AI and apps are business leaders’ ‘little helper’ in a disruptive age

Chua Horng Shya, Managing Director, Oracle Singapore

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.

Accelerating past the point of no return

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 machine learning 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. Yet 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real business value from all this information can be extremely difficult though as data is often trapped in silos or outdated.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 machine learning and AI, 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 ERP 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.

Evolving at speed, safely

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.