Autonomous Intelligent Enterprises Will be Decision-driven

Entrepreneur Graham Allcott once stated, “Great decision-making comes from the ability to create the time and space to think rationally and intelligently about the issue at hand.” Here’s the rub: The speed at which business is conducted today often precludes carving out time and space for prolonged decision-making. For years, business consultants have insisted companies need to transform into digital enterprises to remain relevant. More recently they have gone further to insist that businesses need to move towards greater autonomy in their business processes; hence, a new emphasis on autonomous intelligent enterprises. Tech journalist George Lawton calls it an automation revolution.[1] He explains:   “Enterprises are in the early phases of a revolution whose mission is to make more kinds of business systems, equipment and processes perform with less human intervention. This autonomous revolution is rapidly moving from one-off experiments to a collective effort to build digital fabrics that can keep up with the rapid pace of change in supply chains, geopolitics and the environment. The promise? An increase in efficiency, scalability and profitability on a level previously unknown.”   In world in which business is conducted at computer speed, how can leaders make better decisions? It’s an important question. Bain analysts, Michael C. Mankins and Lori Sherer, insist, “The best way to understand any company’s operations is to view them as a series of decisions.”[2] They add, “We know from extensive research that decisions matter — a lot. Companies that make better decisions, make them faster and execute them more effectively than rivals nearly always turn in better financial performance. Not surprisingly, companies that employ advanced analytics to improve decision making and execution have the results to show for it.” The only way to square up Allcott’s view of great decision-making with the views of Mankins and Sherer is to let machines make routine decisions so that humans are freed to concentrate on more important decision-making. That strategy lies at the heart of the autonomous intelligent enterprise.   Towards the Autonomous Intelligent Enterprise   The BMC staff observes, “Steve Jobs said you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward — so you can only make decisions with the hopes that they connect in the future. But this is the fastest the world has ever changed, from the socioeconomic front (such as consumer preferences and values) to the geopolitical (in the wake of the pandemic and economic growth shifts) to the technological, and more. So making the decisions for future dots to connect has become a challenge with many facets.”[3] The more variables that must be taken into account the more important it is to leverage the decision-making capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI). Ayman Sayed, CEO of BMC, insists, “It doesn’t matter what business you’re in, you’re in the technology business. Whether you’re in manufacturing or oil and gas or pharmaceuticals or large retail or media, you need to become an Autonomous Digital Enterprise.” Sayed is not alone in his assessment. Brian Solis, Head of Global Innovation at ServiceNow, insists, “Businesses have to do more than digitally transform. Executives have to split efforts into modernization and innovation. They have to invest in innovative operational infrastructure, models and expertise that’s capable of competing against a new breed of digital native competitors. [They have to transition] from business as usual to a more cognitive, self-driving enterprise.”[4]   According to Sayed, “An Autonomous Digital Enterprise (ADE) as an intelligent, value-creating system that operates with minimal human involvement across every facet of the organization and its ecosystem of partners — freeing up new opportunities for people in the organization. It’s a state and a model where automation is key: intelligent, integrated functions enabling people to focus on the things that are needed most for the business and support higher-value thinking.” At Enterra Solutions®, we are so convinced that the autonomous intelligent enterprise will be the most competitive business model in the years ahead we are focusing on advancing Enterra Autonomous Decision Science™ (ADS®). Enterra ADS™ and Generative AI-powered business applications transform how enterprise optimization, planning, and decision-making are performed. Enterra’s business applications pair industry-specific business knowledge and data, with Enterra’s proprietary math and human-like reasoning engines, to generate insights and recommendations with the subtlety and judgment of a company’s best experts — but at a level of speed and accuracy humans can’t achieve.   Despite all the talk about autonomous operations, I hope the above discussion made it clear that autonomous processes are not about eliminating humans from the workplace. Autonomous processes are necessary to free up human capital for higher level activities. Analysts from Forrester note, “AI is now an enterprise essential. … Our data shows that a large majority of enterprises have significant investments in AI today and are seeing positive results, and this widespread success drives further investment into our increasingly intelligent digital coworkers. The pace of advancement in what is possible for enterprise applications is continuing to expand and accelerate, and this rising tide will lift all enterprises.”[5]   Concluding Thoughts   Varun Goswami, Vice President of Product Management at Newgen Software, predicts, “The future belongs to intelligent automation.”[6] He adds, “Organizations adopting artificial intelligence or giving it a top priority in their digital transformation initiatives will be the leaders for tomorrow.” Of course, there is no single AI solution for all corporate challenges. As a result, Goswami notes, “Organizations are embracing different AI automation technologies to improve their business outcomes. While some are making incremental changes to optimize existing systems and processes, others are introducing new capabilities and customer experiences.” He goes on to describe three broad areas in which AI applications can make a big difference. They are:   • Automating Processes: Goswami notes, “[One area gaining wide attention is] automating common digital and physical tasks (particularly back-office operations and financial activities) using robotic process automation.” He calls this “the last mile of process automation.” Although RPA is not AI per se, it has been characterized as a gateway to AI. The next step is what we call Cognitive Process Automation™.   • Extracting Cognitive Insights: Goswami writes, “Machine-learning applications … use algorithms to analyze data troves to detect patterns.” Here’s the challenge: Pattern recognition leads to correlation not causation. The next step towards better insights and decision-making is causal artificial intelligence. Great strides are being made in this area.   • Driving Cognitive Engagements: Generative AI systems, such as ChatGPT, have filled media reports over the past year. Goswami writes, “Chatbots and intelligent agents … use machine learning and natural language processing to engage with customers and employees.” Many of Enterra’s applications use generative AI — we call ours AILA® — so that insights can be made widely available throughout an organization.   Goswami concludes, “AI-enabled enterprises are changing the way we think about everyday things by making them simpler and more effective. Use cases span industries — from financial services, insurance, manufacturing, healthcare, education, retail, and more. There is a multitude of AI use cases across departments, from IT, HR, finance to business operations and more. AI is revolutionizing the digital experience at both ends — for employees as well as customers.” Solis adds, “Leaders have to now start thinking about business in a post-digital transformation world.” In that world, he predicts the “cognitive enterprise aka the self-driving enterprise” will be the most competitive. He concludes, “Now, it’s a question of leadership. Executives must make bold investments and bold move to not only keep up with evolution, but also get ahead of it.”   Footnotes[1] George Lawton, “The push is on to build the autonomous enterprise,” TechTarget, 10 June 2022.[2] Michael C. Mankins and Lori Sherer, “Creating value through advanced analytics,” Bain Brief, 11 February 2015.[3] BMC staff, “Enterprise 2025: Why autonomy is the future of business,” Venture Beat, 23 July 2020.[4] Brian Solis, “What Comes After Digital Transformation? One Answer Is The Self-Driving Enterprise,” Forbes, 4 November 2019 (paywall).[5] Forrester staff, “Artificial Intelligence Will Become An Indispensable, Trusted Enterprise Coworker,” Forbes, 10 November 2022.[6] Varun Goswami, “Artificial intelligence: The future of businesses,” Dataquest India, 25 October 2021.

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