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Digital Transformation Trends to Keep an Eye on for 2021

Working with apps like Zoom and Slack on a daily basis are small markers of a much bigger change taking place: the age of digital transformation. Statista reports that investments for digital transformation will amount to $7.8 trillion (₱373.56 trillion) 2024. Indeed, the world is integrating digital technology into non-digital processes at breakneck speed, transforming how businesses operate and services are delivered. Video-conferencing tools and communication platforms are at the tip of the virtual iceberg, and there is much more to be expected in the next few months. Here are three digital transformation trends to keep an eye on throughout 2021:

Workflow Automation

Thanks to artificial intelligence (AI), big data, and other advancements in data science, even the most complex work tasks are being increasingly automated. In a nutshell, workflow automation is the use of digital technologies to make mundane, manual, and/or repetitive tasks automated, allowing businesses to maximize their staff skills and brainpower. Robotics and automation technology has allowed companies in Asia to reduce costs in shipping and inventory, while also enabling shorter lead times for responses to market dynamics. They are not only eliminating manual processes and redundancies but also reducing risks across the board.

Outside of finance, the same principle applies to companies in healthcare, education, government, and any other industry where tasks can be delegated to AI-enabled algorithms, workflow platforms, and other tools. For instance, robotic process automation (RPA) allows operational efficiency and cost reduction in processes such as payroll, customer support, and SMS and email monitoring, among other functions. Apart from other popular applications such as bots, Tech Wire Asia details how start-ups offer RPA solutions in niche areas. A good example of this is Glee Trees in Singapore, which uses language processing and contextual analysis to process data from multiple Asian languages.

While the time and effort to develop such a tool with an external IT provider would be considerable, it’s also a long-term investment that can give any startup a strategic foothold in their industry. And as these tools and platforms continue to develop, we can expect them to become better and more accessible in 2021 and beyond.

In-House Big Data

Even if your startup has only been running for just a couple of months, the different business processes involved in its operation have already generated enough data that can be very useful in the future. The current digital transformation era is the perfect time to build, collect and utilize data to generate actionable business insights and improve decision-making. There are various ways for companies to leverage their proprietary data for these purposes. Analyzing the data on sales trends is what allows retailers like Alibaba optimize their inventories and pivot with e-commerce trends throughout the year.

“The future of retail effectiveness and efficiency is predictive retail. And predictive retail will depend on second to second data,” explains brand and retail expert Harish Bijoor. Businesses that actively delve into data analysis have a greater purview of their industry’s future, a digital finger constantly placed on the pulse of the e-commerce consumer.

Big data are also disrupting search engine optimization (SEO). “As search marketers and search engine optimization experts, we have to keep up with the learning curve Google is quickly setting,” details an executive from SEO Inc. “By thinking of content as data and creating various analysis tools, including AI, to understand and learn from it, Google’s big data serves as the ultimate experiment in offering relevant results in semantic terms.” SEO is a crucial tool for businesses that want to establish a consistent presence in Google’s top search rankings. Ayima Hong Kong notes that your web content is only as good as your SEO. While the former is your brand’s face in the digital market, the latter ensures that all the hard work your team puts into creating engaging content doesn’t go to waste and actually reaches your intended audiences. With big data in the mix, SEO is becoming more in tune with consumers’ needs and preferences, a trend that will continue well into the next decade.

Today, the fastest way to access the power of big data for SEO is going on Google’s Keyword Planner. It’s free as long as you have a Google account. Once logged into Google Ads, hit ‘tools’ at the top menu and click on Keyword Planner. You can then input certain words that people might search for when looking for the type of product, business, or message you’re selling. The Keyword Planner shows you how your keywords rank in terms of average monthly searches, the amount of competition, the bidding costs, and even keyword ideas that can further expand your search. The data you can leverage from this free tool can be the springboard of an effective SEO campaign. It would certainly streamline the process of working with an SEO specialist to fine-tune your web presence.

Remote Work

“It saves all the commute time, but creates barriers preventing me from retrieving data stored on servers and terminals,” shares Hong Kong-based financial assistant Cherry Ko. “I am pleased with more flexible timetables but also feel myself in a state of 24-hour standby.”

Therein lie the core benefits and challenges of the remote working revolution. As a key component of digital transformation, the liberation of work from the physical office offers tons of flexibility for workers and managers alike. At the same time, leveraging remote work efficiently entails providing employees with the necessary tools for digital collaboration and being empathetic to their needs in the new normal. Doing this properly can be costly in both time and resources, but if you want your remote teams to be healthy and productive, 2021 is the time to step up your company’s remote work capabilities.

These are just some of the key digital transformation trends we can expect in 2021 and beyond. With COVID-19 still very much in the picture for some countries like the Philippines, digital transformation tools are more important than ever, and it’s up to businesses around the rest of the world to keep up and avoid getting swept under the virtual rug.

Article was specially written for Alicia Palmer.

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