If you were a farmer in the late 1800s, a sturdy horse and a plow were state-of-the-art tools. Within a few generations, though, everything had changed. From steam tractors to gasoline-powered cultivators and harvesters to commercial fertilizers, technology advanced rapidly – with one innovation paving the way for the next.
Farmers who embraced these new tools were able to increase efficiency, yields, and profits. Those who resisted that change? Well, you know the rest.
I think about those farmers sometimes when talking to CIOs. Human nature being what it is, I’m sure some experienced growers thought the new technologies were unnecessary. After all, change is never easy. And after spending hard-earned money to embrace a new tool, they probably thought they were finished upgrading – until the next generation of technology became the de facto standard.
CIOs and other executives understand that keeping up with changing technology is essential. But translating that knowledge into an appetite for new infrastructures and tools is something else. The potential cost, disruption, and risk are enough to give any leader pause.
Evolving from digital to intelligent
Yet just as those farmers realized, hanging onto old practices and technologies is not really an option. That’s why many companies have spent several years digitally transforming their operations. Digitalization is helping organizations use data to create more visibility, increase agility, and enable more insightful decisions.
But many executives are surprised to find that digitalization alone is not enough. As sophisticated innovations become mainstream business tools, things are changing again. The digital era is now evolving into the intelligence era. Using technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and cloud computing, organizations can further automate manual activities, identify potential risks, and stay two steps ahead of customers – and the competition.
Business leaders are on board. In a recent SAP survey, 90% of 2,500 C-level executives stated that they believe AI is critical to their companies’ success in the next five years, with 60% implementing or planning to implement AI in the next 12 months. A third of those leaders plan to make significant investments in AI – from US$500,000 to $5 million – in 2019. Executives realize that introducing this technology will impact operations, however. In a survey conducted by Microsoft, 41% of British business leaders say their business models will cease to exist in five years because of AI.
Defining the intelligent enterprise
To maximize the value of these technologies and minimize disruption, organizations must also evolve. They need to become intelligent enterprises that connect business processes with advanced technologies and software solutions.
Intelligent enterprises also use streamlined, end-to-end processes that can quickly adapt to changing business conditions. These companies can react faster to new opportunities, improve customer interactions, allow employees to focus on higher-value tasks, and discover new business models and revenue streams.
A great example of this transition is Delaware International, a global professional services company that offers end-to-end packaged solutions to help clients navigate digital business transformation. The company consolidated three different systems into one integrated portal-based business site for employees. The portal enables real-time analytics on top of its internal applications.
Using AI-based technologies, Delaware International developed new tools that automate common ticketing, planning, and HR tasks. Now the company can support, plan, and monitor projects more effectively and efficiently. The new tools enabled real-time customer overviews of hours per project, improved internal collaboration, and enhanced talent acquisition and retention.
Preparing to pursue potential
Success stories such as Delaware International offer just a glimpse of the technology advances to come. To take advantage of successive generations of innovation, business leaders must be poised and willing to take action. At SAP, for example, we plan to automate 50% of manual tasks in the next three years. It’s an ambitious goal, but we believe it will prepare us for whatever comes next.
The last few years have introduced more technology advances than the previous few decades combined. Like those farmers witnessing one agricultural advance after another, people can sometimes feel overwhelmed by change that is so rapid and expansive.
At those times, it’s important to look forward at what can be, rather than remembering what once was. Unquestionably, the untapped potential of these technologies is huge and transformational. By proactively preparing for change, you can begin realizing the benefits of coming innovations, which will help your business thrive for generations to come.
Learn more about the best path to becoming an intelligent enterprise in our “Gold Guide and in the Customer Success Story Flipbook.”
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