Businesses have never faced such complex political, economic, social and digital forces as they do today. For example:
Depending on your business sector, the department you work in or your job function, innovation means different things to different people. Procurement professionals may view innovation as a long-term strategy, given the tremendous potential for delivering efficiencies and cost savings over time, while other business functions may see it differently. Their interest might be focused on enhancing performance and processes, delivering slicker workflows or increased speed to market.
In a maturing market, buyers are becoming increasingly aware that the umbrella term “intelligent automation” comprises a broad spectrum of functionality, ranging from teachable bots that execute repeatable and scripted tasks, to more advanced cognitive tools that apply pattern recognition and language processing capabilities to analyse data, make decisions and learn from experience.
Over the past two decades, networking has been severely limited: it simply could not keep up with new demands from businesses in an increasingly digital world. However, that is all about to change thanks to the creation of software-defined networking, or SDN. Part of an ongoing wave of “virtualisation” in the IT industry, SDN allows people (particularly businesses with large IT systems) to control network behaviour through a handy piece of software, instead of having to go into the network infrastructure and alter things manually.
Growing economic uncertainty has seen many businesses look to procurement for a means to increase savings and ultimately drive growth. This is especially true in the retail industry where common issues include mounting costs, struggling suppliers, increased competition and expanding supply chains. On top of this, savings must be achieved without affecting the quality of the end product or customer experience.
Commentators have long debated the extent to which ‘short-termism’ (the concentration on short-term objectives for immediate profits) in business impacts both individual organisations and the wider economy. According to recent research, however, companies deliver significantly improved results when leaders manage with long-term strategic goals in mind and resist pressure from investors to focus excessively on meeting short-term financial targets.
Statistics are a lot of fun, and contentious too. Yet they permit us to remain fairly grounded. Let’s start with the obvious. From self-driving vehicles and semi-autonomous robots to intelligent algorithms and predictive analytical tools, machines are increasingly capable of performing a wide range of jobs that have long been human domains. A 2013 study by researchers at Oxford University posited that as many as 47% of all jobs in the United States are at risk of “computerisation”.
Robotic process automation (RPA) is all the rage these days, and with good reason. Software bots that replicate the way humans perform repetitive, rule-based tasks are driving significant cost savings and productivity increases. For as little as $10,000 a year, an enterprise can implement and maintain a bot that performs the routine work of five to ten people. Moreover, RPA can deliver a wide range of business benefits such as improved data collection and accuracy, auditability and compliance.