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What’s Cooking in Digital Transformation

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Futuristic look for digital communications
Image: nongkran_ch -
One of the big questions for enterprise communications when it comes to the pandemic is how lasting the current shifts will turn out to be. Just how many remote workers will return to the office, versus those who become permanent telecommuters? Will users abandon video as a medium once they’re back in the office, or have attitudes fundamentally shifted?
You can find varying opinions and survey data purporting to answer these and similar question, but I’m intrigued by some of the other ways in which the pandemic seems to be transforming business, and how enterprises are leveraging communications technology to enable the shift. A few quick examples:
Ghost Kitchens and Drive-Thrus — The pandemic has devastated the restaurant industry, which is clinging to survival primarily with takeout and delivery services. This, in turn, is transforming the way some restaurants are viewing their business model long term. “Ghost kitchens” are restaurant kitchens without the restaurant — they only cook for delivery. During the pandemic, many eat-in restaurants have become de facto ghost kitchens, but as this trade article explains, some restaurateurs are looking to a future where they operate their kitchens 24/7 for maximum cost-efficiency, cooking in the off-hours for their delivery business. However, standalone ghost kitchens are also a growth industry.
There’s some concern about the negative impact ghost kitchens could have on local, neighborhood restaurants post-pandemic, but one thing is certain: Communications technology will be critical to this emerging model. The existing major food delivery apps are the go-to for current restaurants, but the article cited above points out that these apps’ high delivery charges may force restaurants and ghost kitchens to develop their own delivery services, for which tight technology integration would be key.
Relatedly, McDonald’s made news last week by describing how it plans to improve drive-thru service via a combination of reconfigured facilities and better use of digital technology. The digital aspect appears, in part at least, to echo Vonage’s much-publicized “soggy fries” case study with Red Robin restaurants, in which the cloud communications provider integrated geofencing with its communications and ordering systems to ensure that an order was prepared as close to the expected pickup time as possible.
You have to assume (and hope) that eat-in dining will return post-pandemic, and that there will be great restaurants still in business for people to go to. But the business model and process changes for delivery represent an evolution that could seriously alter the restaurant industry, in the process creating new demand and use cases for embedded communications.
Health Care — My colleague Beth Schultz wrote last week on No Jitter about a “technology-based” health care provider, Arkos Health, that is building on the success of its pandemic-driven virtual care efforts to extend its offerings. Beth quoted Arkos Executive VP Aaron Duerksen even sounding like a telecom exec as he talks about the “virtual last mile of care.” Duerksen also talked about “consumerizing health care” through the use of technology. You should definitely check out Beth’s article, which offers great detail on how this consumerization process emerged, and how it’s likely to take its next steps.
The lesson of both these industries is that communications decision-makers need to be deeply engaged with the digital transformation initiatives within their enterprises. Those initiatives have almost certainly been shaken up and likely expanded by the pandemic, so the communications team’s role will be more critical than ever in determining the business’s success.