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Coronavirus: companies respond to the emergency and plan for the recovery

3 April 2020

The key role of digitisation in the time of COVID-19

Pietro Lanza, General Manager of Intesa (IBM Group) takes stock of companies’ response to the pandemic and strategies for the recovery.

In numerous countries, the health emergency that we are going through has led to lockdowns which, implemented in various ways, entail a reduction in individual mobility, prohibitions on gatherings and enforced isolation. All these measures aimed at reducing the spread of the contagion have an impact not only on individuals, but also on companies and societies as a whole, with repercussions on the psyche, society and the economy.

Being more agile to ensure Business Continuity during COVID-19

 “It is essential to manage this unique situation with clarity,” said Pietro Lanza, General Manager of Intesa (IBM Group) and Blockchain Director for IBM Italy, in a recent interview. “It is equally important, even in the midst of a crisis, to be forward-looking and prepare for the moment when we have to go back into the field; the companies that are investing in innovation today will be the ones that reap the greatest competitive advantages, not only in the short term but in the medium term too.”

Looking forward towards the recovery, improvements and increases in production will allow us to meet future demand, be ready to seize market opportunities and respond to new needs.

“We have gone through it in the company and we are testing it during lockdown,” continues Lanza. “Intesa, in fact, is one of those companies that continue to be fully operational to support the country, even during the health emergency. Thanks to digital tools, smart working, the complete remoteness of operations and a business continuity plan launched at the beginning of the emergency, we ensure the provision of services to our customers and the support necessary to improve their use.”

Smart working has made it possible to react instantly to an environment that has evolved rapidly in the course of just a few days. “It is a working methodology that we have embraced for a long time and has proved essential in order not to affect productivity during the progressive increase in restrictions on personal movement.” Collaboration tools allow Intesa to let teams interact remotely: company instant messaging applications and videoconference systems allow you to run virtual meetings that are very similar to traditional ones. Shared digital dashboards and advanced project management tools make it possible to plan, manage and monitor work remotely, sharing activities between colleagues and with partner companies and customers.

Digitisation: a first step towards the recovery

“We are aware that many companies have had to stop operations to help limit the spread of the coronavirus pandemic and the hope is that we can soon see a recovery path for all these companies.” There are also many companies that, although partially or fully operational in this period, find themselves in great difficulty due to the adoption of tools that are hardly digital and therefore unsuitable for managing the current emergency. “Many companies contact us, in fact, to implement solutions that allow them to carry out various activities remotely, to protect the health of their employees and to be able to serve their customers appropriately,” continued Lanza.

“One example is the requests for remote interaction that starts with video interaction and leads to the signing of digital contracts. By digitising the entire process of selling and consulting remotely, which includes creating documentation, defining signature workflows, as well as exchanging and archivingdocuments, you can address the limitations imposed on the mobility of people and the absence of printing and scanning devices in the homes of company employees. This type of service is requested in particular by companies in the Financial Services and Automotive sectors which have undergone a drastic reduction in the number of branches available to the public.”

In the field of services again, we should note the reduction of opening hours of counters open to the public. “The demand for recognition systems in self mode – self-onboarding for services that exploit Artificial Intelligence to perform comparisons between biometric traits of the face and those of identity cards and that allow the secure identification of users including remotely, as required by the strictest regulations on the subject, has taken off.”

Another case is that of improving the Customer Experience for all those online services that have seen a boom in requests in recent weeks. “Creating customer-centric services is increasingly important, which is why we are getting requests for voice recognition services.” Among the more important speech recognition applications there are identification of the person, access to bit-based support services, service activation and approving payments.

Running for cover today with a glance at tomorrow

Today, most of these companies are acting with a considered and timely approach to dealing with the emergency, but “this situation can become an opportunity for those who look at the recovery with a forward-looking eye. We are not waiting for everything to start again, we are acting now.” Pietro Lanza reiterates the importance of making strategic choices. “Some Italian companies have converted their production output, for example Ferrari is producing respirators for intensive care, Gucci and Prada face masks, Armani disposable gowns, Ramazzotti disinfectant gel. Other companies may decide to invest in their own internal processes, in collaboration with their suppliers or in managing interactions with the end user.”

At Intesa, we set up an internal task force to analyse the already evident effects and future scenarios brought about by the coronavirus. The goal is to quickly identify solutions so that companies can work as agilely as possible today, thanks to the adoption of scalable digital platforms to support the business in view of future market developments.

“We are already addressing various scenarios, for example in the banking sector. Many banks, having to limit the presence of staff in physical places of work and having to reduce the number of operations that users can carry out at the counter, find themselves in need of systems that allow them to recognise, identify and interact with the customer securely. “This problem can be resolved through a video interaction system.”

“Other companies are moving on another front, that of decision support tools. For example, thanks to the integration of Artificial Intelligence with EDI flows, it is possible to carry out predictive analyses, optimising warehouse stock management and consequently just in time work, and manage any sudden changes throughout the supply chain. Consider how useful such a system would be in this emergency situation.”

 “The control of the contagion and the protection of employees and customers is leading various companies to look for solutions to digitise access to offices. By means of biometric solutions integrated with thermoscanners it is possible to recognise staff authorised to enter the access points and measure body temperature.”

“These and other tools for monitoring alarm thresholds, tracking access and mapping the contacts of an infected person will allow you to keep the situation under control including at other difficult times.”

Farsightedness, a long-term view and strategic choices can make a difference right now. “We must take account that, even when this period is over, businesses and consumers will not immediately resume their normal lives. There will continue to be a strong focus on monitoring the health situation. This is why it is important to start now to equip ourselves with collaboration tools, which allow us to digitise processes in being with our suppliers and customers, make document management digital, activate remote recognition systems or implement digital signature systems.”

Intesa, studying the new scenarios that emerge in the face of new market needs, supports companies in this process of reconstruction and digitisation. Choosing your technology partner means choosing which strategy to adopt.


By Angelica Deputato – Marketing Operations Specialist, Intesa (Gruppo IBM)

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