How Automation is changing the landscape of Enterprises?

ANDERS GUSTAFSSON

Mobile devices provided by the retailer to enable self-scanning, reduce the need for associate interaction. It improves the customer experience by helping the customer navigate through the store and keep track of basket size and promotions, says, Anders Gustafsson, CEO, Zebra Technologies in an exclusive interview with EnterpriseTalk.

ETBureau: The pandemic has changed the entire business paradigm of enterprise. What is your single most important piece of advice to business leaders to not only survive this pandemic, but grow from it?

Anders Gustafsson: It is easy to have a good culture during good times. It’s the exceptional times like these when culture is tested. While it may be tempting to jump in with both feet to drive things personally, there is a limit to how much business leaders can do on their own.

My advice is to focus on building a strong team, organization and culture because that is how you get leverage, as you can’t be everywhere at once. A strong team and culture are imperative to develop and execute on your vision and strategy in good times and challenging times, too.

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ETBureau: What is the most critical technology for developing contactless payments for retail outlets?

Anders Gustafsson: The contactless experience for a customer depends on several key technologies. Foremost is the identification of product – whether that is through classic barcode scanning and RFID, or with newer technologies such as computer vision.

This plays a key role in allowing customers to self-scan their products effortlessly in the aisles or safely at a self-checkout stand at the exit. These enhanced experiences depend on highly accurate and efficient product identification solutions (leveraging both hardware and software) to remove friction while limiting fraud risk. In addition to product identification, mobility plays a significant role in a contactless experience for retail customers.

Mobile devices provided by the retailer to enable self-scanning, reduce the need for associate interaction. It improves the customer experience by helping the customer navigate through the store and keep track of basket size and promotions. These devices can also be used to power stand-up self-checkout lanes to help alleviate the need for associates at checkout.

Finally, near field communication and barcode technology can be leveraged to eliminate the need for a credit card, allowing for payments that don’t require cash or a card. Enabling these methods helps to limit close-proximity associate interaction and the passing of

physical monetary instruments. Ultimately, the most important aspect of any contactless experience remembers that the technology is only as useful as the customer’s perception of the safety and convenience it provides.

ETBureau: Do you feel the market is ready for completely frictionless transactions?

Anders Gustafsson: There is no doubt that the technology now exists to create an experience for customers in which they can remove the product from a shelf, place it into their bag or pocket and leave the store.

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This eliminates the need to stop at a register or interact with an associate to make a payment. Let’s remember even this experience presents some level of friction in that you typically need to identify yourself as you enter and have an account with the retailer in which your payment method is stored.

Convenience is a great category for this. However, in larger retail environments or when the packaging is less structured, other experiences have limited friction enabled by much less costly technology. For example, in Europe, it is common to see retailers that provide mobile self-scanning solutions or banks of modular self-checkout stands, which allow customers to eliminate the wait time they typically encounter at a traditional checkout.

Technology improvements in computer vision have also helped start-ups develop shopping carts that can automatically identify products as they are placed within the carts, creating yet another option.

One truth that will remain constant in retail is that customer convenience is a core value proposition, so limiting friction in the buying experience will always have a place in the market.

ETBureau: Looking ahead, how significant a role do you see RPA playing in the enterprise business?

Anders Gustafsson: Robotic process automation (RPA) will play a major role in the enterprise business. This is similar to the evolution of the software’s role in enabling business to be more efficient. Wherever there is a fairly repetitive and predictable process that workers need to execute, we will find a way to leverage technology to, at a minimum, augment, if not fully automate that process.

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, 50% of work can be automated, but less than 10% of jobs can be automated by more than 90%. Basic workflow software has been the way we have done this for the last several decades by supporting workers with the best data or determining the next action based on pre-defined rules.

The next evolution is to leverage artificial intelligence technologies like machine learning, computer vision, natural language processing, prescriptive analytics, and others to further eliminate the cognitive load on process execution.

In the short term, roles focused on repetitive tasks, especially in what has typically termed back-office functions that do not directly interact with shoppers, patients, and customers will be the most impacted by RPA. either as a result of augmenting the worker so they can complete more work (or more complex tasks) with the help of RPA or through a reallocation of the role itself to fill another critical gap in the business.

This is true because these technologies are still in their infancy. As they mature, more complex roles that are domain or cross-domain will also be helped by RPA.

Embracing these technologies now to see how they can determine the best next-action across varying roles is an excellent way to leverage them appropriately today and in the future.

Anders Gustafsson became Chief Executive Officer and a Director of Zebra Technologies in 2007. Prior to joining Zebra, Mr. Gustafsson served as CEO of Spirent Communications plc, a publicly-traded telecommunications company. He holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the Harvard Graduate School of Business and a Master of Science degree in electrical engineering from Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden