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Today, professional services company Accenture released its Reinventing Enterprise Operations report revealing crucial strategies deployed by “operations reinventors” to achieve elevated levels of operational maturity. For the report, Accenture polled 1,700 executives from 1,657 organizations operating in 15 industries across 12 countries.
The study evaluated organizations across six capability measures: strategy and governance, process design and management, technology enablement, data management and analytics, talent management and customer engagement. Using scores for these capabilities, the survey mapped organizations across four levels of operational maturity: foundational (least mature), automated, insight-driven and intelligent (most mature).
AI bolstering operational resilience
According to the report, nearly 90% of business leaders are employing artificial intelligence (AI) to bolster operational resilience. This use ranges from financial forecasting (89%) and supplier discovery (88%) to experimentation with language-based AI. Nearly three-fourths (73%) of companies are prioritizing AI over all other digital investments. Accenture anticipates that generative AI will back or augment up to 40% of all working hours in coming years.
Still, the survey discovered that many are still grappling with deploying the six capability measures of operations maturity across enterprise functions. According to Yusuf Tayob, group chief executive for Accenture operations: “So far, only a small percentage (9%) of companies make these investments commensurately, but those that do get outsized returns.”
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These include 1.4X higher operating margin, 42% more efficient product/process innovation and 30% better customer engagement.
Drivers and challenges for achieving higher operational maturity
Operations maturity is far from being a sequential or linear journey, as investments are often influenced by pressing business priorities.
Nonetheless, organizations that prioritize data-driven decision-making and embracing automation and AI to streamline processes and reduce manual labor are better equipped for the future. Furthermore, a focus on customer experience helps ensure higher levels of operational maturity, according to Tayob.
Despite positive developments, there are still challenges that hinder progress towards higher levels of operational maturity. For instance, a lack of alignment between business strategy and operations goals can make it difficult for organizations to prioritize investments in areas such as automation or data analytics. Similarly, siloed data and processes can limit the ability of organizations to make informed decisions or optimize their operations.
Resistance to change from employees or stakeholders is also a challenge. Organizations that fail to communicate the benefits of new technologies or processes may encounter resistance, slowing down the pace of transformation.
Focusing on people and processes can maximize ROI
In order to maximize the return on investment from new technology, it is crucial to place equal emphasis on processes, data and people. With a particular focus on the latter, a clear talent strategy is essential. According to Tayob, prioritizing training and specialized skills can result in nearly three times higher productivity gains.
Accenture recommends that leaders take five specific actions to evolve operations and achieve a new performance frontier. These include humanizing AI experiences, defining a clear data strategy, innovating processes, empowering an agile workforce and taking a 360-degree approach to driving value creation holistically.
As AI becomes increasingly prevalent, defining a clear strategy that governs how data is created, collected and enriched can encourage debate and remove biases to capture the most effective insights to guide decision-making.
By visualizing “as-is” processes and applying AI-driven insights to discover new efficiencies, organizations can simulate scenario changes. Empowering employees with a choice of technology tools to meet their needs can create agility. Finally, by holistically driving value creation — building it from the ground up and across all functions — organizations can use data-driven insights from customers, employees and other ecosystem partners to drive success.
Enablers to reinvent operations
According to Tayob, organizations must prioritize strategic technology projects. This begins with building a digital core, securing it and being data and people-led. It is crucial to focus on holistic value — that is, driving financial gains of technology investments while also ensuring benefits across talent and people, sustainability and experience — to guide decision-making, break down silos and enable change at a consumable pace.
Accenture has identified six capability measures essential to achieve successful operational reinvention. These include digital strategy and governance, customer experience, intelligent operations, workforce enablement, ecosystem partnerships and technology architecture. By choosing the right strategic partners, organizations can gain wider access to specialized talent, industry expertise and leading automation platforms to deliver continuous, customized reinvention.
Adopting an enterprise-wide strategy is crucial, said Tayob. Making operations a competitive strength ensures that businesses can quickly adapt to keep pace with market expectations.
“This is not an overhaul, but rather about operating in ways that will thrive in the future,” said Tayob.
The risks of reinventing operations
Reinventing enterprise operations can be a double-edged sword. While it can bring significant benefits, there are also considerable risks involved. One of the biggest, according to Accenture, is employee resistance to change. Workers may be hesitant to embrace new technologies or processes, which could slow down the transition.
Another significant risk is the misalignment of digital capabilities and business objectives. In some cases, organizations invest in digital technologies that fail to solve their most pressing business challenges. This can lead to wasted resources and missed opportunities. Upskilling teams can also be a major issue due to varying levels of capability.
Despite these challenges, reinventing enterprise operations is crucial for organizations to remain competitive in today’s fast-paced business environment. Accenture recommends choosing the right strategic partners, adopting an enterprise-wide strategy, focusing on boundaryless capabilities, committing to continuous reinvention, emphasizing talent strategy and making the digital core a primary source of competitive advantage.
By partnering with forward-thinking companies, organizations can overcome unexpected challenges and delays when applying new digital capabilities, said Tayob. By bringing the right industry expertise, talent, and resources to streamline new processes, companies can drive more immediate value.