November 23 2021
Few of us could have anticipated Covid-19’s impact on people and businesses when the pandemic first emerged.Uncertainty has led to tremendous market volatility with every development of the pandemic. Unemployment rates have also increased across major economies, prompting the OECD think tank to say “the pandemic has triggered one of the worst job crises since the Great Depression.”
For all industries, these are massive challenges that demand rapid adjustment and innovative new strategies. Many are now starting to grasp the opportunity to emerge from the crisis stronger, with reports that Covid-19 has accelerated digital transformation globally by seven years in a matter of months.
In LATAM, the pandemic has pushed more businesses to embrace the cloud. Forecasts suggest that by the end of 2021, nearly 75% of medium-sized and large businesses in LATAM will shift to cloud-based services and twice as fast as before the pandemic.
In this article, we sit down with Petter Dalén, Laiye LATAM General Manager, to discuss the current outlook of LATAM and how the adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can drive sustainable growth and improved productivity for businesses in the region.
What impact has the pandemic had on AI and RPA innovation in LATAM?
Covid-19 has hit many businesses hard in LATAM. A key sector that has been severely affected is tourism, which contributes more than 15% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in many countries in LATAM. With the pandemic, the region has struggled with challenges like unemployment and slow vaccine rollouts. One way companies have responded is to innovate to survive.
With Covid-19, I’d say it has accelerated the need to uptake AI and RPA in LATAM. The pandemic has pushed businesses to speed up their digital transformation.
It’s no longer business-as-usual. Disruptions—whether business, technology, or societal—mean that companies need to reinvent themselves and take advantage of the latest advances in technologies.
So, how do you see AI and RPA innovation helping businesses in the LATAM region?
In response to consumers shifting online, companies have also responded by becoming more agile. Workflows, processes, operating models need to be reinvented to react faster to the changing business requirements and landscape.
Automation technologies like RPA, intelligent document processing (IDP), and chatbots can increase efficiency. It can also eliminate human errors due to tiredness or lack of knowledge, strengthening internal processes and providing a lower level of operational risk.
Automating processes help to eliminate latency and errors associated with manual data processing and improve accuracy. When automation is used with analytics and predictive algorithms, it can provide data-based insights to make better business decisions.
What is the biggest challenge?
The LATAM market generally has low labor costs. The challenge comes when companies justify automation costs only by comparing them to full-time equivalent (FTE) or employee costs versus productivity.
However, companies are starting to realize that providing a positive customer experience and customer loyalty have value. With the growing digitalization in the world, it is becoming crucial for companies to digitize to survive.
So, the benefits of automation lie more than just in reducing labour costs? Does this mean that LATAM is set to be the next big destination for AI and RPA?
Yes. While LATAM is not a mature market like Europe or the US when it comes to automation, technology adoption tends to take bigger leaps in LATAM than elsewhere.
One of our key markets is Mexico. While labor costs are pretty low there, its proximity to the US market means that customers there are asking for more when it comes to e-commerce and customer experiences. Additionally, customers are also starting to demand improvements to the customer journey from what it was like two or three years ago. Intelligent automation can provide an effective solution.
Let me share an example from the retail industry. The shift in customer behavior to online means that retailers may be dealing with separate systems that do not speak to each other. Traditionally, you'd have people making the systems work together, but with the increasing number of shoppers going online, manual labor cannot keep up with the aggressive growth in online purchases.
Retailers need to be faster; they need to have the systems integrated. This is where intelligent automation comes in — using RPA and AI provides a quick and non-invasive way to get the different systems talking to each other.