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Industry clouds will be the new normal post-pandemic — here's why
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Industry clouds will be the new normal post-pandemic — here's why

If a pandemic and resulting economic turbulence have taught us anything, it's that organizations in any industry can be remarkably scrappy when battling to survive.

Commercial lending banks sped up digital transformation efforts to quickly process millions of Paycheck Protection Program loans for quarantined business owners across the country. Health care providers raced to embrace cloud-based applications and services like chatbots, virtual assistants and telehealth services to care for patients unable to visit offices. Retailers and restaurants launched curbside pickup for digital orders and home delivery options in weeks rather than months.

Industry-specific clouds are increasingly popular because they make it possible to dramatically accelerate transformation.

The pandemic has fundamentally changed customer expectations. The new normal of doing business is digital-first, and 88% of surveyed customers said they expect companies to accelerate digital initiatives due to the pandemic. Companies must figure out how to continue to scale the digital investments they have made since last spring.

A logical place to start is with industry-specific cloud solutions. Industry clouds, which are cloud services, tools and apps customized for the most important use cases in various markets, have grown in popularity. Indeed, 64% of respondents in a recent TechRepublic Premium survey said they are already using industry cloud services or plan to adopt them within the next 12 months.

Industry clouds take flight

Industry-specific clouds are increasingly popular because they make it possible to dramatically accelerate transformation. Companies can leverage hundreds of industry-specific processes that save time and money and help improve the employee and customer experience, which might allow them to upsell a new subscriber bundle in communications, onboard a new patient in health care or determine the right portfolio mix in investment banking. Historically, these processes have required intense configurations to manually build, and these solutions then struggle to keep pace with industry trends.

Industry clouds can also help ensure higher levels of security, data protection, privacy and trust. Nearly every industry faces regulatory compliance challenges. But industry clouds built specifically for health care, for example, can help their customers address HIPAA requirements related to medical records; those built for financial services will consider regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

Over the course of the pandemic, the value of industry clouds has been proven time and time again by technology providers, including Salesforce.

The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions used Salesforce's Government Cloud and chatbots to power a bot named Olivia to scale support for constituents and answer questions around unemployment and the state's new pandemic unemployment assistance program. Piedmont Health used Salesforce's Health Cloud to establish a COVID-related call scripting and flows for the inbound patient calls that spiked at the onset of the pandemic. And Mascoma Bank used Salesforce's Financial Services Cloud and Salesforce partner nCino to launch a new small-business loan request and processing experience for Paycheck Protection Program loans.

Redefining how your industry works with built-in intelligence

Organizations are also looking at how automated technologies like artificial intelligence might help accelerate transformation in a post-pandemic world. More organizations are evaluating AI to help automate the process of gathering, analyzing and deriving actionable insights from data they collect about their customers. The International Data Corporation, in fact, predicts the worldwide market for AI technology and services will eclipse the $500 billion mark by 2024.

Most consumers have now been conditioned to expect online experiences, including virtual doctor's office visits, legal and accounting consultations, and online grocery shopping. Similarly, B2B experiences have changed. A consumer goods field rep no longer needs to visit a store in person to verify that products are stocked and displayed properly. Store managers can now self-submit photos for review. In a post-pandemic world where companies need to scale their digital investments, AI can help with all of this by automating and speeding interactions between companies and employees or customers while improving overall experiences.

AI-driven compliance engines and research assistants also hold value for a wide swath of industries.

In the past, businesses have tried to understand customers and forge relationships by analyzing data about their past behaviors. But the pandemic has proven that this kind of rearview mirror analysis does not work well in fast-moving environments.

It can also help industries like financial services ensure compliance in a highly-regulated industry, as well as help bankers and deal teams uncover relationships with AI-based research assistants that facilitate introductions and close deals.

In a digital-first world, industry-specific AI is required to keep up and adapt.

Make way for the new normal

The energy behind industry clouds is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Businesses in every market need solutions that offer out-of-the-box use cases and data models that help them save time and money when it comes to delivering on the digital initiatives that their customers are asking for. This will be even more true when the pandemic fades and competition intensifies for delivering more personalized customer experiences.

We're entering a digital-first world where digital transformation is a mandate, not a competitive advantage. Industry clouds offer companies the clearest path to reimagine what their future looks like and exceed their customers' digital-first expectations.