Companies able to tap innovative talent, harness insights from large amounts of data and applied intelligence and tap benefits from the cloud and smart partnerships will be in the best position to survive disruption and do well in business, a recent global report said.
The report by HfS Research and Accenture said the future belongs to organizations that have transformed themselves into “intelligent operations”, said Accenture Operations Lead in the Philippines Benedict Hernandez in an interview on Tuesday.
“The future is about taking your business processes to become intelligent operations,” he said. “That is really capitalizing on digital disruption, access to phenomenal amounts of data, and the need to disrupt or improve the customer experience.”
Move to intelligent operations
“The move to intelligent operations is fast becoming a make-or-break proposition for organizations, with 80 percent surveyed saying they are concerned with disruption and competitive threats, especially from new digitally savvy entrants.” Accenture said in a report on the study.
“It’s exciting to be looking at what used to be known as BPO (business process outsourcing) or BPS (business process service) and the challenge in front of us is how do we take our clients to an intelligent operations status to actually deliver all these benefits,” Hernandez said.
The research identified 5 essential components of intelligent operations: innovative talent, data-driven backbone, applied intelligence, leveraging the power of the cloud, and a smart partnership ecosystem.
To move to intelligent operations, businesses need employees skilled in the new IT – data scientists, analysts, and experts on technology such as the cloud, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence.
In the case of Accenture operations, Hernandez said “talent is very important to us” and the company has 11,000 business advisors globally. “These are process experts who understand where is it that we can apply digital enhancements so that the client actually benefits.” The company also has 49,000 cloud practitioners and 4,000 data scientists globally.
“Having said that, you also have your current workforce that you continue to invest in so that they can actually be up-trained and re-skilled,” he said. Training workers to a redefined and changed nature of work is the “heavy lifting that companies need to be doing.”
“Because we’ve been automating so much over the past couple of years, what we have done is majority of the cost savings in automation is actually re-invested in up-training and upskilling everybody,” Hernandez said.
Companies accumulate a large volume of data. The challenge for their clients, Hernandez said, is “how are you able to access and harness all of that data and run analytics, whether it’s predictive or prescriptive, so that you can actually improve the way the companies are performing?”
In one of the booths during the internal innovation roadshow at Accenture, a team showed how companies can spot trends in collection of payments by analyzing volumes of historical data.
Applied intelligence is using automation, analytics, and AI to improve processes. While many people see cost savings as a big driver for this, Hernandez said automating a process “benefits many other areas.”
“When the process works better, the end-customer experience is better, and there’s less of the routine tasks that people are doing, it allows the employee experience to also be better,” Hernandez said. “Now I don’t have to do all those mundane, repetitive, boring tasks because applied intelligence has already taken care of that. I can now make use of my human talent and skills to do more judgement, creative, problem-solving, more challenging, and more interesting kinds of activities.”
Automation can also eliminate human errors that expose companies to risk and compliance issues.
Leverage the power of the cloud
Companies are already plugging into “what’s available out there and have infrastructure as a service” rather than building their own. This allows them to be agile and flexible in their technology infrastructure.
“Buying and maintaining your own technology infrastructure is very costly and it actually becomes obsolete faster and faster because of just the rate of evolution,” he said.
With cloud companies continuing to evolve their offerings, “you’re able to get to the latest every time, you don’t need to do your own investment for that,” he said.
Companies have also realized they “don’t have to be an expert in all areas” and could just tap partners to move to intelligent operations.
“In the case of Accenture, we have about 150 enterprise partners around the world of different technology and services that we work with. In AI alone, we don’t do AI on our own – we do a lot of R&D on AI but we partner a lot with Google, Microsoft, and Amazon Web Services,” Hernandez said. “The main thing about the partnership ecosystem is that you can plug in to who are the best enterprises out there in their particular fields.”
This migration to intelligent operation is well underway and the nature of work that the company is getting from its clients have markedly changed.
“A lot of the companies getting into operations partnerships with Accenture is actually to innovate their operations to become more intelligent operations. And this is an example of a smart partnership ecosystem. Because they realize that I can’t do this alone. I don’t have the expertise, I don’t wanna build all that expertise so I can actually transform myself. Why don’t I work with Accenture so they can take my process to become more intelligent,” he said.
Where next opportunity is
From cost arbitrage years back, clients conversations have moved beyond that into “how do I make my process more digital, how do you allow my operations to save me money, to give me insights so I can actually improve my cash flow position, how I can be more competitive?” he said.
He said the move to intelligent operations “is really where the next opportunity for us and our clients.”
“My hope is when you now say BPO or you think about Accenture and intelligent operations, these becomes the example that comes to mind versus traditionally what we think about in BPO terms.” Hernandez added.