© Dave Guttridge

The pandemic year has shown just how much the convergence of data and technology with professional services has been critical to secure the smooth running of business and society.

The Financial Times Intelligent Business report and awards aim to show how this convergence is playing out and helping to solve everyday challenges in any service sector that uses data. 

The increasing use of data and technology in services is proving transformative. It is particularly evident in the public sector and in healthcare: two sectors under intense strain in 2020. 

Public sector and healthcare

The winning entries to the Intelligent Business awards on November 19 in each of those two sectors, the Francis Crick Institute and the New Jersey State Judiciary, have completed projects that are notable for the speed of their digitalisation efforts.

The Francis Crick Institute, a London research institute, did not wait for the UK government’s testing programme to be ready; instead it accelerated its own in-house framework for testing, which in turn enabled it to process 2,000 Covid tests a day for frontline workers.

When the coronavirus outbreak hit, the New Jersey State Judiciary was able to quickly ensure its 10,000 employees, many of whom did not have computers at home, could work remotely; this enabled them to keep bail payments going and the court system running. Typically, says the organisation’s chief information officer Jack McCarthy, it would have taken six months to automate the court payment process. It took around just three weeks in the pandemic.

© Seth Wenig/AP

A number of public sector agencies in the US were helped by US Digital Response (USDR), a non-profit organisation set up by four technologists. They included Raylene Yung, co-founder and chief executive, who used her background — as the youngest director of engineering at a Fortune 100 company when at Facebook, and online payments provider Stripe — to galvanise thousands of volunteers to help digitise public services.

With more than 6,000 people expressing an interest and 500 active volunteers, USDR has completed 100-plus projects. One example was working for the Louisiana Department of Health to connect out-of-work healthcare professionals to facilities with acute staffing shortages. 

Ms Yung puts the success of USDR down to the severity of the pandemic, the pressure to go digital and the availability of tools designed to help the process along. Demand was intense with some unemployment and other social security benefit systems, for example, reporting 10,000 per cent more traffic than usual. “You can get going really fast,” says Ms Yung. “We were able to help leverage the state of tech today, which is how we had an impact so quickly.”

The global pandemic, however, also revealed swaths of the public sector falling short. One example was the news that the UK government kept Covid testing data in Excel spreadsheets, in a way that led to nearly 16,000 positive Covid cases not being passed on to the UK’s contact tracers.

The need for accurate, connected data sets that are available in real time is evident throughout the examples featured in the FT’s Intelligent Business report. Many companies learned that having better data was the key to keeping supply chains resilient and agile. Flex, the electronics designer and maker, for example, was able to use its supply chain visualisation software to manage an increase of daily shortages of items from 1,600 to 8,000 during the crisis. The software allowed it the flexibility to know when to source alternative suppliers. 

People power

While having the right data and tech in place is essential, people are also critically important both as participants and beneficiaries of digital transformation, says the “change maker” award winner, Jacky Wright, chief digital officer for Microsoft in the US. “The future viability of our society hinges on our ability to lead with a moral purpose as we embrace a digital world powered by technology and data,” she says.

FT Intelligent Business award winners: 2020

  • Public Sector: New Jersey State Judiciary and UiPath

  • Financial Services: ING Bank and Eigen Technologies

  • Healthcare: Francis Crick Institute 

  • Intelligent Contracting: Shell

  • Supply Chains: DHL, Blue Yonder and Microsoft 

  • Intellectual Property: Microsoft 

  • Legal Technology Company of the Year: DocuSign

  • Big Four Accounting Firms: EY

  • Individual Change Maker of the Year: Jacky Wright, chief digital officer, Microsoft US
    The FT Intelligent Business awards were held online on November 19

FT Intelligent Business: Methodology

The Intelligent Business report highlights how the convergence of legal and professional services with data and technology is streamlining back office operations and transforming business models.

Research to select the case studies and organisations featured in the report included a process of submissions and nominations, market surveys and additional research and interviews.

RSG Consulting conducted more than 150 interviews to assess case studies and organisations between June and October.

The criteria used to select case studies were: peer, client and market commendations; impact on the business or market; and the degree to which the convergence of legal services, professional services, technology and data was demonstrated.

Intelligent Business awards: the legal technology award was decided by a judging panel made up of last year’s Top 10 Legal Business Technologists, Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (Cloc) leadership, representatives from the report’s consortium partners: Ashurst, Pinsent Masons and Orrick, and other industry experts. RSG Consulting asked each panellist to rank their top three legal technology companies of 2020. 

RSG Consulting Research Team: Reena SenGupta, Yasmin Lambert, Tom Saunders, Mary Ormerod, Georgie Lyon

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