What does it mean to enable the intelligent enterprise?
An experience-driven intelligent economy is taking shape around us as we speak, with the intelligent enterprise as its engine, says Steve Tzikakis, SAP president South Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Mention the ‘intelligent enterprise’ to people, and they react in interesting ways. Some people have apocalyptic visions of artificial intelligence (AI) sweeping the workplace, taking millions of jobs with it in the process. Others look up from their Siri-enabled smartphones just long enough to tell you how machines are going to take over the world. Go figure.
The reality couldn’t be more different. The intelligent enterprises I deal with every day, in countries ranging across southern Europe, parts of the Middle East and Africa, are using technology to fundamentally change the way they work, and are unleashing tremendous value in the process, says Steve Tzikakis, SAP president South Europe, Middle East and Africa.
But what is an intelligent enterprise? In simple terms, it’s a company that’s using modern cloud-based technologies, like AI and the Internet of things (IOT), to better use its data to get real-time insights about its operations, market environment and customers. And it’s not just massive Fortune 500 companies that are doing this – some of the most innovative businesses I know are SMEs that have seen the opportunity to transform their business models to become more customer-focused, more flexible and more responsive to market demand.
They are improving business processes and automating previously tedious and boring back-office finance operations like receivables. Some of our customers are managing global workforces that can include hundreds of consultants, contractors and resources in numerous countries, at the same time. Others are using data for both research and running the business, which means they can design new products while forecasting their revenues more accurately than ever.
When I speak to CEOs about enabling the intelligent enterprise, one of the first things I ask them is to define what customer experience (CX) they ultimately want to deliver, both to their customers and to their employees. Their responses capture the value proposition of the intelligent enterprise vision. When your end-customer has a problem, how do you want that customer to be serviced? Through multiple follow-up calls that simply end up irritating the customer further and damaging your brand, or through one call with one person who gets your problem and fixes it – in real-time? This is a no-brainer. Similarly, I ask how engaged that CEO’s employees are, what the employee experience (EX) is and how that impact affects the bottom line.
The bad news is you can’t just wake up one morning and decide to go out and buy an intelligent enterprise, and roll it out by the afternoon. The intelligent enterprise is not a product. It’s a mindset of using modern strategies and processes, powered by an intelligent suite of technology solutions. It’s an approach that says you want to tap into all available human and machine generated information to win in a highly competitive economy, by differentiating on the insights you can turn into action.
The good news is that intelligent enterprises benefit from much more than efficient decision-making and better business insights. They also see a transformative effect on their workforce, as technology frees employees from mundane tasks and allows them to focus on the important stuff – like their customers.
Why is this important? Many companies talk about being consumer-centric. Most aren’t: they’re still firmly centred on products and operations. This is a problem, because modern consumers live in a digital world. They expect companies to understand them at an individual level, and engage them in a way that's relevant and personalised to them in just about any channel they want. You can’t do that by running your old, isolated CRM and ERP systems and pretending everything’s okay.
And here’s where many critics of the so-called fourth industrial revolution get it wrong. Technology is changing the world of work, for sure. But, in many cases, it’s not taking people’s jobs: it’s changing them to allow customer service representatives to better service the customer. As intelligent enterprises create new customer experiences, they’re transforming their employee experiences at the same time.
They know unhappy, disinterested teams don’t deliver armies of delighted customers. By starting on the intelligent enterprise journey, you make it easier for your people to deliver great customer service. To connect your people to your higher purpose. To listen to your customers, your partners and your people through your channels and your data.
An experience-driven intelligent economy is taking shape around us as we speak, with the intelligent enterprise as its engine. Make sure it’s powering your business too.