As the lockdown eases and businesses in the UK reopen, the questions remain, what will the new normal look like and how will businesses cope in this new trading landscape? There are no shortage on guides covering the various working environments, from steps to meeting the health & safety obligations to suggestions on reassuring customers. One thing, however, remains constant. There is a definite increase in the use machine learning in a wider range of businesses than ever before.
Using artificial intelligence and machine learning to enhance business process is nothing new, in the 21st century, but the number and types of organisations turning to these solutions in new and innovative ways is more prevalent than ever. From the University of Leeds engaging robots to detect objects in need of regular cleaning and disinfecting them to business events using virtual streaming platforms to engage with their audiences rather than postponing events, the use of technology is a lifeline many businesses are clutching.
For most SMEs like AI Global Media (AIGM), a UK-based B2B publisher, the need to keep operations going, albeit with a reduced workforce, meant relying upon content sharing platforms and CRM applications to ensure smooth communications between all stakeholders. Scaling operations for AIGM began as a safety measure on the 18th of March when some departments were made remote. This quickly became a wide-scale endeavour by the 20th of March and was quickly followed by a furloughing of 36 team members on the first of April; no fooling.
With changes coming this fast, the business needed the capacity to react accordingly. Tony Garner, one of the three directors from AIGM reported, “Luckily, we’d employed a CRM platform in 2018, allowing departments to function cohesively, and had also introduced an in-house software development team in the last 2 years. The inclusion of both granted the business with the capacity to, not only transform the sales capacity and streamline the sales process but respond to changes necessitated by the pandemic.”
Tony Garner – Finance director
As AIGM gradually brings their business back to full strength, with all team members set to return by August 3rd and a return to the office on September 7th, the focus becomes the future of the business as well as the safety of its employees. Keen to put employee satisfaction and workplace safety at the forefront, the directors have already put plans to allow for flexible working hours in its sights, as it considers how to best employ building automation and the CRM platform to facilitate such an endeavour. Mr. Garner also added, “The next phase of development is to use AI and machine learning to streamline / optimise our data harvesting and automate our internal processes. As the business is likely to deliver in excess of 200 million global business contacts within the next 12 months the business needs to be prepared to manage this data in a responsible way providing all stakeholders with an advantageous outcome.”
With indoor fitness and entertainment venues set to open by the start of August, except to regions still adversely affected by the virus, the new normal is with us. As we all wait to see how it will all play out, the United Kingdom’s SME community should remember, “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” Sun-Tzu