Business integration is essential to the success of any firm today. Teams that are siloed away in their own departments, with little idea of what other parts of the operation are up to, won't be able to operate innovatively or drive the business forward. Therefore, taking steps to integrate technologies and cultures throughout an organization should be a priority for any enterprise.
The IT department should be at the heart of this process, as it touches every other aspect of how a firm does business. And in order to make this work, an intelligent operations strategy is a must.
What defines intelligent operations?
This is a strategy that enables businesses to have immediate, 360-degree insight into every aspect of their operations. It allows employees to see at a glance what's going on and where any issues are arising, helping to improve decision-making and boosting innovation throughout a business.
The flexibility and ability this provides will be essential in keeping firms relevant in a highly competitive environment. Indeed, research by Accenture shows almost four-fifths of businesses (78%) are concerned about the impact disruptive effects may have on their operations - but 84% believe the opportunities these present will outweigh the threats.
However, this can't happen unless teams throughout the organization have access to the right information in an easily accessible and simple to understand format, and this is where the IT team comes in.
With this in mind, here are five essential ingredients that no intelligent operations strategy should be without.
1. A data-driven strategy
Data is at the heart of every organization today, so putting this at the core of your intelligent operations strategy as well is a must. Accenture found more than 90% of firms believe data-driven decision-making will help them achieve their business goals, so if you're not using these resources effectively, you'll be quickly left behind.
To ensure you're getting the most from this, you need to consider how to store, access and analyze information effectively. Data aggregation tools that can compile data from various sources to create datasets for analytics and data lakes that offer a single source for structured and unstructured data will be hugely beneficial in making these processes as efficient as possible.
2. Applied intelligence
Applied intelligence refers to three technologies that are critical to the effective use of data in decision-making - analytics, automation and artificial intelligence (AI). While these are distinct solutions, they’re increasingly converging. For example, AI-based natural language processing can be used to extract relevant information from unstructured data - such as audio recording for use in analytics - while robotic process automation takes over many day-to-day processes to ensure the data used by neural networks is timely and accurate.
Using these tools effectively comes down to having the right skills. You need people who can understand the business issues that companies are trying to solve and determine the best way of utilizing these technologies to find the answer.
3. An effective cloud solution
Technologies such as AI and automation will be challenging for firms to implement on their own, even for those with the largest budgets and talented personnel. Therefore, taking advantage of the power and economies of scale offered by the cloud is another key part of developing intelligent operations.
Cloud solutions allow businesses to easily integrate disparate types of data from multiple sources and offer access to powerful analytics and AI tools. They also offer the flexibility to scale up and down as needed. However, Accenture warns that many firms may not be able to make the best use of the cloud as they’re still dependent on legacy technologies that’ll be difficult to integrate with cloud solutions.
Therefore, modernizing these tools should be a top priority to avoid any bottlenecks hampering decision-making throughout the business.
4. The right talent
While having the right innovative technologies is central to the success of intelligent operations, firms won't be able to take advantage unless they have the right people in place to derive usable insight from these tools.
Skills needed include IT talent in areas such as expertise in artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and automation. However, 'softer' skills such as a willingness to embrace change and drive innovation are also essential.
This could pose significant challenges to businesses, as the right digital skills will be hard to come by. Indeed, the World Economic Forum claims more than half of workers (54%) will require significant reskilling by 2022. Therefore, taking steps to identify the correct talent and have the right incentives to attract them should be a key objective for all businesses.
5. Smart partnerships
Finally, it’ll be important to have a strong network of partners that can extend out from the confines of your organization. Teaming up with innovative startups, technology providers or even academic institutions can offer a different perspective on how you make use of the data and technologies at your disposal, while extending the range of expertise you can take advantage of.
Even the biggest firms will struggle to do everything on their own, and the right partnerships can also help companies overhaul traditional delivery models and ways of working, offering more scope for innovation and creative thinking than would otherwise be possible. This can also ensure the business has the resources and flexibility to deal with whatever the future may present you with.