• The global economy is expected to shrink by 4.4% by the end of the year.
  • Businesses need to be better prepared for the next crisis, says PwC.
  • A new five-point plan to achieve this includes conquering our fear of AI and data analytics.
  • It also includes finding a way for people and machines to work in harmony.

Faced with the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s and a global economy that’s expected to have shrunk by 4.4% by the end of the year, a team at PwC have come up with a five-point plan to ensure businesses are not caught napping by the next global crisis.

At its heart is a plea to stop regarding machines as the enemy and to embrace technology to help us survive another crisis. Fear of technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) is preventing the roll-out of tools that will help businesses weather the next economic storm, it says.

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The IMF's economic outlook for 2020 has improved over the course of the year.
Image: Statista

Here are the five things PwC says businesses can do now to prepare:

1. Start by taking a long, hard look at how you responded to the pandemic

Understand how all parts of your business – from employees to suppliers – have performed in the current crisis. Use that as the basis to craft a long-term vision of how you can use technology to minimize disruption and seize new opportunities in a future crisis.

The data generated by technology can be used to plan an organizational transformation that will make your company more agile in the future, able to pivot to new ways of working and serving customers.

2. Make technology integral to your business culture

This is about more than just integrating technology into working practices. It’s about a mind shift, says PwC. Humans and machines must “interact seamlessly” in the future, and human decision making must be based on machine-verified data, says PwC.

“To achieve this, you’ll need a culture that trusts machines as allies, rather than fears them as rivals.”

3. Develop a world-class data capability

Successful companies will nurture their best people, valuing business knowledge alongside insights from data analysis, says PwC. AI has a key role to play in helping to analyze the mass of data that technology will generate.

Business strategy must be driven by data, but at the same time companies must enable their people to use the data to move the business in new directions and to innovate.

4. Build trust in how you use data

Consumers need to feel confident that their data is safe. Be proactive in protecting the data that will pass through your company, says PwC.

Businesses need to prepare for “ever-greater, more democratic use” of AI by ensuring that their use of it is responsible – “that is, secure, free from bias, ethical, explainable and well-governed”.

5. Embrace agility

Companies need to lose their fear of failure, PwC says. Innovation should start in the business units and processes where change has the potential to generate the greatest return, and they should not be afraid to fail.

“Fail fast if needed, scale up winners and repeat. Continually reassess capabilities and needs, and determine how fast evolving tech can fill them,” says PwC. “Companies will then find themselves on a path to operations that can pivot quickly and wisely, within an entire organization powered by data and enhanced by AI.”

The World Economic Forum’s report Data Science in the New Economy forecasts that by 2022, human workers and automated processes will share the workload of current tasks equally, while technology will create new roles for human employees.