The pursuit of an ‘Intelligent Enterprise’ suited for digital world


At the heart of transforming into an Intelligent Enterprise are three fundamental expectations – drive improved customer experience, deliver increased human and machine assets productivity and transform the workplace to engage employees better.

I am excited but very challenged. I keep wondering at night, will I have a bank the next morning, or will some technology company be doing banking without needing a bank?”. These words are quoted verbatim from an interview with the founder of India’s fourth most valued bank. If anything, this quote eloquently tells the tale of the rising power of startups in India.

Now consider this: Amazon, the US-based e-commerce company, has grown from a smallish revenue base of $15.7 million in 1996 to a staggering $177.9 billion in 2017. What Amazon is to retail, Ola is to public transport, and Oyo is to the world of hospitality. These companies have one thing in common – they leverage technology to deliver exceptional customer experiences and hence alter business models in well-established industries. Naturally, this has a dramatic impact on existing companies who are forced to change course. The most noteworthy example of this is Walmart that is aggressively investing in e-commerce and technology companies and only recently acquired Flipkart for $16 billion.

Walmart is not alone in its attempt to evolve its business model and become an intelligent enterprise better suited for today’s world of digital. This is a common thread amongst market leaders who feel threatened by the meteoric rise of startups. One of the many ways in which companies are exercising this evolution is by making their products intelligent and enabling them to capture data. This change is proliferating on the back of rapid advancements in spheres of Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Blockchain, among others. However, at the heart of such changes are three fundamental expectations—firstly, drive improved customer experience, secondly, deliver increased human and machine assets productivity and lastly, transform the workplace to engage employees better. Companies leading this charter are building new capabilities, skills, and technology, and evolving their culture to transform into an ‘Intelligent Enterprise’.

However, not all companies can respond as swiftly, and a simple online search will yield names of multiple companies across verticals such as retail, manufacturing and BFSI that have either shut shop or have had to scale down operations. The common thread across all these cases is the need for companies to evolve and explore strategies that might have previously been rejected. Companies serious about their ambition to participate in the age of digital must separate the wheat from the chaff and discover what is relevant for them to help move the needle on innovation. The need to invest in new capabilities, skills and technology to deliver on the promise of an ‘Intelligent Enterprise’ is not a question of ‘if we should’ but instead of ‘when and how’.

A transformation is never easy, and for companies trying to evolve into an ‘Intelligent Enterprise’, this is no different. While it’s natural for companies to take flights of fancy when discussing innovation, what interests stakeholders—both internal and external—is when innovations deliver meaningful and tangible outcomes. As the popular saying goes, “What gets measured gets done”, going by the same logic, innovations are meaningless unless they turn to invoices and better still, happier stakeholders. However, delivering game-changing results is not the same as executing on ideas and prototypes that produce incremental change. Game-changing results are about bringing together capabilities, skills, and technology to solve problems that the industry is yet to crack. It’s about using technologies in a specific context to solve a business pain point. It’s about reimagining the future. What it’s not about is using the latest technology with old habits and patterns. And what it’s definitely not about is an obsession over a single technology.

Realising the lofty aim of delivering on the agenda of innovation requires companies to adopt a customer-first, purpose-driven mindset, leverage innovative approaches such as design thinking and agile methodologies to reimagine business processes and business models. It requires companies to have a laser-sharp focus on ensuring stakeholders see the value. Most importantly, it deems companies to break down the innovation process and then apply technology and services which fit that scenario best. Below are some suggested steps that companies can take to actualise the outcomes from proposed innovations:

  • Explore possibilities and real-life use cases by engaging in thoughtful, productive discussions by way of workshops with experts.
  • Reimagine how technology can help innovate in specific business scenarios and move the needle on topics like customer experience, human and machine assets productivity and workforce engagement.
  • Create prototypes and subject them to stress-tests to ensure ideas and projects arising out of discussions on innovation are refined and ready for real-world scenarios.
  • Validate innovation in real-world scenarios to weed out possible issues in the future and ensure ideas can scale and deliver tangible business outcomes.
  • Scale the validated ideas in a phased manner across multiple geographies, offices and product lines and form a feedback loop to ensure key learnings can be captured at each phase to be incorporated in new roll-outs.

The mantra to making these steps successful in real-world scenarios is by asking the right questions at each step. Fact is, not all businesses are in the same phase of evolution and delivering on the objectives of transformation requires them to operate with much agility. Companies that carry forward their mindset from yesterday and try to force fit it in today’s context to solve tomorrow’s problems are missing the point. Transforming to an Intelligent Enterprise not only deems for operations to be run effectively but also exceed customer expectations. Most of all, it deems companies to embrace technology and automation to not just keep pace – instead pace ahead – of their industry peers. It goes without saying but best understood when explained – this change is unlike anything companies and its executives have seen in the past and using yesterday’s learnings in today’s date to solve the problems of tomorrow clearly isn’t going to work. But, in my humble opinion, the famous Bob Dylan said it the best, “Then you better start swimmin’, Or you’ll sink like a stone, For the times they are a-changing”.



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