelligent automation for end-to-end processes that tie buyers and sellers on a common commerce chain. Modernizing any commerce chain such as procure-to-pay, order-to-cash, and record-to-report will reduce your need for additional resources, be it manpower, equipment, or office space. This is especially critical in times when your business cannot afford to lose opportunities due to lack of personnel or workplace constraints. These end-to-end processes that complete the commerce chain are heavily dependent on documents and transactional data related to finance, supply chain, and customer service. Managing paper-based processes is a near impossibility for businesses restricted by manpower constraints. Digitizing document handling processes can benefit companies by way of reduced operational and manpower costs. The best part is businesses will not need to cease operations completely, especially in these testing times. And just to emphasize on this, almost all business processes involve data and document exchange; why not have it in the cloud for a more visible, collaborative, and continuous working environment?
The pandemic will hopefully be over in another few months. But this should not stop organizations from digitizing their mission critical processes. The need of the hour and every hour henceforth, given the frequency of these economic shocks, is to put in place an automated working environment that is calamity-proof and recession-proof, so that business and life goes on as usual, or unusual, in this case.