Apps and AI are Businesses' Little Helpers in a Digital Age

Apps and AI are Businesses’ Little Helpers in a Digital Age

February 19, 2021

Oracle Singapore Managing Director Horng Shya Chua says many lessons have been learnt from one single global event; from leveraging AI and machine learning to the adoption of cloud-based collaboration tools, digital acceleration has established a new status quo in a new normal.

By Horng Shya Chua

COVID-19 has shown that business stability is an illusion. Change is constant so organisations need the leadership and an infrastructure that can adapt, scale, analyse and respond in real-time. Forecasting has become more difficult and less reliable as models race to catch-up.

In the place of old tools, business leaders need to embrace the dashboard as well as new technologies that give them an in-the-moment understanding of their enterprise.

The disruption of COVID-19 has speeded the adoption of digital technologies by a matter of years. As customers moved decisively online, many organisations have gone over the technology tipping point. They’ve leveraged AI and ML to respond to disruption, and digital collaboration tools to ensure staff can remain productive from anywhere. Indeed, remote working and collaboration has accelerated by a factor of 43 .

These changes won’t be temporary. Discovering that their employees could be equally productive at home, and that operations became more efficient on digital channels, many will question the need to return to business as was usual. Instead, they’ll double down and speed up the pace of change. Yet speed can be dangerous without a foundation that can support change.

The adoption of new technologies won’t benefit an organisation unless they are felt everywhere. In large or complex organisations, digitisation can happen piecemeal – department by department. This creates islands of excellence in an unchanging sea. Processes can become fragmented, especially the customer experience which, more than ever, depends on joined-up operations.

Enhancing decision making in operations and the supply chain

Avoiding a two-speed organisation depends on how the business processes and utilises data. Indeed, as commerce and operations have gone digital organisations have never had more data to exploit. This ultimately means more opportunity for business leaders who learn to capitalise on data and more challenges for those who don’t. At the same time, extracting real business value from all this information can be extremely difficult though as data is often trapped in silos or outdated.

Incomplete and stale data can create a major obstacle for data-driven innovations, such as AI and ML, which are only as good as the data they rely on. To innovate, create new experiences, enhance decision making, differentiate products and services, and gain the insights required to remain competitive, organisations need to empower business users. This has to happen across departments, using connected, dynamic, and contextual data.

Delivering this demands the right tools. It’s important that all employees have access to the same pool of high-quality data – a single source of truth – from which to draw accurate insights. When this data is properly managed and centralised, employees can make more impactful and better decisions, but it also accelerates the adoption of new technologies like AI and advanced analytics.

A central data platform eases the AI training process, meaning new tools and technologies can get online and start generating value faster.

For example, FedEx employees have benefitted from a central cloud Enterprise Resource Planning platform deployed across more than 25 countries. The platform is used for data-driven decision making, while integrated supply chain management tools offer greater visibility into the company’s complex global logistics. The presence of the platform has enabled FedEx to roll out 25 digital assistants to create touchless handoffs across a host of repetitive processes, allowing staff to focus on value creation instead.

Giving the right tools to employees is not all. It’s also about how to digitally integrate all these tools. The curated experience includes how the team works together to achieve objectives.

By igniting the use of connected multidisciplinary teams to define and resolve business challenges, organisations will find themselves being able to better improve employee productivity and communicate in ways that enhance the employee experience and satisfaction. Such technology also improves companies’ ability to recruit, train, and retain front-line workers, roles that have significant turnover rates.

There are now platforms that can source, screen, hire, and onboard employees with greater efficiency. By shortening training sessions and distributing them via mobile platforms, workers can learn on the job in smaller chunks while not disrupting their workflow.

Last year, many companies were forced to embrace digital transformation faster than originally planned. Never has leadership been more important, and at all levels, than during the pandemic. Yet, to sustain operations, maintain employee morale and reassure customers for the future, leadership has to be guided by good data and insight.

Novel technologies like AI also lend a helping hand, streamlining processes and helping organisations evolve at speed. Yet businesses first need the capabilities to support constant transformation. An interconnected data platform, and the tools to help employees process data at scale, are key to building a business that’s ready for anything.

(Ed. Featured image by Photographer Magda Ehlers.)

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