Much of today's conversation regarding new social, mobile, analytics and collaboration (SMAC) technologies is misleading. Technology is not the issue. It is the ability of businesses to reimagine processes through its use. Some recent enterprises have recognized this and have used technology to upend entire industries. PayPal has disrupted banking by encroaching on the industry's bread-and-butter –payments. The Amazon juggernaut has moved seamlessly from books to merchandise. And a major revolution in public transport is underway at the hands of Uber.
These are archetypal examples of intelligent operations – organizations that are able to sense, act and learn from the outcome of their actions at scale. Doing so has allowed them to out-compete incumbents whose operations are stuck in old, slower decision-making and improvement cycles. The technologies these successful disruptors employ, matured almost at the same time in mid-2013, and their combined momentum is now formidable. But when we look past the hype, it becomes apparent that they leveraged intelligent operations, not just technology.
Significantly, the playing field doesn't naturally favor disruptors. Think of some of the best examples of incumbents fighting back. Banks can now engage clients at scale through multi-channel models enabled by technology and related data-driven insight. Pharmaceutical companies can improve patient interactions during the initial phases of product launches. Industrial manufacturers can optimize the effectiveness of their assets and capture more value from their clients by deploying cost-effective services based on more insightful data. Finance departments can manage credit risk globally in real time.
Our frames of reference must, however, change. Practices developing in one industry can cross-pollinate with those in others, even as the divide between front and back office loses its significance. The sensing, acting and learning triggered by every client interaction is now cutting across enterprises in unprecedented ways. And while strategy, corporate finance, product design and creative marketing remain vitally important, they must learn to synergize with technology-driven operations if they are to truly harness the power of new technology. Disruptors know this very well.
The key to fulfilling the promise of technology is to focus on the processes that power advanced operating models so that they closely align with measurable business goals.
Today's conversation regarding new technology hides a simple truth. The issue is not technology or analytics. The issue is the ability of businesses to reimagine processes through its use. Those who evolve operations to make them intelligent – able to sense, react, and learn through SMAC – are (already) in the lead. The others will have to continue to answer to their CEO's request with the traditional “not enough people, money, proof, change management strength". The future is already here, it is just unevenly distributed - prioritization and appropriate operations design can likely take it closer to your organization, irrespective of how much legacy and how little bench strength you have.