Take the focus off reducing headcount, and focus your efforts on automating the tasks machines do best.
Leaders from B2B and consumer brands including Mitsubishi Chemical, Mars, Unilever and PepsiCo joined Aera Technology CEO Frederic Laluyax for a series of spirited conversations on day one of Cognitive Automation Summit 2021.
From meeting new and ever-changing customer demands to making sure pharmaceutical supplies and other critical products are delivered on time and to the right places during a unique global health crisis, the future of decisions lies in intelligent technologies.
Karen Jordan, Senior Vice President of PepsiCo, was clear on the need for agile automation that truly allows the large consumer-goods brand to meet the complex and increasingly individualized demands of customers.
Describing the goals of PepsiCo to be relevant and responsive to fluctuating market forces (seasonality, localization) Jordan spoke about the “thousands of SKUs” the PepsiCo supply chain is dealing with on a daily basis.
“Traditional supply chain [solutions] can get overwhelmed,” Jordan says.
With cognitive automation pulling together all the complicated threads of information and data, enterprise supply chain management becomes less dependent on humans processing all of that input. Rather, Jordan says, consumer demands are met from a supply-chain perspective, giving the “smart people” PepsiCo hires the opportunity to solve other, less data-focused challenges.
When business processes can be fully connected for end-to-end visibility, large enterprises can better understand customers and demonstrate empathy, while accurately meeting and consistently surpassing customer expectations.
Laluyax sums it up perfectly:
Day after day, as customer demands and the global market conditions fluctuate, humans are being asked to make better and more decisions based on literal lakes of data. While current automation solutions are able to sort and recommend, it is still up to the person on the other end of the tool to evaluate, make and execute on those recommendations.
It stands to reason that, with cognitive automation and the powerful ability to not only mine data for recommendations but also to execute on “rote, dull work,” the machines are here to help humans, not replace them.
Laluyax concurs, and remarked that data-heavy processes can bog down the capacity for human creativity. What the future of decisions looks like is heavily weighted toward increasing that capacity.
Leadership must understand and be able to articulate the positive changes cognitive automation brings to the enterprise, says Joe Fuller, Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School. This is, he adds, an ongoing change-management mindset.
Any new process — and this is an entirely new way of thinking and working — can cause significant organizational anxiety, Fuller says. However, when employees understand and can anticipate the positive outcomes of these changes, everyone wins, including the end customer.
Ultimately, cognitive automation can reduce organizational anxiety, abolishing dull and repetitive work and freeing employees up from the fear of making the inevitable errors that naturally occur when dealing with large amounts of complex data.
Finally, all the speakers agree that digital transformation is not a one-and-done activity, much the way it has been viewed in the past. Rather, in the “next normal” of a post-COVID world, augmenting human ingenuity and creativity is the future of decision velocity.
This state of constant evolution in the workplace makes the so-called “soft skills” like communication and higher-order social skills much in demand as we move forward.
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