Low-code – An Effective Approach to Manage Uncertainties

The COVID-19 pandemic has been resulting severe impacts on global economy and business operations. Yet, it helps enterprises to realize how vulnerable they are and what should be prepared to cope with similar events in the future. Strengthening resilience might enable businesses to survive, but in order to thrive in such challenging situations, agility is a must. Low-code provides the path for organizations to better manage in uncertain times while still be able to flourish.

Create, test, improve, repeat

In times of great uncertainty, projects that take months or years to launch the final products can be a danger for business’ development, as the current state of everything is very fluid. Yesterday’s idea might be no longer appropriate for today’s situation. Therefore, instead of focusing on preliminary research and dig deep to market or customers’ demand, it is essential for organizations to conduct a hypothesis-driven approach, in which more prototypes, POCs and minimum viable products are created, launched and continuously improved to best fit users’ requirements.

Low-code allows ideas to be tested and iterated quickly, thus promoting continuous application innovation.  For example, New York City’s coronavirus information portal was set up within 72 hours using low-code platform. When the pandemic escalates, the city has created a website where people can report how they were affected, or a system to manage donations of medical equipment, both were rolled out in just a few days. In response to the COVID surge in Europe, Bexley Health Neighbourhood Care, a division of UK National Health Service (NHS) has also quickly developed a back-office staff tracker application that enables daily health check-ins by staff. Later, additional features such as checking staff’s availability to work or resource allocation, incidents reporting, etc. have been added for better management.

Transform business models

The traditional method rarely works in uncertain times. Upon how enterprises shall response to the COVID-19, Brian Cornell, Target’s CEO, recently said: “It’s a very unique environment that none of us has seen before, and there is no playbook for how to react in this environment. We’re writing the script each and every day”. With the ability to quickly turn ideas to apps, easy integration to legacy systems, many companies are writing the new script by shifting their business models through low-code to either alleviate the negative influences or gain the upper hand on competitors.

Retail is among industries that have been hit hard by the pandemic. In the post-COVID world, consumers’ shopping behaviors are expected to change in profound ways, as they will be increasingly more comfortable with online ordering. This forces retailers to shift to or pay more attention to e-commerce platforms to retain and attract customer. Low code is ideal for such missions as it offers enterprises the ability to speed up the development and enhancement of digital assets.

Not only retails, the technology also empowers firms in other domains to overcome the challenging time by helping them realize business opportunities. In April, Lucro Commercial Solutions, a leading credit union services organization launched an application in less than a week to support small businesses in applying for critical pandemic-relief loans through the U.S. government’s Paycheck Protection Program. The app has made it easier for borrowers to handle documentation services, enabling Lucro to compete with larger lenders in the government loan program.

Tighten the belt

Expenditure reduction might not be a recommended way for enterprises to deal with uncertainty in the long run, but it is one of the most common, and probably easiest plans to implement when you don’t know what tomorrow holds. Low-code helps firms to reduce financial burden in two ways. First, as the technology does not require solid programming expertise, non-IT departments, to a certain extent, can develop an application on their owns without the involvement of vendors. The workload of IT staff also decreased significantly, allowing employers to maintain core team only to focus on high-value projects. Second, as low-coding contains minimum amount of hand-coding, it is less likely to suffer bugs or technical errors. Additionally, low code platforms help to save up to 90% of development time in some cases according to PathFinder. This approach, hence, drastically reduces maintenance and development costs for business owners.

No one knows whether there will be another pandemic in the years to come. But as an old saying goes, uncertainty is certain. The only way for enterprises to cope with rapid change well is to enhance agility and adapt swiftly. At first, low-code might give an advantage for those still struggling with the new normal. Later, it fosters businesses’ continuity and innovation regardless of any circumstances.

Author: MNP

References

  1. Appian (2020). Digital leaders go big with low-code automation to respond to COVID threat. [Link]
  2. Melendez (2020). D.C and NYC built digital COVID-19 portals within days, thanks to this tool.[Link]
  3. CNBC (2020). Target CEO withdraws forecast: ‘None of us know how long this virus is going to last’. [Link]
  4. Yahoo Finance (2020). Lucro deploys small business lending app to spped COVID-19 relief loans.[Link]
  5. Pathfinder (2018). Intelligent Process Automation and the Emergence of Digital Automation Platforms.[Link]
  6. Nigh (2020). How Covid-19 has changed the future of low-code.[Link]

Three Ways RPA Benefit Bankers

Since the first automated teller machine (ATM)[1] was invented in 1969, banks have constantly looked for ways to operate faster, leaner, and cheaper. Many have started relying on robots process automation (RPA) to free employees from mundane, repetitive tasks that prevent them from staying productive. Here are the three ways how.


 81% of banking CEOs are considering the impact of technology changes to the finance world [2].

1. Customer on-boarding

The process of on-boarding a banking client contains many steps and oftentimes resulting in a long-awaited completion. According to Forbes, it often takes 20-90 days for banks to onboard a new client, and the estimated maximum amount of revenue lost due to delay in acquiring customers are approximately $25,000[3].

Extensive research by Deloitte shows ”a typical bank with 125,000 customers, that on-boards ~3% new  customers and expands services for another ~6% – 7% of its customers each year, could see a one-time savings of $100 million during on-boarding and could see another $100 million in savings every three years from automation of ongoing monitoring processes’’[4]

Off-loading employees from mundane, repetitive tasks with RPA can increase speed-to-outcome, which results in a higher level of productivity and efficiency. Further, it can shorten completion time without potential human-errors. Danske Bank reported $153 B earning in 2017 by developing a robot that automates information gathering during each step of a customer account on-boarding[5].

2. Loan processing

The commercial lending market incorporates various software applications to get a higher return as loan is the primary source of revenue for many banks. While both banks and their customers benefit tremendously from the service, the transaction must be processed on time and accurately to meet customers’ plans. In this culture of instant gratification and immediate results, rule-based tasks, such as supporting trailing documents, personal data inputting, verifying credit scoring, should be winded up with just a click. At the same time, loan officers and operations personnel receive notifications of missing documents to ensure loans are in good order. Decision-makers can supervise the entire process with high-level security.

Under COVID-19 impact, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) initiated a $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program to keep small businesses survive the pandemic. For the first five days, nearly 4,000 lenders have received more than 400,000 applications, many banks also manually have summited loan applications to SBA for funding. This time-consuming, tedious process has finally been freed up by a bot that uses the borrower and loan information populate and subsequently complete the lender application form for loan guaranty on SBA website[6].

3. Credit card processing

Amidst booming e-commerce and online services, a credit card has become a must-have item for any Internet user. In the U.S., there are 500,000 applications for credit card per day, according to the CFPB Consumer Credit Card Market Study[7]. However, just as complex as loan processing, the approval for a credit card application can take days, even weeks.

Bots rather have now been doing banks a good turn when credit applications can be confirmed in a matter of minutes. RPA bots quickly cross-check with multiple processing systems to validate applicant information, credit score, background identity and personal documents, to name a few. Adding extra, Cognitive RPA can also be a solution for credit card application’s fraud detection, by which the spending patterns and habits of applicants are analyzed and reported for the final decision.

RPA has been touted as a life vest for banks to save labour and operational costs, giving banks extra energy to focus on developing new services/products and business growth. On top of that, it is considered a stopgap en route to the future of banking integrated with next-gen technologies such as AI, machine learning and on. Banks around the world are now investing heavily on RPA to fast-track digital transformation, and we can expect to see banks can overcome the crisis and make a leap with RPA 2.0 intelligent automation.

Author: Amy Le


Reference:

[1] https://www.processmaker.com/resources/customer-success/blog/how-automation-is-changing-the-banking-industry/

[2] https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/financial-services/assets/pdf/technology2020-and-beyond.pdf

[3]  https://www.forbes.com/sites/baininsights/2016/11/07/five-ways-commercial-banks-can-make-it-easier-to-bring-new-clients-aboard/#533fd6c30f0f

[4] https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/financial-services/us-cons-automation-in-on-boarding-and-ongoing-servicing-of-commercial-banking-clients.pdf

[5] https://danskebank.com/-/media/danske-bank-com/file-cloud/2018/2/annual-report-2017.pdf

[6] https://www.blueprism.com/news/blue-prism-automates-sba-ppp-loan-processing-at-banks-saving-more-than-85-000-jobs-and-helping-small-businesses-stay-afloat/

[7] https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/newsroom/bureau-releases-report-consumer-credit-card-market/

COVID-19 Situation: An Operating Strategy To Drive Business Continuity

COVID-19 is reshaping businesses in ways that could outlast the current, and potentially, future global shocks.

The economic brunt has prompted firms to rethink their internal cost strategy, in which short-term cost-cutting alone is not enough to maintain margins and profitability for the long run. Entering Recovery phase, maintaining business continuity and efficiency, while optimising costs, is a top priority to most CFOs.

According to PWC report, 81% of CFO are planning cost-containment measures due to the impacts of COVID-19.

Employee rebadging is no longer a foreign concept in terms of corporate restructuring, which allows businesses to optimise their non-core departments’ return on investments. This strategy seems like a perfect fit for companies who are trying to optimise costs, yet wish to keep their businesses running without laying off personnel during this volatile event.

Rebadging employees means the legal transfer of employment from the original company to a third-party vendor. Eligible employees are offered a choice and have the right to terminate the transaction as it pertains to their situation. Although the rebadged personnel are now on the new employers’ books, unlike traditional outsourcing, those same resources still stay at (or near) their present location. They will continue doing the same jobs as they are currently doing for the original company.

Cutting operational expenses may either delay new projects, or seek to cost cuts in other ways, and IT expenses are the ones on the list. Some portions of the IT department may be put on the ‘’bench’’ while companies still have to bear the payslip’ burden. As an alternative to outsourcing, IT services personnel rebadging initiatives have been successfully executed by multiple market leaders across many sectors and regions. Per an analysis by FPT M&A consulting team, there are more than 20,000 IT staff & personnel were rebadged in 8 transactions from between 2014 and 2018.

Despite some concerns over employee disengagement and turnover rate, there are many undeniable benefits from IT employees rebadging, especially for businesses struggling to reduce operating expenses and enhance operational efficiencies against recession’ impacts.

Ensuring Operational Efficiency During A Changing Economy

All businesses are feeling the impact of the current global economic slump, which has led to a sharp decrease in revenue as well as a strain on working capital levels. Many internal IT projects have been placed on hold to feed the operating cash needs of others. Meanwhile, ongoing border lockdowns place additional pressures on international projects, leading to a marked increase in the number of undeployed (i.e. unbillable) employees being on the bench. Similarly, the continued development of new products and/or services have slowed down, been reduced in scope, or altogether discontinued.

With that being said, offering IT employees viable avenues in other companies may provide additional capacities for organisations to focus on their crisis-driven changes and boost overall efficiency. For example, outsourcing large parts of Deutsche Bank’s wholesale banking IT infrastructure to Hewlett-Packard (HP) was considered a bold move to remain competitive concerning their new banking products/services development allowing them to adapt to continual market changes. Able to keep sharp on their new banking products/services development, the deal has still been a practical approach for Deutsche’s retail operation ambition.

Optimising Costs For Business Continuity

Rebadging employees, in its purest form, is redeploying IT employees to a third-party company. It is a strategic step made to reduce operational expenses, yet maintaining critical IT operations. The third-party controls the rebadged headcount (from execution and delivery standpoint) which it then renders on a ‘’pay-for-services’’ basis to the incumbent company. Benefitting from the same IT resources before, but without being hampered by the associated headcount and financial expenditures paid for IT administration, systems and other non-core services, businesses are now free to leverage, and focus, those extra dollars towards their core-services.

Slovak Energy Corporation RWE rebadged their subsidiary, RWE IT Slovakia, to FPT Corporation — a large Vietnamese IT firm, and renamed it as FPT Slovakia. This specific deal provided a fixed rate of YoY cost reduction, as a significant number of the IT staffing bench was utilised efficiently to offer additional services. A total of more than three hundred FTEs were combined from both nearshore and offshore operating models (i.e. best shore model) to ensure quality, at the same time leveraging cost-competitiveness from the Vietnamese labour force.

Keeping Up With Innovation To Bridge Market Needs

The recent rise of touch-free solutions, work-from-home practice, Cloud utilisation, ride-hail platforms, and the general e-commerce boom, have put businesses on notice to catch up with the leading-edge technological advancement; especially for the non-tech-focused organisations. Centralising on core business may create potential barriers such as slow implementation and adoption of the newest technology trends. As a result, certain companies may miss the opportunity to adopt new business models at speed and allow them to initiate an immediate response amidst the crisis.

In contrast, the incumbent company can quickly differentiate itself by implementing additional technological capabilities from the rebadging company. Deutsche Lufthansa AG outsourced its own IT infrastructure services to IBM intending to bring in new mobile, social business, and analytics technologies to its core business. This move was also expected to jump-start a multi-stage transformational process for Lufthansa’s internal IT landscape, and to provide new capabilities for its reservation systems and business processes.

As proven by many of the giants, this transformational operating strategy allows businesses to lend more weight to their most mission-critical objectives. At the same time, it also allows an organisation to vastly increase its competitiveness and reinforce its overall position within the global market space. This approach aims to not only reconcile the strategic needs for an effective pandemic response, but it also prepares a business for a quick bounce back in the recovery phase.

Source: Medium

AI Applications in the Maritime Industry

How one of the world’s most ancient industries becomes AI-centric.

Accounting for approximately 90% of world trade, shipping has always been considered as the lifeblood of the global economy (OECD, 2020). This industry, however, is also well-known for being conservative when it comes to changes or innovative approaches. But the tide is turning. Maritime companies, who used to rely heavily on traditional methods and stay cautious about the adoption of hi-tech advancements, are seeing the benefits of technology and taking actions to adapt to the digital world.

Among all options, Artificial Intelligence appears to be relatively appealing as it could offer solutions to streamline most of the operations in seaborne trade. From unmanned vessels, port services, document processing to enhancing safety and reducing impacts on the environment, the utilization of AI is able to transform maritime businesses comprehensively.

1. Autonomous ships

It is estimated that more than 75% of marine accidents involve human mistakes (Allianz, 2019), mostly in the forms of fatigue, inadequate communication, bad judgement and incompliance. Autonomous ships, therefore, is a solution to increase safety and relieve humans from dangerous or risky activities in the oceans. A crewless vessel would be equipped with radar, GPS, sensor, camera, satellite, and operated by AI system, allowing data gathering and analysis as well as route planning and hazard avoidance during the ship’s course. Since crew-related expenses account for up to 30% of a voyage’s total cost (CBInsights, 2018), unmanned ships are also expected to bring remarkable financial benefits to shipping carriers.

The world’s first fully autonomous ferry developed by Rolls-Royce and Finferries was demonstrated in 2018. This year, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship using IBM’s AI technology will start its trans-Atlantic journey in September. With the exponential growth rate of technology, the future in which unmanned vessels overtake the world’s waterways seems not too distant.

2. Digital ports

As ships are getting bigger, ports are facing increasing pressure to adapt their infrastructures to handle bulk cargoes. In the struggle to remain competitive, shipping terminals have no other option but attempting to be quicker, more efficient, more intelligent. Artificial Intelligence optimizes port operations not only via automation but also by leveraging real-time data. For example, data is collected and gathered from various sources to estimate the waiting time of equipment and conduct just-in-time scheduling for trucks entering, off-loading, stacking, etc., thereby reducing idle time of facilities as well as ensuring container handling to be carried out seamlessly. Recently, many ports have succeeded in seizing the AI opportunity to digitalize their operations. The Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands has developed an application to predict vessel arrival times, while Belgium’s port of Antwerp has gained valuable insights on traffic flows from mobility analyses conducted by AI and computer vision.

3. Virtual assistants

In December 2019, Maersk – the shipping giant introduced Captain Peter, the virtual assistant of its revamped Remote Container Management (RCM) platform (Maersk, 2019). The avatar assists customers along the journey of their cargo, keeps an eye on the container’s temperature, humidity, CO2 levels, and notifies if any deviations is observed.

In the marine industry, virtual assistants can help with shipment tracking, delivery booking, orders amending as well as quickly retrieve and translate information to assist seafarers or office employees in getting answers or guidance in urgent situations. It would also learn users’ preferences and how they communicate to provide the appropriate data. As AI is a rapidly maturing technology, Captain Peter and his future peers will soon be able to significantly reduce the involvement of humans in daily vessel operations, freeing up personnel for more value-added tasks.

4. Document processing

Maritime businesses have to handle a tremendous amount of paperwork every day, such as bill of lading, commercial invoice, packing list, bank draft, etc. Manually processing such paper documents is not only costly and time-consuming, but also prone to errors. AI solutions are capable of learning thousands of different forms, then read, scan and accurately extract terms from documents, thereby reducing data entry headcount and more importantly, lowering inaccuracies rate.

5. Safety improvement

Probably enhancing voyage safety is one of the most crucial applications AI could bring to the shipping industry. The technology can help to guide seafarers to make more well-informed decisions by analyzing data on weather patterns, port conditions, crime hot spots, as well as detect technical anomalies, allowing operators to take proactive actions to avoid unexpected stoppages, damages, incidents and providing a safer working environment for workers.

Combined with the image recognition system, AI can be used to identify objects in the surrounding area, provide alerts when visibility is poor and minimize marine collisions between large vessels and smaller ones. Navigating is also easier and more intelligent as the navigation system automatically creates safest route based on incidents record as well as enables users to locate and track other ships on the water.

6. Environmentally sound approaches

Even though water transport is by far the most environmentally friendly way to move goods (ABB, 2019), the marine industry still aims to reduce its impact in the years to come with more stringent environmental regulations. AI can take into account various factors to predict the optimal route, thus reducing fuel consumption and carbon emissions. Most of the autonomous ships are currently designed to be fully electric or to get power from solar and wind, which will surely exert positive influences on the planet.

In fact, the uptake of Artificial Intelligence in marine industry has been quite slow compared to other domains, despite the benefits this technology has offered in real cases. Nonetheless, it is just a matter of time before shipping companies consider the adoption of technological advancements as essential to competitiveness and integrate AI into their workflow.

Source: FPT Software

Low-code 101 and How It Benefits Enterprises

Get a closer look at the technology buzzword of recent years and explore its role in driving businesses’ better outcomes. 

The low-code market is expected to reach $21 billion in spending by 2022, with a compound annual growth rate of 40 per cent. Also, two-thirds of all application created in 2024 will be developed by low-code platforms, according to a research from Gartner. What drives behind this expected sharp increase, whether this technology is that powerful as claimed by platform providers and a good match for your organization’ digital strategy? Here are some key points you might need to know when considering the adoption of low-code tools.  

Understanding the term  

Low-code is an approach to application development. As its name would suggest, low-code allows developers to create applications with a low or minimal amount of programming. It helps to reduce manual tasks by automating hand-coding jobs and allows developers to perform jobs that are more challenging. Instead of writing every single line of code, programmers can use built-in templates through a drag and drop visual interface, thereby enabling super-fast application development. Which used to take several months, if not years, now can be completed in just a few days or even hours.  

In addition, low-code platforms significantly reduce costs for enterprises as less time and fewer technology experts are required. Less code also means fewer bugs, or at least easier bug testing. Another advantage is that users can gather data to measure the application’s performance and determine the appropriate time for update or maintenance.  

It is widely believed that anyone can be a developer with low-code platforms since little to no professional coding skills are needed to create an app. Unfortunately, it is not as easy as it seems. In order to leverage the platforms effectively, users still need to understand programming at a certain level to avoid common oversights.  “Amateur” app builders might put their business at the risk of data inaccuracy or app security, for example, by granting access to the wrong people or not selecting the appropriate information for report configuring.  

Hastening digitalization success 

Any technology has its pros and cons. Nonetheless, the incredible impacts that low-code could exert on enterprises’ operation, especially the digital transformation journey, is undeniable.  

  • Quick responses to changing market requirements 

In today’s technological world, innovation is the key to maintain an enterprise’s foothold or at least, not stay behind competitors. It is revealed by Gartner that through 2021, market demand for app development will grow at least five times faster than IT capacity to deliver it.  Low-code platforms’ ability to quickly create a software or application enables companies to turn a business idea into reality in a speedy fashion, thereby increasing the responsiveness to customer demands and adaptability to the fast-moving digital landscape.  

  • Business and IT alignment 

One of the most major benefits that low-code could offer is that it helps to lower the technical knowledge required for users. Non-IT employees, in simple cases, can build applications by themselves or be greatly involved in the development process. Business units are enabled to manage, amend and update features whenever needed, while IT specialists can assist by providing programming expertise to ensure the necessary governance and security, thus enhancing mutual understandings and smooth connection between business requirements and technical execution.  

  • A tool for digital transformation  

Digital transformation requires a wide range of new approaches and technologies. Low-code platforms promise easy integration with emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Big Data, as well as cloud services. They also empower continuous innovation and scaling, as enterprises can start small then evolve and scale upon the feedback of users. IT staff, additionally, are freed up from repetitive and tedious tasks to focus on projects with higher values that foster creativity and transformation.  

Low-code has been known as the industry disruptor in recent years and is still gaining further popularity globally. By enabling flexible app development and unleashing the workforce’s digital creativity, these platforms offer various opportunities for enterprises to address clients’ needs better, streamline operations and make a significant transformation in term of technology. 

Author: MNP

References 

Gartner (2019), Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Low-Code Application Platforms 

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