Industry Talk

Regular Industry Development Updates, Opinions and Talking Points relating to Manufacturing, the Supply Chain and Logistics.

Enhancing operations through digitalisation: welcome to technology-enabled management

Clear direction from management teams has never been so important as it is now, in this tough and changeable environment. Strong management and collaboration across finance, operations and HR teams is what will help businesses overcome hurdles and challenges that COVID-19 has presented, from disrupted cash flow to damaged supply chains and churn in departments.

Implementing the right technology solutions is key to dealing with the fallout from the global pandemic. It can help with the heavy lift of mundane administration and allow managers to focus on important strategy and leadership activity.

Robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) can help make sense of swathes of data within seconds and provide meaningful insights on areas like performance. It could take humans weeks or months to work through disorganised data, so the power of these tools cannot be underestimated, as they help managers avoid needlessly sifting through content and instead allow them to redirect their energy back into strategy.


Analysts are integral to the future of business

As businesses transform to keep up with the ever-changing market, managers need to evolve in tandem. The modern manager must be versatile, with the ability to not only combine reporting, analytical and strategic-thinking skills into one package, but to also remember the human touch and be a good people manager. Indeed, with the right support and capabilities, the manager can themselves become a powerful agent of change across their organisation.

Traditionally, managers have taken a largely reactive role to business information. They made decisions by looking in the rear-view mirror, basing their judgement on historical data and gut instinct. However, record amounts of real-time data generated from internal sources now give them a new way to create value.

Today, data and predictive analytics allow managers to see forward instead of looking back. This enables business leaders to determine immediate and long-term challenges and opportunities before they occur. For example, an HR manager with access to employee data and predictive analytics tools can anticipate when their top employees are likely to leave the business, based on the characteristics and behaviours of previous leavers. Providing the opportunity for the manager to respond proactively rather than reactively, making decisions to encourage the employees to stay before they resign or being a part of their succession plans.


Creating the right culture for success

The modern manager is a data steward and a predictive analyst. Their data expertise gives them greater powers to comprehend and innovate in their own department. In turn, they empower the business to adapt faster, take opportunities, be more responsive and flexible, and effectively manage operations under strain.

However, managers find themselves in unfamiliar territory as data becomes more prominent in their roles. New responsibilities around cybersecurity and data protection are increasingly falling under their remit. Many are struggling to contend with data governance and management at a time of major change.

In practice, decision-makers are spending just as much time collecting and preparing data as they are analysing it. The prevalence of legacy systems and a lack of automation is limiting overall productivity. As a result, in the UK, 70% of CFOs feel added administration is having a significant impact on team productivity. Spending more time on the basics of data management, leaves managers with less time to carefully consider critical decisions.


Accelerating growth by leveraging data

To redress the balance, organisations need to equip managers with the means to streamline data governance and management. The integration of front and back offices is critical for both collaboration, agility and flexibility. Only when a united environment is created, can businesses help managers juggle their responsibilities.

When managers have access to the same pool of shared data, they’ll have fewer disagreements and better, more frequent opportunities for collaboration. For example, finance and HR managers can coordinate on the impact of a series of new hires or the need for redundancies.

Data integration also provides powerful tools for automation. RPA is one of the fastest-growing segments in the global enterprise software market, with total spending expected to hit $2.4 billion by 2022. While often used for manual tasks, RPA can be augmented with AI to perform most of the tasks needed for sound data management.

Automation can shift the burden of onerous, repetitive data management processes from managers to machines, while still ensuring quality. Three quarters of businesses are automating many of their processes and 86% claim it has already improved productivity. In this way, the introduction of new technology liberates managerial talent to focus on the essential strategic tasks that protect the business, deliver efficiencies and create new value.


Change begins with collaboration

 To succeed in boosting operational efficiency, businesses need to enhance insights through investing in the right technology solutions. AI technology can equip users automatically with key revelations that heighten productivity. This could be across areas, such as operations, finance or procurement. AI can help in increasing performance management in a team, budgeting for large scale projects, or organising supply chains to be less wasteful.

But the right technology solutions can only be found through serious and in-depth consultation with the people who will make use of these tools. The crucial thing to remember is that you cannot implement AI for its own sake; it needs to serve a particular strategic business function, so this is where extended conversations between departments come into play. These types of talks will help define what AI needs to be invested in and the ways it can be deployed effectively.

When it comes to leveraging the right technology solutions through digital adoption, Sage research suggests that 80% of SMEs think digital adoption will be critical for an enterprise-led recovery and job creation. Yet, even though leaders see value in digital adoption, there are barriers that will prevent proper implementation in a timely manner, so an implementation roadmap and appropriate training plan needs to be put in place.

An implementation roadmap will help with seamless integration of digital tools into operations, so that businesses can boost productivity in the long-term and mine data with these tools for strategic business insights. An implementation roadmap needs to include both the concerns and needs of the users at a ground level and also have the seal of approval from the c-suite to push funding through.

 So, is digital adoption worth all the effort in planning and implementation? In the short-term it might seem costly and time consuming, but in the long-term it certainly pays off. Time is a precious resource, but if you invest some in the beginning for digital adoption, it will pay dividends down the line by causing marked increases in productivity and efficiency.

This is because AI frees up human resources for important work. Managers are uniquely poised to offer expert assessment of what works in a business and what doesn’t. But managers are often time poor and their daily job role narrows scope for inputting on strategy. This is where AI can come into play and alleviate some of that role stress and time wastage, so that managers can focus on driving value into the business with their analysis and recommendations for business development, which is something critical now more than ever in these ever-changing times.