The robot takeover has begun.

The robots have already begun to take over.

Fortunately for your business you can use artificial intelligence to give your business a very real advantage.

Artificial intelligence refers to computers that are programmed to learn. This doesn’t mean AI will replace the humans so critical to your business. Instead, it can help supplement the processes your business employs for production, marketing, public relations and so much more.

So far, companies have been applying artificial intelligence to a number of different activities with varying levels of success. The Harvard Business Review examined the role of artificial intelligence in 152 projects across multiple industries in the United States to determine what benefits businesses achieve through the application of artificial intelligence. Over half of the project executives reported that artificial intelligence was most crucial in helping enhance the features, functions and performance of their products. Other benefits included optimization of internal operations, better decision making, and the pursuit of new markets.

The key for these executives and their projects lay in determining how artificial intelligence could be applied to achieve those benefits. How do they get there?

The first step lies in a definition of the goals that your business needs artificial intelligence to accomplish. Some goals might have already proven artificial intelligence solutions that could be implemented in the short-term; others might need experimentation or research to develop, and could take much longer to implement. Can you afford the time investment needed to reach long-term goals, or the investment in capital and training to reach short-term goals?

The next step is in understanding the technology available and what it can do for your business goals. What kind of task does it do? What are the strengths and limitations of using it? Does the project or process you’re evaluating require machine learning for raw data processing or deep learning for more nonlinear thinking?

The final step before implementation of artificial intelligence is determining your company’s ability to incorporate it into the overall business model. Has your company already developed digital capabilities that would make a shift in the model easier to adopt? Does your company already work with big data, cloud storage and digital record-keeping in its day-to-day operations?

An example of how this process works can be seen in Coca Cola’s adoption of AI in its tracking methods. In the early 2010s, Coca Cola had an inefficient means of tracking the stock of their sodas in stores. Having a goal of making that process more efficient, they consulted with Trax Retail Execution on AI that could more easily track and manage those inventories. Coca Cola had already digitized much of the reporting process, so the new Trak AI solution was easily implemented, and Coca Cola saw reductions in reporting and stock outage times.
AI Solutions are out there for businesses that can approach them wisely. Careful evaluation of your business is required, but essential to keep up with others in the coming years.

Is your business ready to reopen?

More importantly, is your business ready for the next “catastrophic” shutdown?

The current economic climate for most businesses in America highlights the lack of preparedness for COVID-19 crisis. According to a study from the Harvard Business Review, 45% of small businesses were temporarily closed under stay-at-home orders. Of those businesses, FEMA estimates that approximately 40% of them will be forced to close following this crisis, with another 25% of them failing within a year of reopening. Even for businesses that have adapted and can still operate normally, changes in consumer behavior, supply lines and production have demanded massive changes in order to recoup losses, including the loss of 40% of the workforce for small businesses.

We have learned painful lessons as organizations around the world were surprised by the speed at which COVD-19 spread and shut down entire economies around the globe. Chief among these lessons is the importance of preparation. Insurance company Nationwide found in their survey of small businesses prior to the crisis that 68% of small-business owners don’t have any written form of a plan for disaster recovery.

Although as an organization there is only so much we can do to mitigate the financial impact, there is a lot that we could do to quickly respond to such calls-to-action and minimize the exposure to our employees, our suppliers, our customers and our society as a whole. We can’t look backward and fix anything that has happened, but we can look forward and anticipate what might happen. This is why every company must, by now, have an Emergency Preparedness plan to deal with such events.

A robust EP plan must have certain elements included in its program. There are templates available for businesses that don’t know where to start in developing such a plan. The US Small Business Administration has a website that provides a wealth of resources to help you get started with developing plans around hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and more. For pandemic preparedness, however, things get a bit more complicated, and having a program tailored to your needs and organization represents its own set of challenges. Taking generic plans can create more rework and undershoot or overshoot your plans.

Through our Internal Research

We’ve developed an Emergency Preparedness Plan that incorporates all the elements that are required to have in place so that your organization is prepared for the future pandemics and lockdowns. Here are some of the key components that we noted as essential to any EP program, keeping in mind that these have to be assessed against your organization in order to have an EP program that is fully actionable and truly support the organization when it needs it the most.

These factors may require some level of initial investment. However, we live in a different world as a result of COVID-19, and those businesses that can prepare for the times ahead will be the ones to prosper, no matter how many re-openings they go through.

Key Components Essential to any EP Program

  • Pandemic Response Team
  • Preventative Material Inventory
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Disinfection Measures
  • Deep-Cleaning and Disinfection Protocol
  • Inbound Parts/Materials/Packages
  • Layered Audit Checklist
  • Transportation
  • Isolation Protocol & Coordinator Training
  • Social Distancing Protocol
  • On-site Health Screening
  • Daily Self-Screening Protocol
  • Self-Quarantining and Return to Work Protocol
  • Visitors & Contractors Self-Screening

Is the enterprise ready to transform?

Enterprise transformation is a broad term, covering every aspect of the business and value proposition. The businesses that succeed are those that can keep up with accelerating change of processes enabled by new technologies and quick to empower a new culture in the organization. Usually, companies are in a sprint to “out digital” their competitors with their transformations. As a result, they are launching project after project focused on everything including mobile, virtual, big data and almost everything else that either includes or implies the word “digital”. That kind of thinking isn’t bad, but it misses the real motivation behind why transformation should occur. 

Few enterprises consider the more important step that needs to be taken first: recognizing the challenges that should motivate those changes. A white paper by Professor William B. Rouse from the Georgia Institute of Technology discusses the context-sensitive nature of enterprise transformation, noting that each enterprise faces unique issues that must be identified before transformation can be implemented. Rouse argues that these issues stem from value deficiencies that hurt some part of a business, and are remedied by changes to internal and external work processes along with reallocation of resources to facilitate a better response to address those deficiencies.

 An example of a transformation addressing a value deficiency is illustrated by IBM and its transformation in the centralized computing marketplace. Their primary competitor in the early half of the 19th century, Remington-Rand, had the edge in acquiring major public contracts. IBM, seeing a loss of value due to competition, transformed their enterprise to be more responsive to consumer trends by capitalizing on targeted marketing. As a result, the centralized computing market of the 1950s and 60s was dominated by IBM. IBM successfully transformed their enterprise by recognizing a loss of value and restructuring their company processes and culture to adapt and exploit new value in the market.

 Was IBM making a big change? Not necessarily; the core of their intraprise – the internal work and production processes of the company – remained intact. The transformation of an enterprise is more than transformation of the business model, the process we deliver our value with, or our ability to develop our people. The difference came from a small change in perspective on the marketplace: instead of seeking out contracts, they advertised to customers to generate their contracts and sales. In the modern marketplace, these small changes are facilitated by digital options that are so critical that incorporating a digital strategy into the business model must become a pillar of the enterprise transformation.

The Challenge

The challenge is that successfully transforming your organization and incorporating a digital strategy model is not a project and is not a technology that can be purchased. It is a capability that must be carefully defined, architected and executed. A small change focused around a value deficiency can lead to a digital capability that helps your enterprise keep up with accelerating changes and empowers a new culture within your transformed enterprise. 

Download the cited paper.