Across the world, organizations have been using smart machines powered by artificial intelligence to drive operational efficiencies. But focusing on efficiencies alone misses the truly transformational opportunity: to create self-adapting and self-optimizing “intelligent” processes and operations that use machine learning algorithms and real-time data to continuously improve. In our view, this reimagining of processes represents a great leap forward that will unlock entirely new roles and new ways for humans and machines to work together.
The future belongs to organizations with Intelligent Operations that use diverse data driven by applied intelligence and human ingenuity to enhance and optimize the customer experience and deliver superior business outcomes.
Automating for operational efficiency, but not yet for transformation
Our research across 1,000 organizations that are early adopters of machine learning indicates that just nine percent are truly reimagining their processes to drive breakthrough transformation. These Intelligent Operators are achieving improvements of between five and 10 times in key performance indicators (KPIs) across processes.
Research shows that most organizations are seeking greater efficiency from existing processes, instead of reimagining them. To thrive and grow, organizations must shift their operations strategy to enable true process reimagination and lay the path forward.
Barriers to progress
We see two main constraints inhibiting progress. First is a predominantly tactical rather than strategic view of the potential that AI and ML offer to drive breakthrough gains in productivity, profitability and growth. To break out of this, businesses must engage the C-Suite to reimagine processes as a strategic priority. Senior leadership’s engagement creates a platform to engage process and functional owners to drive transformation.
The second barrier is the alignment of these efforts with desired business outcomes. This requires analysis of specific processes and the results that they generate, prioritizing those that confer the greatest strategic advantage. Some leaders are already doing this, for example, banks are more likely to focus on managing enterprise risk and compliance (47 percent) whereas retailers are looking to transform customer service (51 percent).
These leaders are aligning process reimagination with priority business outcomes, an activity that requires collaboration between business and IT. In contrast, we see organizations struggling to move beyond proofs of concept (PoCs) and pilots because those projects are being initiated or managed largely by technologists, without the rigor of defined business outcomes.
Moving forward: Three steps to reimagining processes
To jumpstart process transformation and the move toward Intelligent Operations:
- Examine the essential business outcomes required for each process. The critical consideration is not efficiency, but the value that can be achieved from doing things differently.
- Identify what differentiates the company and reimagine processes to deliver that differentiated outcome.
- Identify the technology and other enablers required to deliver differentiation. This needs to take into account how the process will change and how the complete ecosystem of robots, data, AI, machine learning and people can be organized to support it.
Reimagining processes without considering these fundamental steps is likely to end in disappointment. The successful focus on business outcomes hinges on wide-ranging and engaged conversations between the business, IT and C-Suite. These will elevate process reimagination from tactical to strategic and accelerate the move to Intelligent Operations.