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On the path to the customer-centered and intelligent company

Image of Thomas Latajka, Managing Director at valantic ERP, office in Langenfeld, conference room, valantic website on a tablet computer

The digital transformation at companies continues to advance. But the future belongs to customers and lies in the intelligence that will guarantee them as perfect a customer experience as possible. With the focus on the customer, the path to the intelligent enterprise is predetermined and indispensable. Here, new technologies such as artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, and the Internet of Things (IoT) will be more and more in demand.

The Corona crisis demonstrated and proved how heavily we rely today on communication via the Internet and virtual work on projects. But we are at the very start of a long journey, one on which not just companies but also their business units and even their sub-departments will have to jump onto the “rolling train” of the digital transformation.

Thinking of the digital transformation in four dimensions

The essential four dimensions of the digital transformation make clear what this journey or process looks like. The first level is the manner in which companies and their business units interact with customers and design the customer journey digitally. The second dimension of the digitalization process is how companies keep an eye on and control horizontal value-creation chains. The third level of the digital transformation concerns internal support; the fourth, the digitalization of workplaces, which no longer have to be docked to fixed locations. After positive experiences with home offices during the Corona crisis, Siemens announced in July 2020 that it would make 140,000 of its 385,000 workplaces flexible (source: Handelsblatt). Many other companies will follow this example.

These four dimensions of the digital transformation require needs analyses and forward-looking planning. However, two worlds frequently collide here, worlds that have to be connected to one another. This isn’t always easy. The concern is to take leave of longstanding existing systems and replace them sensibly with new technologies or change or supplement them so that the result is an intelligently networked overall solution with continuous processes.

Keeping transformation projects lean

From the point of view of processes, the necessity of networking as part of digitalization quickly becomes clear. That’s why a company’s digitalization process has to be defined precisely. Within complex transformation projects, an agile, lean procedure with clear milestones is frequently decisive for success. Thanks to the quick technological development, expert knowledge of processes and technology is now in demand.

The end of digitalization remains open. If companies are reluctant to develop, this is due primarily to factors such as insufficient expertise, missing tools or the wrong focus. This negatively affects both employees’ productivity as well as customer satisfaction. Progress and innovations continually drive the digitalization process onwards and demand that a company that wants to remain competitive be adaptable.

Just digitalization is not enough

Where will the digital journey take us in the future? Only people who have already completed the first phase of the digital transformation can approach the intelligent enterprise as the next chapter and vision for the future. Critical is putting the whole company’s digital transformation on the basis of end-to-end processes. Starting with order receipt to production to invoicing, from marketing and sales to logistics, on through to service, all processes should be recorded and supported digitally. Only this way can the company’s data be used optimally.

However, digitalization of the processes alone is not enough. The basis should be a system environment that can be expanded at will. A digital core, one that unites the data from all business units and at the same time offers the opportunity to integrate ever more intelligent technologies. All instances thus access a uniform database and will profit from future enhancements.

Next step: Toward the intelligent enterprise

An intelligent company can bundle business applications, combine them, and use data and information sensibly. For this, silos between traditional applications such as CRM and ERP have to be broken down and incorporated into the same platform. This should include the core functions of the processes and innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), predictive analytics, and the Internet of Things (IoT). This way, valuable insights are gained and better decisions can be made on all organizational levels. In addition, innovations and adjustments can be implemented quickly.

Decisive today is making the customer the focus of all processes. No intelligent company can get around this. Customer-centered thinking and action is the art that makes the step from the digital to the intelligent company. The bread and butter of the intelligent company is ensuring that the customer journey is recorded and mapped comprehensively. According to market researcher Gartner1, today 90% of the world’s 200 largest companies use intelligent apps and the entire tool kit with big data and analysis tools to improve their customer experience.

In the future, companies’ intelligence will lie more with people than technology.

By networking all processes end-to-end, the market can be predicted. Companies and their business units will thus be in a position to design the future proactively instead of simply reacting to changes as they have done in the past. The earlier such changes are detected, the better companies can keep up with current and future developments. The added value is not just in more agility and focus, but more importantly: in satisfied customers.

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