How to use an economic downturn to leapfrog your competitors
Written by Bas de Vos, 28.04.2020. First published at blog.ifs.com.
In our personal lives, what we perceive as everyday reality via digital media is actually shaped and curated by artificial intelligence algorithms. Connected devices on our belts or in our pockets track our operational metrics and offer us guidance. Digital marketplaces offer us immediate access to buy anything we want.
In the B2B space, however, we are still in the early days on all of these things. Even as Covid-19 has paralyzed entire sectors of our global economy, I would argue that now is the perfect time for visionary leaders to leverage the existing investment they have made in enterprise software and prepare to leapfrog their competition by increasing productivity, and launching innovative new offerings that drive new revenue and improve the customer experience.
IFS is preparing a new generation of software that will make disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT) and even augmented reality (AR) readily-available services throughout our enterprise suite. Moving to IFS Applications 10 now will streamline the move to this new environment. And our software already has powerful, transformational technologies you can adopt right now to immediately drive value in new ways for your customers.
Why this is the time
Often when businesses want to embrace new technology and make sure they’re prepared for what the future brings, it can take time and energy away from quality resources in the company.
The change agents, the people that drive change, are typically the ones with the fullest agendas. But in today’s climate, they likely have more bandwidth to take on different tasks. After all, while a long-term necessity, change does come with a short-term effort.
Modern applications that have adopted principles like evergreen and are ready for the next generation of technology can tremendously help an organization going forward. But to be ready for tomorrow, you have to invest today.
A smart executive will go into tough times with a laundry list of projects and organizational goals already in hand, and will quickly be able to put teams to work preparing for the future instead of laying them off or furloughing them. These executives may recall that Bain & Company analyzed the layoffs at S&P 500 companies in the early 2000s finding layoffs actually took place in a small percentage of companies—and these companies tended to translate to poor performance down the road.
What is coming?
A recent study made by IFS, found that 90 percent of industrial companies are planning investments in AI. This year, IFS will launch products to drive machine learning (ML) and AI into our customers’ operations. Customers will be able to use this technology without hiring teams of data scientists. Some of this technology, like the tool we are launching that predicts travel duration in certain geographies, will not even require customer data. Others will be built on customer data contained in IFS software and other third-party sources. Customers will be able to choose from several ready-to-use models or create their own use case.
Already, IFS customer Cheer Pack, a US-based packaging manufacturer, has deployed AI-driven autonomous robots to pick inventory and transport it to the shop floor at precisely the time it is needed. IFS software is orchestrating the work of these specialized robots and captures and stores these transactions in Cheer Pack’s IFS system of record.
Similarly, some of our customers rely on IFS’s planning and scheduling optimization not only to automate much of service dispatch and management, but to predict and model the future based on fluid events. Customers can access these application capabilities right now, and even a focused implementation of advanced technology can move an IFS customer lightyears ahead of their competition.
4 things you can do now
For businesses that intent taking advantage of the situation, there are several things that can be done to achieve real and meaningful digital transformation:
1. Current Software
Make sure you are running the latest and greatest version of your enterprise software solution(s). This will make the eventual transition to a new environment faster, easier, less disruptive and more affordable.
2. Business Value Engineering
Examine your organization from a business value engineering (BVE) standpoint. We offer our customers the IFS BVE methodology, which provides customers with a digital twin of their business that will help them optimize their business processes in the immediate term.
But that digital twin is also the tool AI eventually will use to understand how value flows through the organization. This in turn, enables our customers to take on an enterprise approach to AI, automate entire processes, improve the customer experience and drive value to customers in disruptive, new ways.
3. Avoid Layoffs
Businesses can avoid steep layoffs by refocusing their talented management teams on contributing to their BVE consulting engagement.
Any enterprise-wide change effort, whether it is supported by disruptive technology or not, is a garbage-in, garbage-out proposition. The more involvement and attention from senior people knowledgeable of the organization, its markets and challenges, the better. Right now, these key individuals may have more bandwidth to contribute, and that is beneficial regardless of whether you are ramping up towards enterprise AI or using enterprise software to achieve other organizational goals.
4. Risk and expectation management is key
If your focus is on AI, there are added levels of complexity. Firstly, the outcome of the project isn’t always known. Yes, we typically have an idea of what to achieve—for example, being able to do a better job of predicting key business events—but the quality of the outcome is often an unknown at the start of a project. This is exciting, but also comes with a certain level of risk.
Managing expectations and ensuring confidence in the results of an AI project is another challenge. Ensuring that the decisions, recommendations, and projections that come from AI are explainable and can be tied back to solid computational processes and reliable data sets will help your employees, customers, and stakeholders trust the process.
The time is now
We are at a tipping point in history. The companies that make the right organizational investments now will come out of our current downturn ahead of their competition.
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