The world has changed. Everything is spinning faster and faster and enterprises of today faces a number of serious challenges which includes:
- A fierce global competition
- Shorter product life-cycles
- Accelerating Technology innovation
- Demands for sustainability
- Supply Chain vulnerabilities
- Lack of digital skills
The Digital Enterprise
The market leaders of tomorrow will be the companies that can transition into becoming a Digital Enterprise. But what does that mean?
Digital Enterprises are truly committed to being digital in all aspects.
- They have fully incorporated digital tools and technologies across all aspects of their operations.
- They use technology for competitive advantage in their internal and external operations.
How to get Data driven competitive advantage
The digital enterprise understands that there are opportunities to lead through a ‘data first’ approach.
- Product Leadership. The ability to merge a physical and digital product experience is quickly becoming a norm and will be expected from customers in all business verticals and industries.
- Cost Leadership. Companies that are digital first will be able to operate at a lower cost-base which opens up for pricing advantages.
- Customer Experience Leadership. Both consumers and business customers will have less and less tolerance for unnecessary friction and will gravitate towards solutions that offer an amazing customer experience.
- Sustainability Leadership. Long overdue, there is a growing sense-of-urgency around the climate crises. Companies that can make a true change in sustainability will see long-term competitive advantages.
- Brand Leadership. In today's connected world is there an opportunity to gain brand advantages from leading the digital digital transformation, in all industries.
Gradually, gradually, then Suddenly
Market disruption comes in small, gradual steps, especially for incumbents in an industry. There are several examples where incumbents either ignore the problem or have an unrealistic view of how fast they will actually be able to respond. The phone market and electric car industry are high profile examples but change is happening fast in most industries.
Ignoring change is simply to assume a very high risk and trying to catch-up when the sudden change happens is typically very costly.
Complex software landscape creates a huge challenge. Legacy systems is a fact that won't go away.
Industrial companies and asset rich organizations have a complex system environment ranging from the shop floor to the top floor business systems. Some systems are distributed, some are on-premises and some are cloud based. A few are modern, others are really old and everything in between.
This simplified illustration shows 25 subcategories of software that are common for industrial and asset rich organizations. Typically companies have many more different types of software and on top of that is it not uncommon that there are different vendors and generations of software in different divisions, sites or countries.
Each system normally makes a good job in taking care of the specific tasks or processes they are designed to perform.
The automation opportunities exists between the systems
The challenge is when there are processes that span across different systems. This is often the source of many manual steps which results in significant time-delays and high cost. There is a huge opportunity to gain competitive advantage if all these processes are transformed into fully digital workflows.
Digital Transformation is not ONE project. It’s 1000 mini-projects.
Digital transformation is not one project, it’s hundreds or thousands of mini-processes and use cases that need to become digital and automated. But organisations depend heavily on specialist competence of IT staff and software developers which is a huge challenge. Both for the IT teams and for the rest of the organisation.
Not until the power of implementing process automation has been put in the hands of the normal users can an organisation truly accelerate their digitalisation efforts. We believe this can happen when at least one user in each business team can be empowered to build automations and intelligent workflows.
The integration and automation pain is real.
In our Benchmark Survey 2021 we asked to what extent users agreed with the following statements and the result clearly indicates that businesses have significant challenges in the area of integration and automation.
New requirements have made older integration solutions obsolete.
The next generation integration solutions need to meet some key new requirements. Most importantly they need to be:
- Smart. Intelligent Workflows that can analyze and act on advanced conditions. Incl. AI/ML.
- Hybrid. Run the Workflows anywhere. In the Cloud or on your own infrastructure.
- Easy. Empower Citizen Developers, your normal users at any department
- All Data. Industrial IoT, Enterprise, SaaS, Web, Mobile.
- Real-time. Instant action on Events (new data/changed data) without delays.
Illustration. The evolution of integration platforms. From ETL to Intelligent Process Automation.
From ETL to Intelligent Workflows
Older Enterprise Service Bus solutions or iPaaS platforms were designed to Extract, Transform and Load (ETL) data in batch and move data between different systems. Workflows and automations had to be implemented in the system endpoints.
Whenever I had to make a change in an integration workflow I had to get the specialists for that specific system to do a pre-study and come up with a project specification on how to implement the change. If the use case included our SAP system it was always very painful, costly and time consuming. I also had to have developers, either inhouse or external, engaged for all my different systems.
- CIO at a manufacturing company
There are a number of disadvantages of these older ETL technologies
- Very slow pace of development
- Dependence on many specialists (for each system)
- High cost of development
- Limited to the automation capabilities of the end-point system
Illustration. Moving the Automation Workflows from each system to the integration point
The new approach. Intelligent Process Automation in the middle
Modern solutions instead have smart automation capabilities in the middle, between all the different endpoints. The benefits with this architecture are:
- Real-time streaming analytics & transformation
- Automation logic including AI/ML can be implemented on all use cases
- Multi-path workflows can trigger actions in multiple systems in one single automation
- Change data capture. Event driven integrations that enables faster automations
- The life length of the endpoint system might be prolonged
- One system to master. Instead of multiple systems.
- Faster and to a much lower cost. Automations can be implemented in hours without engagement of developers and external consultants.
Industrial companies and asset rich organizations have an ultra-high complex and diverse software landscape. Their route to become a true data-driven digital enterprise is harder than for any other organization. But for the ones that succeed there are key competitive advantages to gain.
In order to successfully make the digital transformation they need to distribute the power to innovate in their organizations and empower non-developers and IT specialists to build and implement automations.
The good news is that modern integration and automation platforms, if designed right, can make this happen and ensure that teams can embrace a digital approach and build intelligent workflows faster than ever before. One use case at a time.