By Robert Churchyard, Global Oracle Leader, IBM
Cloud applications can help business leaders take advantage of machine learning in planning processes, which, in turn, provides predictive analytics for different types of scenarios. Armed with this information, leaders can consider multiple viable strategies based upon real-time and often volatile circumstances. This is a highly valuable capability in the post-pandemic mix of economic risk and opportunity.
Research from the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) validates the significance of cloud applications. In a survey of global C-suite members, we found that top-performing companies were 50 percent more likely to be mature in cloud adoption, and companies already using machine learning were 60 percent more likely to be top performers.
IBM’s research uncovered six areas that businesses should focus on when it comes to planning and strategy.
1. Employee engagement: Many employees will keep working from home, but the lessons learned during the pandemic go beyond the realization that remote work is a viable approach. To keep remote workers productive and motivated, employers need to provide the right technology, improve crisis communications, identify essential and non-essential roles, and keep employees secure and healthy.
2. Risk management: Due to ongoing volatility, businesses are rethinking their risk management practices. Continuous monitoring (made possible by built-in machine learning) can alert you to potential problems; you can act immediately to investigate and remediate, helping you prevent and mitigate risk. Leaders are also looking at physical protection for storage facilities, plants, and other critical physical assets.
3. Resiliency: Cybersecurity is not a new concern, but there is growing attention on the role it plays in business resiliency—no doubt because of increased cybercrime during the pandemic. According to IBV research, 76 percent of surveyed executives around the world said they are prioritizing cybersecurity in the wake of COVID-19.
4. Controlling operating costs: Cash was king during the pandemic and was the subject of continual short-term planning. Companies that experienced a drastic drop in demand needed cash to sustain operations, while companies that saw spikes in demand or changes in customer behavior needed cash to fund more (or new) resources. This experience has led business leaders to more strategically control operating costs. Doing so not only helps to preserve cash but also allows companies to be more agile.
5. Supply chain efficiency: The pandemic caused shortages of workers, materials, parts and components, and finished goods within global supply chains. Some of these shortages have yet to be resolved. Business leaders need better visibility into local resources and supplier networks, along with the ability to model potential alternatives. If your company must quickly change suppliers, you need to compare different scenarios to understand how these changes might impact the cost and efficiency of your supply chain.
6. Customer engagement: Human behavior changed during the pandemic. Buyers became more dependent on websites, and other digital tools to research, buy, and request customer care. This put more pressure on call centers for both human and technical resources; issues such as long wait times and unreliable software became real and frustrating issues for customers.
Will customer behavior ever go back to pre-pandemic patterns? No one knows for sure, but with scenario modeling, business leaders can consider multiple alternatives, weigh the benefits and risks of related factors, and make decisions that balance business needs with customer demands.
Just as during the pandemic, organizations with an integrated suite of cloud applications using a single source of real-time data will have the advantage going forward. For example, Oracle business application users can leverage not only modern enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions like Oracle Fusion Cloud ERP and Oracle Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) for financial short-, mid-, and long-term planning, but also rich planning tools within the Oracle Supply Chain Management (SCM) application for operations. Additionally, the Oracle Human Capital Management suite enables collaborative and strategic planning with the finance application.
Although there are still many unknowns about how the world will recover from the pandemic, indications are that the global economy will more than bounce back. For finance leaders, it could be a rare occasion to plan for new opportunities with minimized risk. Having the right applications and tools will provide a big advantage.