With people around the world increasingly using Web-based platforms to communicate, buy, sell and otherwise inform themselves about current affairs, Accenture technology practice MD Kirtan Sita says such platforms need to prioritise and implement essential functions that come with this vital cross-industry leadership role.
The rapid international spread of Covid-19 has forced business, education and social activities to be conducted online and virtually.
This has resulted in the increased use of online platforms to conduct video conferences; order food, groceries and essential supplies; social connectivity; entertainment; and artificial intelligence-driven Covid-19 tracking.
He says these activities are providing a sense of “normalcy”, which is becoming more important every day as people across the world adopt new digital behaviours.
However, with an expected increase in global reliance, Sita notes that platform companies should act immediately to ensure their platforms are suitable for increased daily use by consumers. “The challenge will be managing current business, while laying the groundwork for future recovery and growth.”
Based on work Accenture has done for major platform hubs, he advises platform executives to focus on five areas for short-term continuity and long-term success.
The first priority should be to ensure uninterrupted platform access. “Platforms are the backbone of the digital society and have the ability and responsibility to ensure uninterrupted platform access.”
Sita says Covid-19 has brought to the forefront the critically important role of platforms as the mainstay of the digital society. In this regard, he points out that platform services dominate Internet traffic.
“On a typical evening, streaming video makes up more than a third of traffic. New load largely comes from increased use of streaming services, video conferencing and social networking.”
Platform availability and services must be sustainable from a human and system perspective, he says, adding that allocating resources to maintaining access is key.
The second priority is enabling changing user behaviour. “Covid-19 is driving rapid digital behaviour change as offline activities have been forced to become online in a short span of time.”
In this regard, Sita notes that behavioural changes that have historically taken years to manifest broadly, have occurred in a matter of days.
Although these new behaviours are the result of being the only option as a result of work-from-home regulations, he says it is likely that some new digital behaviours will remain when life returns to normal.
The third priority is building long-term customer relationships and, in this regard, Sita says business success or failure will be determined during the Covid-19 crisis. “Some companies’ products will accelerate to scale. Others who fail to properly serve customers during the crisis will burn critical bridges.”
This will result in suitable online platforms that adapt to current times being solidified as customer preferences, post-Covid-19. “There is an opportunity for platforms to develop positive and lasting relationships with users, which can help define their success.”
The fourth priority is providing trusted information and combatting bad actors. “The scale, speed and seriousness of information dissemination has tested the ability of operations to keep pace.”
However, he says information is “just one target for bad actors”. For example, Sita points out that online buying and selling platform Amazon has deactivated thousands of price gougers and more than a million fake products and fake reviews.
He says artificial intelligence can help meet demand and adapt quickly to new threats.
The fifth priority is enabling rapid return growth. With many business needing serious help to survive, Sita says that as many emerge from the crisis, they will reflect on the imperative and opportunity to adapt to thrive.
“Those late to enhance supply chains, move to the cloud or omni-channel strategies, and those overly reliant on specific audiences or channels, will see competitors come out faster and stronger.”
He says companies on the brink of failure will turn to platforms for their resiliency, scale, cost effectiveness, enterprise services and audience.