The see-saw effect: tackling complexity with connectivity
Mon 16 Dec 2019 | Debbie Green
As we approach the new decade, business agility is more crucial than ever. Innovation is constant and customer expectations are constantly evolving. Businesses simply must adapt if they are to survive.
A recent study by Oracle and The Confederation of British Industry highlighted just how unrelenting this change is, with half of the largest FTSE100 companies disappearing from the index since 2009. Many businesses are struggling because they are stifled by complex and disjointed back-office systems, which put the brakes on their ability to innovate.
Companies unable to move at the speed of their customers and handle relentless change won’t be able to compete in today’s digital marketplace. While they won’t disappear overnight, the outcome will eventually be falling revenue, an intense scrambling to identify deep-seated problems, increasing levels of irrelevance and the inevitable death spiral.
Those companies courageous enough to remake themselves around today’s realities and harness the pace of change as a competitive weapon will, by contrast, thrive.
Evolving through a state of hyper-connectivity
Companies suffering the most from complexity are, unsurprisingly, the least connected. To react to changing customer needs, companies need insight from a multitude of data sources and the ability to act on it quickly.
In order to evolve, company, customer and supplier data must all be easily accessible across the organisation – essentially in a state of hyper-connectivity. If the Chief Financial Officer needs insight into employee productivity, they should be able to access the data from HR in seconds. Similarly, a Chief Human Resources Officer looking for information on a new hire’s financial impact should easily be able to draw the data from finance.
Achieving hyper-connectivity, however, is easier said than done. The main hurdle for business leaders is the oft-neglected back office. It’s here where some of the most crucial functions, including payroll, HR and supply chain operate. It’s the engine room of the organisation, so when it isn’t running efficiently the entire company stalls.
Organisations need to leverage enterprise resource planning to effectively manage, optimise and leverage data across the day-to-day but crucial business functions, if they are to keep up with change.
Connecting the back office
The underlying back office must be integrated and connected if business leaders are to align. Migrating your various functions to the cloud avoids system fragmentation. Doing so also means you have all the data in one place and a flexible, scalable and secure environment in which to roll out changes. This leads to improved performance, agility and visibility.
Despite this, organisational functions like HR and finance can still drain time and resources. Simple, repetitive tasks like payment processing will continue to draw your staff away from higher-value tasks. And you won’t change outlooks overnight. Your ability to adapt and change your organisation is still compromised by cultural resistance and long-standing processes.
To overcome this resistance, businesses should look to simplify, standardise and automate with applications embedded with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). A ML application, for example, can easily auto-approve expenses, flagging those that require further investigation.
A connected, cloud-based back office is a strong foundation on which to build these shared processes that run by themselves, more efficiently, and which filter throughout the enterprise.
Organisations can achieve lasting transformation by connecting data and automating processes across the business. With the correct tools, business leaders can gain significant insights into operations, leading to increased collaboration, performance and the ability to anticipate change.
The time to act is now. Our research found that almost three-quarters of HR and Finance executives struggle to focus on future strategic direction due to a lack of collaboration and too much short-term thinking. However, with a shared, single source of accurate data, business leaders will no longer have to make decisions in the dark.
This single-source of truth will also enable businesses to exploit more sophisticated tools. With predictive modelling, for example, organisations can forecast budget and headcount needs, responding early to avoid future crises. AI solutions can also extract insight from vast quantities of third-party data otherwise unavailable to the business, and these evidence-based insights can help grow the company.
The benefits are plenty, and organisations are already realising these. Global fashion conglomerate Apparel Group has innovated through a mix of intelligent cloud applications. By centralising its data in a single source of truth, the brand has gained visibility across its global operations, giving them insight into opportunities with new brands and markets.
Meanwhile, Amplifon, the world’s largest hearing aid manufacturer, has been able to improve its customer experience and working practices all while growing its network and customer base. Its cloud-based platform has been the catalyst, spreading common governance models, metrics and KPIs across countries.
Think of connectivity and complexity like either end of a see-saw. As one side goes up, the other comes down. With greater connectivity, the easier the business will run.
Agility is crucial to allowing businesses to outpace change and evolve faster than their competitors. Through a connected, automated mindset, this can allow a strategy to be implemented successfully from the top-down, allowing your business to be at the forefront of digital transformation.
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