Covid-19: Software firms sharpen focus on AI, big data as IT spending drops

  • Globally, spending on IT is expected to shrink by 3-4% by the end of 2020, research firm IDC said
  • Software vendors such as IBM, SAP and Microsoft plan to make use of such emerging technologies to become more relevant

Ayushman Baruah
Updated14 Apr 2020
Photo: Bloomberg
Photo: Bloomberg

Software companies are intensifying their focus on in-demand technologies and exploring innovative ways to service their clients even as the covid-19 crisis creates challenges across industries and leads to a reduction in technology spending.

The adoption of big data and artificial intelligence (AI) are set to increase though global IT spending is expected to drop 3-4% this year, with a severe impact on hardware and slowdown in the software and services business, said research firm IDC.

Software vendors such as IBM, SAP and Microsoft are gearing up to make use of these emerging technologies to add value to their customers. IBM has made its AI platform ‘Watson Assistant for Citizens’ on the public cloud available free of charge for at least 90 days. It helps citizens understand and respond to common questions about covid-19.

“While the pandemic is having a dreadful impact on companies at scale, mature ones are taking a pause and rethinking their analytics approach,” said Anil Bhasker, business unit leader, analytics platform, IBM India and South Asia.

“Data science teams are being called into action to crunch petabytes of data and build best business models on trusted data for decision makers to quickly prepare contingency plans. This is where we are seeing enterprises using AI, machine learning and natural language processing to mine the data and build predictive or prescriptive models in IBM Cloud Pack for Data,” Bhasker said.

Government and public service agencies, as well as healthcare and research companies, are in immediate need of analytics and AI solutions as they are in race to find a treatment, said Bhasker. “Other industries with high end-user touch-points such as banks, insurance and retail are also in urgent need to use AI/ML driven analytics and cognitive technologies to automate their communications, streamline predictions and decision making,” he said.

SAP also opened access on 10 March to various solutions for 90 days to help organizations with business continuity, said Deb Deep Sengupta, president and managing director for SAP Indian subcontinent. Some of these offerings include SAP Ariba Discovery, which offers suppliers and buyers an open platform to post and solve their sourcing needs, TripIt from Concur, which offers travel-related services, and SAP Litmos, which provides remote training capability.

Microsoft has recently bundled new AI features to its Office 365 and rebranded it as Microsoft 365. The refresh, to be fully rolled out by 21 April, is seen as Microsoft’s overall strategy of infusing “intelligent cloud” or AI to its offerings.

The covid-19 crisis, according to IDC is an opportunity for IT vendors to build and improve their capabilities on AI and big data. “They should also keep an eye on emerging use cases in AI for disease detection, tracking and prevention. While we expect a challenging time ahead for IT vendors, it opens an opportunity for IT vendors to handhold the clients in the hour of crisis and help them sail through the situation,” IDC said.

Relatively smaller companies are also launching dedicated AI-based apps to assist people in the covid-19 crisis. Eka Software Solutions recently released ‘COVID-19 Risk Monitoring’, a free application for 90 days designed to help customers quickly gain visibility into supply chain risks by showing a company’s contract position across countries with reported cases of the virus.

“Based on company data, the app instantly visualizes contracts at risk and provides businesses with the ability to identify alternative suppliers to maintain business continuity,” said Manav Garg, chief executive officer and founder, Eka Software Solutions.

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