Even before COVID-19, disruption was a constant threat to most businesses. In fact, Accenture research shows three-quarters of executives feel that the pace of disruption has increased over the past three years. And a full 93% said their company’s very existence is jeopardized by operating models that can’t keep pace.
Now, one of the biggest global events of our lifetime, the COVID-19 crisis is fundamentally changing human behaviors, supply chains and routes to market. While some shifts are temporary, others will be permanent — and many for the better. As an example, we’re seeing some companies using technology in new ways, adopting agile ways of working, and transforming value chains to help outmaneuver uncertainty. In short, they are becoming what we call intelligent enterprises.
What is an intelligent enterprise?
An intelligent enterprise is an organization that is flexible, able to anticipate and adapt to shifting business conditions, customer expectations, stakeholder demands and ecosystem potential. Digital at its core, underpinned by technology and analytics, and centered around transformative purpose, an intelligent enterprise is capable of dynamic self-management and continual adaptation, including changes to its operating model. Top-down decision-making becomes a thing of the past because teams are empowered.
Intelligent enterprises have three key attributes:
- They are data-driven in a differentiated way, adjusting go-to-market strategy, product mix, and ecosystem partnerships based on leading indicators.
- They are organized for efficiency and agility. This means being integrated, where beneficial, to optimize for scale and efficiency; being modular, where necessary, to simplify decision rights, increase speed to market, and adapt to customer and market demands; being powered by cloud technologies to enable agility and faster speed to market; and having an operating model that is flexible and can adapt easily.
- They reach outside themselves, collaborating with a broad range of ecosystem partners, including academic institutions, startups, alliances, and even competitors to meet talent needs and acquire new capabilities. And they share assets and analytics to define new markets that cross industries.
The companies that went into the COVID-19 crisis with an intelligent enterprise mindset have been better positioned to respond to the challenges than others. For example, we saw some fast responders rapidly switch out manufacturing lines for in-demand and purposeful products or stand up new remote in-home services in a matter of days. Some companies have built new, innovative partnerships, like a household goods company partnering with doctors and universities to build ventilators. These organizations were able to respond so quickly in this time of crisis because of moves they had made in response to the increasing pace of change over the past several years.
Becoming an intelligent enterprise
It’s never too late to shift from static and mechanistic to flexible and fast and CIOs are in a unique position to help drive this shift. The measures companies are putting in place to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic are actually forcing them to become intelligent enterprises. CIOs need to be aware of and help drive the following actions to turn their companies into intelligent enterprises.
Shape enterprise agility and resilience. Agile operating models help enable rapid responsiveness and ensure people feel safe, connected, and seen. Many companies are quickly standing up crisis command centers to enable the virtual, digital workforce and agile, multi-disciplinary teams to focus on critical business issues. Many of these capabilities built now will endure to be scaled in the future.
Rethink end-to-end value chains. In the short-term, customer and supply channels are being shored up and ecosystem partners are rapidly being called upon for surge capacity or business survival. Business leaders need to take the lessons they’re learning now to refresh their ecosystems and alliances, distribution channels and integrated planning, and forecasting capabilities to de-risk, diversify, and localize in the interest of more resilient value chains. This applies to technology systems as well; CIOs need to be evaluating and increasing the capacity, stability and security of these systems to ensure resilience.
Reimagine the ways we work and partner. The crisis is challenging our assumptions of what work is critical, what work requires proximity to products, customers and/or business leaders, and who of our ecosystem and alliance partners are resilient and prepared for crises. Companies’ responses during the crisis will redefine the speed at which organizations can move to innovate, pivot, invest, decide, and reorganize.
The intelligent enterprise has never been more critical and meaningful than it is today. By transforming work practices, operating models, processes, and systems, CIOs can help their organizations become more agile and resilient and better positioned to achieve sustainable growth into the future.