By Nitin Rakesh, Chief Executive Officer, and Managing Director at Mphasis
The COVID-19 pandemic has tested humankind’s resilience in unprecedented ways. For the first time in a century, we continue to live with a mix of restrictions on social interactions, travel, and assembly. Attributes have emerged in our current ‘limited edition’ lives as keys to thriving. At an individual level, the ability to deal with ambiguity has emerged as a key strength. For businesses, this capacity has translated into the need to foster organizational flexibility so that people and processes are ready to pivot to new ways of operating for an ecosystem in constant flux. Let us take a look at some companies that have risen to the occasion and leveraged this crisis situation to rethink organizational architecture and embark upon network orchestration.
Powering through the world’s energy needs
Consider for example one of the world’s leading integrated energy companies, Chevron. Since the late 1800s, the energy company has worked its way through exploring, producing, and transporting crude oil, natural gas, and other energy products. It has produced petrochemical products, generated power, and developed future energy sources. However, the last few years have been a ‘wild ride’ for the company. With commodity prices being halved, Chevron like many of its peers in the energy space saw a consequent lowering in capital budgets. In parallel, with the emergence of the Shale Revolution, it was compelled to transfer from large capital projects, with investment cycles of about 10 years, to projects with investment cycles of just six months. As a result, Chevron has had to push the pedal in two ways. It has stayed on-course with its gradual, massive move towards adopting alternate sources of energy. But it has geared up to adopt digital acceleration at high speed for agility.
Chevron’s approach to dealing with this twin requirement serves as a valuable lesson for companies in these extraordinary times. With the company realizing that it could no longer predict the market, it understood that it needed to learn how to ‘win in every environment’. To do this well, Chevron made sweeping changes to its IT architecture to evolve into a state-of-the-art engineering organization. The department stopped working on isolated apps and projects. It emerged as a system of digital platforms. Further, the company is also transforming its organizational culture to become a more data-driven enterprise by integrating data science applications with supply chains and decision cycles.
Doing more with insights-driven logistics
Now let us consider another interesting development—the unusual collaboration of FedEx with Microsoft. In the midst of the pandemic early last year, the two companies established an interesting partnership. They pooled their expertise to come up with data-enabled services leveraging the breadth of FedEx’s international digital and logistics network with Microsoft’s advanced cloud computing technology.
Despite operating in two distinctly different spaces, the two firms’ decision to come together in a collaborative effort serves as a great example of network orchestration. How? On the one hand, the partnership requires FedEx to open the data on its systems as a data platform. On the other hand, it entails Microsoft providing FedEx with the underlying AI technology to leverage the logistic giant’s data platform.
Drilling down for data-driven projections
One of the first outcomes of this collaboration has resulted in the rollout of FedEx Surround. By using the power of data and analytics, the service allows both companies’ customers to leverage the niche expertise FedEx and Microsoft bring to logistics and next-generation technology. Customers who use the service are able to see their inventory activities across the globe all the way down to regional and local levels providing a bird’s eye view into not only inventories, but also deliveries and supply chains.
The reason why such a service is of great relevance in current times is because the pandemic has shown us how quickly operating conditions in the marketplace can change. The disruptions to supply chains and resulting unpredictability of deliveries that companies have witnessed over the past year or so are phenomenon that can recur for other reasons in a post-pandemic world. It is in this context then that partnerships like the one between FedEx and Microsoft promise to provide a way out of the vagaries of unpredictable variables by offering highly precise data and insights. This includes information and updates during natural disasters, early warnings about adverse weather conditions or traffic conditions, data about incorrect addresses and so on, all of which can help customers obtain better visibility into their supply chains with actionable information to intervene early when needed to avoid delays.
I believe collaborations of this kind are a sign of the future. By leveraging network orchestration both FedEx and Microsoft stand to gain new customers, markets, and business opportunities while providing niche domain expertise in partnership.
As the world slowly emerges from the pandemic, it will be vital for companies to consider opportunities to reconstruct their organizational architectures, including network orchestration to step beyond the boundaries of their domains and surprise their customers with new products that add proven value.
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