Efficiency is strategic and broad-based automation is the trend. Today, businesses are on a relentless battle to save every penny they can by automating every process possible. It’s a never ending strive and business leaders must cope with the demands.
But automation alone may not be enough! I believe unless information becomes the basis of every transaction, both reactively and proactively, it’s very difficult to continue in the battle, leave alone winning it.
Organizations must build an information culture. They need to create a paradigm of organizational working where information becomes the currency of every aspect of operations.
While the margins are under pressure, especially for businesses that work on wafer thin margins, it’s important to address the efficiency drive holistically. Not every cost element is under control, many (and majority) of the cost elements are subject to market forces, further narrowing the scope for intervention. But in my experience, it may be a difficult proposition but not an impossible one. And this very nature makes being innovative a necessity.
I would suggest a three-pronged approach for technology leaders to address the challenge.
Automate, Automate, Automate
Firstly, identify the areas which are in your control and rank them based on relative ease. Those that can be addressed directly and easily and would result into sustainable gains must be the first candidates. Make the situation visible, automate what can be automated, collect data and analyse the same to check the impact and identify further scope of improvement. Automate whatever you can is the mantra. And believe me, there is not end to automation. E.g. machines capacity utilization could be one area, it’s a general problem across manufacturing set ups. While some plants have machines that are over utilized, another plant may have machines that are completely idle. The bigger problem is that it is not even in the knowing of those concerned. If it can be mapped on a single frame, not only can the single machine, but the collective capacity can also be better utilized. Similar examples can be taken from electricity consumption, field sales force efficiency, packaging etc. More automated data, better insight/foresight for better timely decision making and gain competitive advantage.
Build a Culture where Information is the Currency
Secondly, it is not enough to simply automate, but a culture that thrives on information must also be developed. Can discussions be held, and decisions be taken based upon concrete information? So much so that it becomes a part of day to day functioning. It requires the skills and the capacity to understand, consume and act upon data at the individual level and a leadership vision that emphasizes upon data centricity, structures and interventions that helps operationalizing and a modern IT environment that supports the vision.
Exploit Cloud for Automated and Autonomous IT Environment
Everything around us is changing fast and one must align with the change and respond at fast speed. If you partner with world class IT platforms such as Amazon or Uber, your IT platform must be equally robust. Moreover, the customers, both external and internal, today demand a very different experience. One cannot do that with archaic and traditional IT models, that involve lot of manual and tedious tasks for maintaining and changing. The speed that is demanded today warrants that a cloud based, end to end automated and autonomous IT environment is required. Both maintenance and change can then be handled automatically, predictively and with almost no disruption.
In my stint with various enterprises across the globe, I have found strong resonance of the three approaches for success and if done together in a well synchronized manner, it is bound to produce results.
And innovation is going to be a necessary ingredient in this endeavor.
** Views are personal