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Nurturing digital capabilities to bring enterprises to life

The journey of enterprises to digitally transform processes and functions started several years before the pandemic hit. Anticipating the impending need to be more agile and resilient in the face of dynamic changes in technology and business landscape, digital transformation has increasingly become imperative. It is no more “a good thing to have,” but a “must thing to have.”

Complex legacy systems, huge amounts of data, and evolving business models, however, sometimes make it difficult for large enterprises to navigate through the labyrinth. In the last few years, while looking for ways to become more agile and resilient, we have turned to nature for inspiration and become more life-like, responsive, resilient beings at an enterprise scale. We started this transformative journey for our clients three years ago. Our learnings were the foundation for the breathing and throbbing concept of a Live Enterprise, to transform organizations into living beings that sense, observe, discover, analyze, learn, think, and act in real-time.

We are not alone in this transformative journey. Like us, several other large enterprises have notched up the innovation quotient in a bid to accelerate digital transformation. As per a recent study done by Infosys Knowledge Institute, 68% of the enterprises are still in the early stages of accelerating their digital journey and are actively looking for ways to exponentially accelerate and scale. I am joined by an esteemed panel of practitioners, who have been at the forefront of accelerating the pace of digital transformation from years down to months and weeks. Let’s learn more about their digital transformation journeys in their words:

Smith & Nephew has been at the forefront of implementing innovative digital transformation strategies. Tell us about your experience of setting up the Intelligent Automation centre from the scratch, and how you drew inspiration from having worked with other organizations?

Phil Priest, SVP Global Business Services, Smith & Nephew
We have been on a condensed timeline to create a multifunctional GBS organization. We did it in three stages over four years. The first being to operate, wherein we moved jobs to our centres in Costa Rica, Poland, Malaysia, and Pune in India, while ensuring continuity in service delivery. Then we embarked on the phase to optimize those processes. We turned to Lean and Six Sigma to standardize where we can and take out the waste. This gave rise to the need for intelligent automation. So, we set up a pilot project in Poland just before the pandemic hit. We now have some 30 odd RPA deployments across processes. The biggest transformation for us has been in the travel and expense space. We moved the entire operation to Costa Rica and optimized it through Lean Six Sigma standardization.

We then layered the stack with machine learning to automate compliance activities and to reduce the intervention of managers in approving claims. Now we are starting to work through our processes to implement an end-to-end strategy, with the help of artificial intelligence tools, intelligent process discovery tools, and cognitive techniques.

We all know by now that humans and machines will coexist, allowing routine or repetitive tasks to be automated. How did Asahi Europe & International bring the humans and technology together and formalize the operating model?

Reto Sahli, Group Chief Information Officer, Asahi Europe & International

At Asahi, we are focusing on developing a strategy that includes both humans and bots. I am a big fan of Intelligent Automation-as-a-service. We invented the concept about five years ago, and we could significantly cut down the implementation window. So, you basically can have your first automation project set up in three months. Along with our partner, we discovered, implemented, and operated a technology-agnostic transformation strategy with ease. We started layering the strategy with hyper-automation tools, such as chatbots, NLP, and Machine Learning. The lead time for scaling up for an organization thus was significantly shorter with Intelligent Automation-as-a-service.

We have also chosen a hybrid approach. The hybrid approach is Intelligent Automation-as-a-service with a three-year horizon of adding a limited number of hyper-automation layers. The European implementation brought seven instances into one, and 700 legacy applications to below 100, primarily on the back of DRP transformation. At the same time, we are building in-house capabilities, enhancing infrastructure, and training the workforce. We are also making investments in software products. The dual approach of intelligent automation-as-a-service and building capabilities internally at scale is the stage we are at in the digital transformation journey.

As more and more organizations accelerate their digital journeys and routine tasks get eliminated, how is Phillip Morris International innovating from a capability perspective?

Geeta Malhotra, Head Integrated Business Services Transformation, Philip Morris International
At the very outset, I think it required a fundamental shift in our thinking. From a digital transformation standpoint, there is a significant difference in the capabilities of yesteryear and what we require today. The fundamental question then in all our minds today is how we can shape the capabilities of tomorrow. The transformation between these two worlds is anchored firmly on digital and customer experience.

When we planted the picture of capabilities for tomorrow, we put it in two buckets. One is strategic capabilities, which is the heart of innovation, disruption, storytelling, and so on. The second was sheer technical capabilities, such as digital communication, chatbots, advanced analytics and so on. We went to the drawing board to understand what are the significant digital interventions that are going to emerge in the future. As a result, we saw value in investing in next-gen ERP technology, data tools, and CRM. Our strategy is to proceed service line by service line, layering processes with intelligent compliance and service tools, enabling us to perform differentiated reporting. Once we painted the picture of future technologies, we started reimagining the processes. We consciously did not first reimagine processes, only to force-fit technology on top of that. That’s the sort of contextualizing we are doing at Phillip Morris.

The context is indeed set. Digital transformation has assumed a new meaning in the last 18 months, modifying and improving the way we operate and work. From layering legacy systems with digital tools, digital transformation today is more of a corporate lifestyle. The objective now is to enliven the inanimate pores of an organization with intelligent digital architecture, empowering it to act as an active assistant to human expertise. The objective is simple – to make intuitive decisions automatically at scale, implement agile and responsive value chains, and create an ecosystem that puts customer needs at the centre to drive perceptible experiences in real-time.

Our Live Enterprise Suite is built on such strong principles. Our internal pilot, which started in April of 2019, has recorded encouraging results. The application of sentient principles in processes and user journeys has helped us remove latency and implement superior levels of user experience across channels. When implemented with clients, the Live Enterprise Suite exhibited equally inspiring results. With exceptional efforts ongoing across industries to lay the groundwork to operate with agility in the future, the day is not far when organizations will start thinking like human beings.