Today’s top companies are prioritizing agility and responsiveness. Ever-changing technologies put more power in the hands of customers, whose expectations continue to grow. Across industries, increasing amounts of data are transforming markets. Businesses that are slow to wield the combined power of technology and data to meet customer demands and transform operations risk falling behind their competition.
But forward-thinking companies are responding by aligning strategic priorities to Intelligent Operations, a state of maturity that leverages artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and human ingenuity to achieve a sustainable competitive edge. On their path to achieving Intelligent Operations, organizations uncover opportunities for transformation. These opportunities manifest in internal- and customer-facing processes. Infusing data and AI into these business processes enhances an organization’s agility and responsiveness, better preparing it to combat competitive threats and keep pace with customers’ ever-changing expectations. Shifting toward Intelligent Operations puts your business on a strategic trajectory to enable better decision making, customer experiences and business outcomes.
Three Main Priorities for Intelligent Operations
According to Accenture and HfS Research, keeping up with competitive disruption, leveraging data and enhancing customer experiences are the three business drivers of Intelligent Operations. Each factor contributes to the shift in its own way.
Innovative disruptors: Nearly 80 percent of organizations are concerned with disruption, the survey said. Operations executives worry most about new digital entrants. Innovative digital technologies emerge almost every day, making it difficult for organizations to stay current in how they run their business and interact with customers, employees and suppliers. If you don’t respond swiftly, and correctly, to these constant digital changes, you risk falling behind to more agile competitors.
High volumes of unstructured data: Organizations are flooded with data as they struggle to turn insights into actions. Their biggest challenge is extracting value from unstructured data. Nearly 80 percent of operations executives estimate that anywhere from 50 to 90 percent of their information is unstructured, Accenture and HfS found. On top of that, the data is largely unreachable and siloed across databases and systems. In order for enterprises to make critical decisions, they must be able to blend structured and unstructured data into a holistic view, then analyze and understand it so they can incorporate it into their decision-making.
Customer engagement: When asked how their organization can best improve operational agility, 27 percent of respondents pointed to a comprehensive customer engagement strategy. New digital technologies are raising the bar on customer experience almost daily. Enterprises must adapt to customer needs and expectations, communicate across multiple channels and deliver a stellar experience. Suppliers, vendors and employees are just as important in this picture as traditional customers. Additionally, organizations should look outside their industry for cues on the customer experience. Why? Because expectations are shaped by the interactions people have across markets. When a customer enjoys an experience from one company (recommended products, self-service or intelligent chatbots, for example), they expect the same level of service from every business they engage with.
A shift toward Intelligent Operations addresses all three of these factors, enabling your enterprise to:
- Transform the customer experience into a competitive advantage.
- Evolve into a data-driven organization.
- Accelerate back office transformation to keep up with front office changes.
However you proceed, bear in mind these key steps in your overall Intelligent Operations initiative.
The Intelligent Operations Shift
Achieving Intelligent Operations can be daunting, so you should expect to face some challenges along the way. These include:
- Integrating data from all channels into internal and external processes.
- Harnessing the volume of data available to make insightful decisions.
- Implementing a customer engagement strategy that addresses all digital and physical channels.
- Connecting legacy systems with new business processes.
- Reducing manual touch points and improving employee productivity and efficiencies.
- Getting the back office to keep pace with changes in the front office.
To overcome these challenges and transform business operations into Intelligent Operations, executives need to focus on several key areas.
Identify process transformation opportunities: A recent Forbes Insight survey found that 90 percent of senior executives believe their leadership recognizes the importance of process automation to future success. Transforming operations begins with understanding the current state of your business processes. Process discovery can help deliver an accurate picture of your operations and identify opportunities for automation by supplying process details that include: length of time it takes to complete the processes, number of manual touchpoints, which systems are involved, order of tasks, and more. Insights from the discovery can be used to prioritize which inefficient processes should be re-designed or automated to generate greater operational efficiencies.
Make workforce realignment a priority: While digital technology is important, human talent still plays a critical role in Intelligent Operations. When organizations find the right balance between human talent and digital workers, employees can spend more time on value-adding, strategic projects that can’t be handled by their digital colleagues. Intelligent automation technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) that address routine, repetitive tasks allow your human workforce to focus on innovation.
Fully utilize data and analytics: Ninety percent of respondents to the Accenture and HfS survey said data-driven decisions will help them create pivotal customer insights. It’s no surprise more than 85 percent of organizations are developing a strategy to better analyze their data assets. A plan for blending structured and unstructured data from internal and external sources should be a core component of your data strategy. Technologies such as cognitive capture help enterprises ingest and understand data in any format and across channels. RPA can also be used to help mine data from legacy systems that were traditionally operating in siloed departmental processes.
Infuse business processes with artificial intelligence (AI): Companies have realized valuable gains from RPA alone, citing a more than 25 percent improvement in employee satisfaction, efficiency and customer retention. However, with advancements in AI, substantial operational efficiencies can be unlocked when combined with automation technologies. Embedding natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) into your business operations paves the way to collect and process data faster, and automate your knowledge-based processes. The integration of automation, advanced analytics and AI positions enterprises to advance their ability to improve customer engagement and drive operational excellence.
Empower your organization with the cloud: The cloud enables organizations to scale effectively and quickly adapt to changing technologies within a secure environment. A single cloud or even multi-cloud approach provides for faster adoption of new technologies and reduces operating costs while improving business processes. The ability to easily add or remove services improves agility and flexibility.
Create an ecosystem of partners: Partnerships are an important piece of the Intelligent Operations journey. Competitive organizations form symbiotic relationships with start-ups, system integrators, technology and platform providers to achieve their transformation goals. Collaborative alliances with innovative companies in the market accelerate operational transformation faster than building technology solutions in-house.
Utilize digital workforce management: As automation scales across the enterprise, the need to manage, monitor and govern automation deployments increases. From a compliance perspective, it’s essential for IT to have visibility into what systems, processes and privileges are given to each digital worker. The most effective way to manage enterprise automation is from a single platform that provides insights, process orchestration and digital workforce tagging.
The right balance of human talent, intelligent automation and strategic partnerships enables modern enterprises to unlock more data insights, create exceptional customer experiences and improve the efficiency of business operations. The shift toward Intelligent Operations creates a solid foundation, empowering your organization to work like tomorrow, today.